A printed circuit board, commonly abbreviated as PCB, is a special board usually made of resin or fiberglass, which acts as a physical support for any circuit board. A printed circuit board has etches on its surface, which serves as pathways for electrical current, replacing bulky wires and cords that usually takes up spaces inside any electronic device. The idea for this board started in 1825, as Charles Ducas of America submitted a patent for a device that requires the creation of an electrical path on an insulated surface. The idea was put into action a little later, in 1943, when a certain Dr. Paul Eisler, created an operational printed circuit board, the first of its kind since it was put into paper in 1825.
In making a printed circuit board, the layout of the electrical path is very important. This will ensure that the circuit board will function properly. Some PCBs are designed by hand while some use computer software to aid them in illustrating the path of electric current they want to put in their boards. Assuming that we are not artistically gifted, here are some of the most common computer software we can use to create a PCB. And these are free and can be downloaded online.
First on the list is a program called ZenitPCB. This is considered as one of the most excellent printed circuit board layout design software that can aid anyone in creating a professional looking PCB. It is also user friendly and flexible computer Aided Design (CAD) program which can help you see how your project will look like in a short span of time. This is completely free, and is created for personal or semi professional use only. It is limited to 800 pins which serves as the borderline between professional and semi professional use of PCB design software.
The second most common PCB design software is called Free PCB. This one is made for Microsoft Windows. It is an open source program, meaning it can be modified or enhanced by anyone. This software is easy to learn therefore making it easier to use while providing a professional looking result.
Some of its features are as follows:
• It is a design software that can make layouts from 1 to 16 copper layers
• It has an auto save function which ensures that your project is saved no matter what
• It can create a layout for a board as big as 60 inches by 60 inches.
• It uses English or metric system of measurement
• It has a design rule checker (just like a spell check in MS Word only this time it checks if the design follows certain rules and suggest alternate designs if needed to)
Another free PCB design software is called Tiny CAD. Do not be confused with the name. The name may be tiny but this software can do a lot of huge things for us. This program can help one illustrate the circuit’s diagram. A decoder is also provided to help you understand the symbols in the pattern created so that you can work on your board right away. You can print your design immediately or you can post it on the web for others to use. If you decide to post it online, all you need to do is copy-paste the design in a Word document and save the created plan as a PNG bitmap.
Last on the list is Osmond PCB. This design software is created for Macintosh computers. This software has a virtually unlimited board sizes as well as a number of board layers. This means you can design a board of any size or shape with as many layers as you want.