Designing and building your own electronics has been possible for decades. But thanks to the internet, building electronics in the 21st century is even more of an adventure.
Below are four essential resources for anyone who is looking to get serious about designing PCBs.
Octopart is an online electronics parts search engine that finds suppliers of electrical components. It also provides data sheets that contain detailed specifications for each component. These data sheets are excellent resources for newbies and experienced designers alike.
As soon as you start experimenting with incorporating more complex components into your PCB designs, Octopart can play a valuable role.
If you are the kind of person who likes spec sheets and getting into the weeds with the numbers underpinning their designs, Octopart is a fun place to play.
If you want to get serious about your PCB designs, Altium is the premier PCB design software package. But the power of Altium comes at a hefty cost.
The software contains every feature you need for even the most serious PCB CAD work. But the price of an Altium license starts at USD 325 /Month.
If you are eyeing a PCB design career, you will inevitably end up using Altium. But until you are at that point, the asking price is very high. For some people, it will be worth it.
Most people will be better suited by learning the ropes on something simpler and coming back to Altium when they have some skills and experience under their belt.
Before PCB designers graduate to the giddy heights of Altium, Eagle is an important stepping-stone. The best part about Eagle is that it is open-source.
The fact that it is open-source means a couple of things that benefit you. First of all, it means that it’s free. But not only is open-source software free, but it can also be freely modified and redistributed as long as it remains open.
If you are a proficient coder yourself, you can even modify Eagle and add custom features to it if you choose.
Some people have managed to convert their versions of Eagle into much more specialized tools useful for their specific line of work. Potential productivity boosts are enormous.
KiCad is another example of an open-source PCB design platform. It is less popular when compared with Eagle, but it is still worthy of a mention.
Lots of people in the custom electronics and PCB communities believe strongly in the concept of open-source software. Like many open-source developers, KiCad makes their money through donations from their loyal fans.
If Eagle is a good stepping-stone to Altium, KiCad is a stepping stone to Eagle. PCB designers with little to no prior experience will no doubt appreciate KiCad’s elegant design.
Thanks to a dedicated community and talented software developers passionate about PCB design, there are some excellent resources available for anyone who wants to get into PCB design.
Whether you are approaching it as a hobbyist or hoping to go pro, the resources above will help you get started as quickly as possible.