A Three-Part Series Sampling EDA Tools (PCB Design Software)
Being a technician and working at Digi-Key can be equated to the quintessential “kid in the candy store,” only for geeks. Having almost instant access to millions of electronic parts and an internet full of example circuits and tutorials leaves the door wide open to creating a plethora of circuits.
Free-form soldering a circuit is fun one time to prototype something, but more than once is crazy if you have the means to spin a board. Once tested, being able to repeatedly drop your parts down and solder, being confident that the connections are correct, is priceless (in terms of your sanity and time).
In this first of three series, I’ll share some of my experiences with easyEDA.com (EDA = Electronic design automation).
We ran across easyEDA.com a few years ago, and I have been dabbling with it here and there. Because it’s 100% browser based (no software to install/log in anywhere), it is not only super portable, but also very easy to share projects. It was, however, hard for me to want to invest much effort learning it because, although free and easy to use, there was no reason to believe it wouldn’t disappear on a whim. Now it has been purchased by a company so one might feel better about its longevity.
I wanted a blink circuit for my 4-wheeler’s LED headlights, so I made this 555 timer to turn off a MOSFET 5% of the time, at 5 Hz.
The easyEDA schematic interface is pretty intuitive, with everything organized well and easy to alter as needed:
Any symbols or footprints are automatically made publicly available in the ‘User Contributions’ which can be helpful, but be sure to double check them:
The layout is straightforward with the most common settings as default:
Finally, the OSHpark purple PCB goodness manufactured from the generated Gerbers:
(For those unfamiliar, OSHpark charges by the square inch; hence the challenge to see how small I could get it without too easily enabling bridges. And you can have them in any color you wish—as long as that color is purple.)
(Although not shown here; I learned that 1206 SMT parts solder down easily on 0.1” spaced plated through-hole footprints)
Feel free to use this design on easyEDA. Use the 555 calculator from schematica.com, and use the “Astable - Duty cycle > 50%” option to get values for any frequency and duty cycle above 50.
For anyone who has yet to learn to create PCBs (i.e. use EDA tools), there has never been a time like the present. You can learn, design, and order quality PCBs, even in small batches, for a fraction of the price of days’ past. Jump in, start simple, leave plenty of space at first, and have some good clean geeky fun.
For those who have used different EDA tools, I hope this glimpse into easyEDA.com was at least entertaining, if not encouraging, should you wish to try something different.
In Part 2 of the series I’ll share a glimpse of my experience with KiCad.