DesignSpark freeware PCB design

We’ve been meaning to check out DesignSpark.

Free from practical constraints on board size, pin counts, layers and output types… Multi-page schematic designs are supported…. supports the importing of Eagle design files and libraries…

It’s not open source, but it could potentially be a favorable closed-ware alternative to Eagle. Eagles’s board size limits don’t usually effect us because we use all SMD parts, and the layer limit is pretty moot because 4layer boards are too expensive for us to prototype.

Multiple sheets is a very attractive feature though. Eagle currently limits you to one sheet, which makes big designs unwieldy. Eagle’s big lock-in seems to be the huge number of user generated part libraries.

For an open alternative, there’s Kicad. We haven’t tried it for a few years, anyone know if it’s been updated?

Via Adafruit.

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  1. Kicad is great :)
    I use it daily, for professional work and fun !
    I designed a board with a spartan3 in BGA package with this soft, there are some problems sometimes but in general it’s a really great software :)

    1. Cons of kicad:
      Combersome to operate, slow and featurless

      Lots of room for improvements.

      This must be a pre-alpha release

  2. KiCad went through a major update this spring (april?), with a large number of improvements. It is very powerful, open source and of course have no restrictions. I’ve produced boards with the previous version with Seeedstudio without any problems.

  3. KiCad has become a brilliant piece of software, the last couple of revisions had great improvements and it even supports eagle libraries, it’s like porn for engineerings. I just sent my first board to seeed made with KiCad and it went without a hitch

  4. I’ve used Eagle for a few years, but recently downloaded DesignSpark when I saw it come up on RS Components’ website. I had to set the colours similar to Eagle or it felt just too weird. I also installed KiCad on my linux machine at work, but haven’t had a chance to play around with it yet. Hopefully the more free but fully functional and easy to use tools are available, the more we will see young people taking up engineering! :)

  5. Some might call me crazy, but I think the gEDA toolchain is fantastic. While the workflow is a tad unwieldy at times, the pure text file formats make automating trivial. A simple makefile and a few setup scripts, the system is extremely fluid and very powerful. Tasks that have been impossible with Eagle in the past (e.g. tiling of PCB designs), are fairly easily accomplished. I personally like the sharp division between schematic capture (using gschem) and PCB layout (using pcb), although it would be nice if the mouse interfaces were more consistent. For someone from a software background such as myself, geda is well worth the initial setup time.

  6. It appears rather funny to see the (old) serial Arduino design in the DesignSpark PCB introduction video … after Farnell bought Eagle and became a worldwide Arduino distributor.

    Due to the one sheet/2 layer/board size limitations of the free Eagle version quite a few open source projects (i.e. LeafLabs Maple Native) seem to be switching over to KiCad lately. The latest stable release is KiCad-2010-05-05-BZR2356-final/stable for Windows and Linux and experimental support for Mac OSX.

  7. I downloaded DesignSpark as soon as it was released and found it very painful. Am now planning to do some heavy evaluation of KiCAD and thus far it seems promising. Whichever EDA tool I choose I will be using it for professional work so I’m always interested to hear people such as nats above using KiCAD professionally…

  8. there are things that the designspark lacks that I really need (being an Eagle user)… :(

    I am trying KiCAD since yesterday and I find it very amusing and fun to use. :)

  9. I used a commercial PCB CAD tool for years… Number One’s Easy-PC… lovely… if you have someone to buy it for you! ($hundreds)

    I tried Eagle, did a few boards. Liked it, but worried that about the time I mastered it, I would want to do a board either to sell or too big for the free version.

    Cast around for an alternative and came upon the free, open source, Windows and Linux KiCad. Love it…. but have only worked through the good “Getting Started” guide by Teho… but the point of all of the above is that maybe I would have noticed if there were problems with KiCad? Of course, I may find problems as I get to grips with it in everyday use… but preliminary experiences good.

    More info at…

  10. I have been using KiCAD professionally (as a electronics development engineer) for the past four years and have seen it develop into an amazing software solution. Especially when compared with expensive EDA tools like OrCAD (Used V9), Protel or Eagle, KiCAD works beautifully.
    The boards I have designed and transferred to clients have been in production for the past three years with few thousand boards per year volume with no problem in Gerber,CNC,Postscript outputs.
    The latest Feb 2012 release works extremely well (both on Linux and Windows, 32 and 64 bit).

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