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From Eagle to Printed Circuit Board—Easy Tips

2011 July 27
by Tedb0t

If you’ve never gotten a printed circuit board (PCB) manufactured, it’s pretty daunting at first, but well worth the trouble—it’s exciting to get a stack of fresh, neat circuit boards of your own design in the mail, and a whole lot more fun than hand-soldering perfboard!

I use EAGLE to design my schematics and boards, and now that I’ve gotten used to its seemingly inscrutable interface, it’s quite fast and effective.  Here are some tips I’ve learned:

  • Get Sparkfun’s library of common and useful parts, and check out their tutorial.  Drop the library in {Applications}/Eagle/lbr.
  • If you’re using an external mouse, holding the center button down pans the layout—extremely useful, hard to live without!
  • Get to know the names of the commands, like ‘add’, ‘group’, ‘move’; and remember that you can type the first couple of letters (‘gro’) instead of click the button, which is much faster usually.
  • Moving groups is a bit of a pain; you first define the group by selecting it with the group tool, and then move it as a separate command.  You can right click and choose “Move Group” or Command (Ctrl on Windows)-Right Click.
  • When you are moving a part, right-clicking rotates it.
  • If you want to put a part on the bottom of your board instead of the top, just middle-click while moving it (or use the Mirror tool).
  • When adding parts, if you want to search for something, put asterisks around it, like ‘*battery*’, or else you probably won’t find anything.
  • Use Sparkfun’s CAM job to output all the files you need to get boards made.  When I go through Advanced Circuits, I need these files:
    • .GBL, .GBO, .GBS, .GTL, .GTO, .GTP, .GTS, .TXT
  • If you only need 1 or 2 boards, Advanced Circuits offers a “Student Special” on Standard Spec boards for $33 each.  Just put “Student” in the comments box when you order.
  • Another great way to get a few boards to test is with Barebones boards, which have no solder mask (the green coating) and no silkscreening.
    • This has a slight danger of making it possible to accidentally bridge traces while soldering, but if you’re careful, it’s a good savings.
    • When you get the boards, use a green scrub pad (a soft scouring pad) to get the traces nice and shiny.
    • You can put text or graphics on a copper layer if you’ve got the room for it, which is a neat way of making up for the lack of silkscreening!
  • I also found a great way to use vector images on your circuit board, which I used to put the Limina.Studio logo on my newest project.
  • Got any other tips or ideas?  Post a comment and I’ll add them!

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One Response
  1. October 10, 2012

    nice .. it helped me out in finding some of the shortcuts related to the mouse wheel.

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