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ExpressSch - ExpressPCB: Excellent Design Software | PCB How To

ExpressSch - ExpressPCB: Excellent Design Software

ExpressPCB electronics design software includes two applications, one for drawing schematics, one for PCB layout.

Express PCB

This company specializes in low-cost fast-turnaround prototypes, but does production work, too. In comparison with others, the production price is very reasonable. The quality is good, and deliviery very fast. They offer free PCB design software, called appropriately enough ExpressSCH and ExpressPCB. As you can probably see, it comes in two separate executables. It runs under Windows.

ExpressSCH

ExpressSCH is a simple, easy to use program that allows you to create a schematic diagram for use in the ExpressPCB program. It has a library of parts, to which user generated parts may be added. The library suffers from a lack of newer parts, for example the newr ATmel parts are absent. It is so easy to create new parts that it doesn't really slow you down, though.

There isn't an "output" from ExpressSCH, as such. The design file is linked to the PCB design from within ExpressPCB.

ExpressPCB

ExpressPCB is the PCB half of the program pair. It allows you to (manually) add the footprints, also from a library, to the board at will. It does not alert you if you are missing something, since at no time is the PCB actually "finished", that is until you order the boards.

ExpressPCB has no autorouter, and no access to an external one. You route the traces manually, although it highlights the pads in the net when you click on a device pin connected to the net. That is, if you have imported the schematic from ExpressSCH.

You can print the board layers out to the printer, but you can't flip the top side to make it "wrong-reading". If you are only doing a single sided board, that works out fine for the toner transfer folks. Print to a PostScript printer (file) and use Inkscape to flip it if you need to.

Conclusion

If you are looking for simplicity - this is it. If you are looking for power - it isn't. I would bet the majority of hobbyists would be happy with the programs and the PCB service as well. If you want to have the boards made offshore, say at Futurlec, the format is accepted by them. Be aware that it takes three days for prototypes from ExpressPCB, and three weeks from Futurlec. The price difference may not be worth the wait. ExpressPCB can be cheaper than Futurlec in quantity.

You can find ExpressSCH and ExpressPCB at ExpressPCB.com