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Designing a Printed Circuit Board with ExpressPCB

Designing a Printed Circuit Board with ExpressPCB

When showing my first DIY headphone amplifier to a friend of mine, who happens to be an engineer, the result was very unsettling frown.
Preparing ExpressPCB for first use

ExpressPCB as I have already mentioned comes with a less then exciting list of parts. So before any project is started head over to Audiologica and grab the additional parts by morsel, ppl, and tangent, and extract them into your ExpressPCB directory. At this point start the program and get ready to setup the workspace to suit your style.

The interface

When a project is first started you will be greeted with a yellow outline. This yellow outline is the dimension of the PCB. Typically after I position my parts and traces, I move them to their final position and then crop the PCB to the correct size. However, if I am designing a board with a certain size constraint, I crop the PCB to the correct size before I start.

On the left hand side is a vertical toolbar which from the top down has the following functions:


The select tool: It is fairly obvious what this does. It allows you to move and manipulate parts. When this tool is selected the top toolbar will show buttons to move traces to the top / bottom coper layer, and rotate buttons. 
The zoom to selection tool: does just that. 
The place pad: button allows you to place small soldier pads which are useful for board connections or if a part is not in the part library but the part dimensions are available. When this tool is selected the top toolbar will give you a large selection of round holes, square holes and surface mount pads. 
The place component: tool allows you to select a component from the top toolbar and then by clicking in the workspace places that component in the orientation chosen using the buttons next to the component list. The components can always be rotated afterwards with the select tool if the orientation is wrong. 
The place trace: tool allows you to place a solid trace on the board of varying thicknesses. The top toolbar allows you to select the top or bottom layer to place the trace on. 
The Insert Corner in trace: button does exactly what it says. When this tool is selected, clicking on a trace will insert a corner which can be moved to route around components and other traces. 
The remove a trace button is not very important since the delete key will achieve the same result.

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