PCBWeb is a free PCB-design software. But since it’s free, what is the catch? Read on to find out what our first impressions are after testing out this package:)
Download and Install
Downloading was as simple as you might expect. No need to register first. Note: it’s only available for Windows.
The installation went smooth. If you miss things such as .NET, the installation package takes care of that, of course. No hiccups there.
To start the program you need to register, but everything is possible to do from the software.
To test this package we decided to make a supersimple LED-blinking board with an AVR. Including both components that needed to be custom designed, and components from a standard library.
The library editor is simple, yet it has several neat features, such as auto placement of 1-, 2- or 4-row components. It is not as powerful as library editors such as the one you find in Altium Designer, but I think they have mixed both easy to use and powerful features in a rather nice way here. In the library editor it’s the footprint section that is the most challenging to use. It does not include any IPC compliant footprint generator or things that can make the work easier for you. But if you know how your footprint should look, or you find a similar footprint in the database, everything will work out fine.
So all in all it is rather simple to use. It’s possible to create the stuff you need, but not much more than that.
Schematic layout is simple, yet powerful enough for most of the standard “Maker”-projects.
If you’re used to work in big PCB packages, you will quickly realize how little is needed…
A couple of minutes was all that was needed to “quick-and-dirty-layout” this simple board.
After you have made your creation in the software, it is ready for the real world. Often through the Gerber-file-format. PCBWeb does have a direct link to several manufacturers, making it easy to order directly within the software. This is neat, but how is the export if you will produce somewhere else?
When you export you don’t get any options, just a zip-file with all the necessary gerbers.
And combined with the production files you do also need an okey BOM. This software has that included, making the day easier for all of us.
PCBWeb seems like a simple yet good enough startingpoint for making simple PCB-designs without needing to invest any money in software. It has a strong connection to Digi-Key and several boardhouses, but you don’t need to use any of them. It is easily possible to export all of your files for production on other places.
It does not include features such as 3D-layout-DRC, but you get what you pay for (in this case it’s free). Free software is often “impossible” to use, but in this case, I think the creators have struck a nice mix of the correct features and “simple enough”.
I think PCBWeb fits for all in early PCB-creation or those just wanting to dip their toes in to this magical world.
You can download this free CAD application for designing and manufacturing electronics hardware here: http://www.pcbweb.com