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Old 21st Apr 2017, 3:59 pm   #1
astral highway
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Default Anyone recommend one-off PCB layout service?

As it says up there... I have the capacity to sketch out PCB layout by hand, but if I wanted to do a smarter job, anyone recommend an affordable service for a professional finish?

Cheers folks.
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Old 21st Apr 2017, 7:08 pm   #2
MrBungle
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Default Re: Anyone recommend one-off PCB layout service?

Having been involved in this sort of stuff it'll be expensive to do. Might be a better return learning KiCad and going from there to a PCB house for fabrication.

If it's a simple to medium complexity single sided board you can do these by hand on acetate faster than you can learn KiCad.
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Old 21st Apr 2017, 7:51 pm   #3
Ed_Dinning
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Default Re: Anyone recommend one-off PCB layout service?

Hi Al, I think both RS, Farnell and Elektor have pcb services with free software downloads.

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Old 21st Apr 2017, 9:57 pm   #4
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Default Re: Anyone recommend one-off PCB layout service?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrBungle View Post

If it's a simple to medium complexity single sided board you can do these by hand on acetate faster than you can learn KiCad.
Hey, yes, it's a simple enough board and I even have a template for it (only it's in reverse - if I actually used it as a template all the tracks would disappear leaving a huge and useless ground -plane !! What is acetate in this context, please?
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Old 21st Apr 2017, 9:58 pm   #5
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Default Re: Anyone recommend one-off PCB layout service?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed_Dinning View Post
Hi Al, I think both RS, Farnell and Elektor have pcb services with free software downloads.
. Thanks Ed! That's good to know. I'll investigate, especially the last as I haven't heard of them before.
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Old 21st Apr 2017, 10:15 pm   #6
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Default Re: Anyone recommend one-off PCB layout service?

Acetate - a4 printer transparency paper.
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 12:31 am   #7
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Default Re: Anyone recommend one-off PCB layout service?

A copy-and-print shop should have the ability to scan your sketch, convert it to a negative and print it onto clear film for exposing a PCB. These places probably charge by the mouse click nowadays. It should not be expensive unless the image requires additional processing, e.g. to improve contrast.
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 6:42 am   #8
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Default Re: Anyone recommend one-off PCB layout service?

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Originally Posted by julie_m View Post
A copy-and-print shop should have the ability to scan your sketch, convert it to a negative and print it onto clear film for exposing a PCB.
Hey Julie,

That sounds very practical and affordable. Thank you! I'm looking forward to trying this out!
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 11:31 am   #9
David G4EBT
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Default Re: Anyone recommend one-off PCB layout service?

Not quite sure what it is that you wish to do Al, and I can't answer your specific question, but the following (wordy) notes might help a little:

Is it that you want an acetate mask from a hand-drawn sketch so that you can use a UV light box to expose a pre-sensitised board? If so, pre-sensitised boards (and UV lacquer), are invariably positive resist so it's a positive image that you need - not a negative. You can however get dry-print negative UV film which I've tried recently, which you bond to a plain piece of PCB by passing it through a laminator a couple of times. For that, your artwork needs to be negative. When exposed, all of the white (clear) part of the design will remain on the board, and all of the black areas will be washed off with the developer.

It's not clear to me whether your problem is preparing the artwork for the mask, or getting a one-off circuit board professionally manufactured to your design. If you just want to convert your 1:1 hand drawn sketch into a neat layout suitable for use as a PCB mask, you don't need to use PCB software for that. You can scan in your sketched design and save it in 'my pictures' or wherever, then you can use MS 'PAINT' (which is bundled with Windows) to clean up the layout. I usually do a 1:1 sketch and scan it to get the dimensions correct, then import it into PAINT and using the various drawing tools - lines, circles, rounded oblongs, bucket, paintbrush, eraser etc - to draw over the sketched lines. You can enlarge the design to get better clarity on the screen if you wish. In photo editing software such as Photoshop, you can re-size the image if it doesn't print out to the correct dimensions. (I usually used say an IC socket placed on the artwork to check that the size is correct).

In MS PAINT, if you want to reverse the image, in 'View' you select 'Rotate' then on the drop-down menu, left click on 'flip horizontal' then save the flipped image with a suitable name - 'reversed image' or whatever. The 'iron on' technique has gained popularity among those who have a laser printer but no UV light box. It requires that the design is 'flipped' or when etched, the PCB will be back to front! The technique - which I haven't tried - involves printing the design onto glossy paper torn from magazines then ironing the artwork onto the PCB, then soaking off the paper in warm water, leaving the toner on the PCB to act as a resist. It matters not that the paper has printers' ink on it - only the toner artwork will adhere to the PCB.

If you wish to convert a positive image to a negative one (to use with the UV dry film technique say), you first use the 'Select' tab, and using the cursor, pull the dotted lined box to encompass the whole image, then right click your mouse, go down the drop-down menu and select 'invert colour'. Everything that is black will now be white (clear when printed onto acetate), and everything that was white will become black, and hence, opaque when printed onto acetate.

I've attached three pics of a PCB I designed using MS 'PAINT' to make a little 555 IC tester as I had lots of 555s which I wanted to test. The first pic is a positive image, the second pic is the image reversed as described above ('flip image horizontal'), the third pic is the same image converted to a negative by using the 'invert colour' tab.

To draw the image I just use the 'draw a line' facility, then for circular pads used the 'circle' tab, and to draw IC pads, used the 'rounded oblong' tab. If at any time you make a mistake, you can use the undo button. There are several line widths you can select, and if you have a large area to fill in, you can use the 'paint bucket' and fill in that area. If for example, you have a solid circle, an IC pad or whatever, and wish to put a hole in the centre, you just select white as a colour instead of black, select the paintbrush and width of the hole, then apply the paintbrush to the centre of the pad. If you haven't quit centred the 'hole' correctly, just cluck the 'undo' arrow and re-do the hole.

As to making a decent mask that will stand up to UV, home printers vary in their ability to print onto acetate. Some have a 'transparency setting but in the days of Powerpoint for presentations rather than OHPs, many printers no longer have that setting and produce poor acetates using normal OHP film.

Similarly in my experience, laser home printers and laser prints from copy shops produce poor acetates for use as PCB masks. Sure, people often say that you can use two or even three taped together and in pre-computer days I sometimes got away with that, but the best results I've obtained are by using 'micro-porous film' (not OHP acetates) from Crafty Computer Paper', but I've had to fool my Epson printer settings into producing dense lines up to the standard called for. Others claim that printing onto tracing paper (sometimes called vegetal paper' in other countries) produces an acceptable mask and that spraying it with WD40 will act as a 'transparentizer'.

I use PAINT in preference to software packages because those packages seem to have small pads and thing tracks, more suited to commercial PCB production than for DIY.
If I see artwork created with such packages which I wish to use, I import the image into PAINT and beef up the tracks and pads to my liking.

Under the 'View' tab, you can add or remove gridlines or a ruler for scaling.

All of this rigmarole might sound like quite a faff, but I find it much easier to use PAINT than using and of the PCB programs I've tried, but each to his own. I also find PAINT useful for creating front panels. The last two pics are of a PCB for a 'coil coverage test unit' that I designed, along with the front panel. Both the PCB and front panel were created using PAINT - the more complex CAD programs are just not in my skills portfolio and are way above my pay grade!

Hope that helps a bit Al, and has at least some relevance to your needs.

It will make more sense if read alongside PAINT on the screen, (for which there are countless tutorials on youtube).
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 1:11 pm   #10
astral highway
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Default Re: Anyone recommend one-off PCB layout service?

Wow, David! What an answer! I feel amazed and grateful for the time and effort you put into this and no stone is unturned. I now have a great resource to go forwards with. I'm usually inclined to use surface mount techniques using tiles from QRPMe and for Rf work this is brilliant. But I am also interested in reviving my PCB skills and knowledge , so this is fantastic. I'm sure others will fine it helpful too. Many thanks again !
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 8:00 pm   #11
David G4EBT
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Default Re: Anyone recommend one-off PCB layout service?

Glad it's of help Al - rather a lot to swallow in one gulp, but hopefully, useful as a reference.

PAINT is also useful for drawing circuits and component overlays. By using the printed circuit board layout, 'flipping' it horizontally, then using the paint-pot feature, you can chose a different colour - grey for example to change the colour of all of the tracks, so that it becomes an 'X-Ray' of the PCB, then you can draw components to create an 'overlay' to show which component goes where. Remember to give it a different file name ('overlay' for example) before you save it, or it will over-write your original PCB layout.

Taking the examples of the two projects in my earlier post - the little '555' IC tester, and the 'coil coverage test unit', below I've shown the circuits that I drew using PAINT, and the component overlays.

Many people will be adept at using specialist CAD packages for circuit drawing, of which there are several free ones, and very good they are too, but they all take time in which to become proficient, and I find that PAINT is simple to use and for me, meets all my circuit drawing needs, even for drawing a complete circuit for a radio. The last pic is of a circuit I drew for a 'Unitra Figaro Special' based on a poor original which had errors in it. Not very readable as a 'thumbnail' but it gives an idea of what can be done.

As I said earlier, others who are proficient in using more complex CAD packages may well scorn PAINT, but I hope the attached pics illustrates how useful it can be. Those restorers who are 'at the top of the food chain' create stunning examples of reproduction dials, which is way out of my league, but I hope that anyone with limited skills will take heart from my efforts with PAINT, given my own limitations.

Have fun!
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 9:20 pm   #12
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Default Re: Anyone recommend one-off PCB layout service?

Hi David.

That's excellent work.
I've always found MS Paint to be really good and easy to use despite it's limitations. I like the Windows 7 and 10 versions best. I agree it's time consuming learning to use PCB/Circuit diagram software packages and Paint can certainly provide decent results.
Regarding the PCB layouts and a library of symbols, I had thought about scanning rub on transfers such as IC pads etc and cleaning up the image with Paint. I suppose though it's probably easier to create the required pad images with Paint rather than scanning. It's handy having the grid matrix as well.

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