DesignSpark PCB Design Software for Windows PCs

"Access to on-line libraries of 80,000+ parts, instant Bill of Materials quoting and links to fast turnaround PCB vendors through unrestricted Gerber and ODB++ outputs, along with ample of prototype design functionality make this software indispensible for the impressive user base of over quarter of a million engineers." To quote the website.

DesignSpark PCB Design Software for Windows PCs

DesignSpark PCB software is free, but you have to register it. It was used by Advanced Circuits PCB Artist, at least in a down-level version, but it seems to be owned, or at least sponsored by, RS/Allied Electronics. It outputs plot files for Gerber, printer, plotter, PDF, whatever, depending on the type of data. Even though the library user interface has not been redesigned, the bugs have been fixed. The PCB Artist I have is version 1.4, while the DesignSpark version is 3.0. That may be totally irrelevant. It has a 3D view, so you can see how the board is going to look after it is stuffed. 3D can be used to verify that the parts all fit where they were intended to go, or some people post them as if they actually made something.

You can import Eagle CAD, AutoCAD, or Orcad files into DesignSpark, although Eagle CAD files require another few steps. The import of AutoCAD files doesn't work well, but that might be an AutoCAD problem.

If you are coming from ExpressPCB or Eagle, like I did, you have a learning curve to climb. Although nothing is the same as ExpressPCB, many things are very similar to Eagle. The library selection is different, and maybe a little clunkier, but once you figure it out is is very easy to use. Simlar to Eagle, you push a button to make a PC board from a schematic. You can position the parts inside or outside of the board outline, then put thtem where you need them. It will even optimize part placement.

Autorouting gives you the opportunity to keep or delete existing routes. You can specify square corners (default), mitered corners, or rounded corners. The minimum and maximum size of mitered corners may be set as well.

You do a little button pushing and output all layers as Gerber, pen plotter (are there any left?), Windows printer, or PDF. The output plot to Windows should go to the printer, but went to PDF, instead, however the print functions are identical, and they worked fine. I have used the Gerber outputs at both Smart Prototyping and PCBWay with great success. The Gerber files are saved using very descriptive, but completely non-standard names. You will need to rename your output files using either Eagle or Protel layer naming conventions. Protel is easier, IMO.

You can find DesignSpark PCB at DesignSpark.com.