Any software application is usable with our system because our board fabrication technique starts with the laser printer's output, so whatever is send to your printer (or printed and put on a photocopier) can transfer to the copper laminate to fabricate your board.
There are two options when it comes to software. One is to purchase your software, the other is to get it for free. Seems like a no-brainer, however, there are pluses and minuses to both!
Also, we'd like to point out here, that one of the main objectives of our process for use by those who are prototyping for production of a single or double-sided board, is that our process is not to eliminate the need to have your board design sent out, but rather, to have it sent out no more than once! With our "PCB Fab-In-A-Box" you can create iteration after iteration in mere minutes of needing a design "change-to-the-change" to ensure everything is perfect with respect to both operation and physical layout to ensure everything fits perfectly. Then after all is correct, by all means use a board house to verify the Gerber output file matches everything the laser printer provided (which it normally always does). This DIY technnique more than pays for our system and saves you a whole bunch of money and time! Even if you used extremely expensive "overnight" rush services (1 day to process and another day to ship it back) how can you compare that to making a board in just 8 minutes?
About "FREE" Software...
Here are some of the better known "free" application programs. If you know of an application that isn't in the list, please send us your personal recommendations so we can add it here. eMail us at: email@example.com.
The vendors that supply free use of their proprietary software want you to use their production services to make your prototype or production boards... and that's a fair trade. They give you some very expensive, high-end software and this idea of giving it away makes for a great marketing angle since it can only be used with their respective services.
Now here's the neat part. It can printout "proofing sheets" of your design, so, when coupled with our "instant" board fabrication system, you are now able to make your own 1-up projects and specialty support PCB's in real time without needing to spend a lot of money sending out for your single or double-sided boards to be fabrication. Our focus here is limited strictly to making 1x and 2x boards. This accounts for some 85% of all boards made today, so making single and double-sided boards is nothing to sneeze at!
The drawback to FREE is... that's all you get! You generally can't add on to the software pack to enable integration of other "packages" like SPICE or SIMULATION if it doesn't already have it built in. It's a very tightly controlled environment between you and the board house. Also, not all board houses offer all possible high-end services. Some limit your minimum trace width and air-gap to .008" or even larger for some smaller board fab houses. Something to check on first before you spend the time learning one companies free software.
Contrast this diminished capability of some of the smaller board houses (with equally lower costing board fabrication) to our "PCB Fab-In-A-Box" system's capability using their software and any 1,200dpi laser printer... you can easily image easily down to .005" (and some users have stated they've done .002"!) All of this is considered "fine line" capability and you can do it by following an 8 minute simple procedure. No darkroom, no negatives, no long delays. Everything you want, pure and simple... "instant gratification"!
To recap, the score is 3 to 3 for "Free" software:
- It's FREE!
- Software outputs to any laser printer for use with our system
- Having them make your boards is a simple process
- You are always locked into one board manufacturer!
- Your minimum trace width may be less than they can do
- "Free software" doesn't always compete for lowest price/sq.in.
About "PURCHASED" Software...
Here we have the other side of the coin... spending some money! This has it's own set of PRO's and CON's but you always have more flexibility. For starters you can seek the lowest price fabricator to make your boards since you are not tied to one vendor. Most of the time, you'll probably find that you don't need outside sources since our system can enable you to do "limited" mass-production of sorts. Now a days, we're all trying to save money where ever we can. Generally speaking, there are a lot of software packages available that are NOT expensive and provide the same level of performance and can still generate the Gerber files when needed to send to any board fabricator. It's simply the best of both worlds.
To recap, the score is 6 to 2 for "Pay" software:
- Most are low cost "pay for allowable pin count"
- Some have low pin count at no charge at all
- Output to any laser printer for use with our system
- Export GERBER files required for commercial board fab
- Variety of features from many different vendors
- Freedom to use any outside source for board fabrication
- They're not FREE!
- Customer Support not normally as "direct"
Here are some links to some better known inexpensive programs. If you know of an application that isn't in the list, please send us your personal recommendations so we can add it here. eMail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.