TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Developing Electronic Hardware on Mac OS X

Volume Number: 20 (2004)
Issue Number: 5
Column Tag: Programming

Tools

by Tom Djajadiningrat

Developing Electronic Hardware on Mac OS X

Schematic Capture and PCB Routing

Introduction

Contrary to popular belief amongst engineers using machines from the evil empire, it is quite well possible to develop electronics hardware on the Mac. In true Mac fashion, there are much fewer solutions, but those that are there are pretty good quality. What follows is a list of pointers to Mac software for schematic capture (the process of drawing electronic hardware diagrams, see Figure 1) and PCB routing (the process of laying out components and tracks on printed circuit boards, see Figure 2).


Figure 1: Schematic capture


Figure 2: Printed circuit board layout

Capilano Computing

http://www.capilano.com

This company offers three packages: DesignWorks, DesignWorks Lite and Logic Works.

DesignWorks

(From 395 USD; save disabled evaluation version available)

This is Capilano's flagship product. It is purely a schematic capture and simulation program and cannot be used for laying out PCBs. However, it can export parts lists (specifying the components) and net lists (specifying the connections between components) to a great many PCB layout packages. These include not only software which runs on the Mac such as McCAD and Douglas, but also 'evil empire' only packages such as OrCAD and PADS.

DesignWorks Lite

(39.95 USD; 30 days evaluation version is free)

DesignWorks Lite does only schematic capture. It does not do simulation. More importantly, however, the parts/net list export functionality is missing. This makes DesignWorks Lite kind of useless for developing printed circuit boards: the essential link between schematic capture and PCB layout is absent. Of course, if you need to merely document electronic circuitry or have your circuit boards laid out by someone else then it may suit you just fine.

LogicWorks

(approx. 80 USD)

Luckily, Capilano offer something that sits in between DesignWorks and DesignWorks Lite: LogicWorks. Targeted originally at the educational market, it is bundled with a book and available from Amazon. Like DesignWorks, LogicWorks offers schematic capture and simulation, though with far fewer parts libraries. Unlike DesignWorks Lite, LogicWorks does offer export of parts and net lists, but only in a single format. You have to massage the parts and net lists into a format your PCB software understands, either using search and replace with a text editor (say BBEdit) or by parsing the text using your favourite programming language. Another caveat is that LogicWorks 4.0 is currently Mac OS9 only though rumours have it that version 4.5 will be OSX native and is soon to appear. If a Mac OS9 version is ok, you may want to hunt about in the secondhand section of Amazon.

Douglas

Douglas are not only a software company but also have manufacturing facilities for printed circuit boards which puts them in an interesting position. They offer two versions of their software. One is called Douglas Professional Plus. This program is for PCB routing which does autorouting (automatically laying out the tracks). Its natural companion seems to be Capilano's DesignWorks which can even be bought through Douglas. Douglas Professional Plus exports layouts in Gerber format and therefore you can have your printed circuit boards made at any company you like.

Douglas also make a second version of their software which is simply called Douglas Professional. It does the same as the Professional Plus system but it cannot export to Gerber. This means that you need to use Douglas' manufacturing facilities. To this end the software contains a job order and price quote module.

Whether it is economical to go for the Douglas Professional system and get your prints made at Douglas of course depends on a price comparison between Douglas and your local PCB manufacturer but also on where you are based (postage) and how frequently you need prints and in what volumes.

McCad

  • http://www.mccad.com/

  • EDS-1 (schematic capture, PCB layout, Gerber export) $1495

  • EDS-2 (EDS-1 + simulation) $1895

  • TK-1 (autorouter) $895

  • EDS-Lite (free version of EDS-1 with a 200pin limit and smaller board size)

McCad offer packages for schematic capture, simulation, PCB layout, autorouting and Gerber export, either separately or combined. McCad seem to be the only ones who offer all these components, developed in-house for the Mac platform. You have to cough up some serious money to get this kind of integrated workflow though. If you can live with a 200pin limit you can actually get EDS-Lite for free.

Osmond

http://www.swcp.com/~jchavez/osmond.html

(free download)

Osmond is a currently free PCB layout tool which is still in beta. Though this may sound unattractive, Osmond appears to be much more stable than many so-called final releases. In fact, judging from the version history Osmond seems to have been in beta for more than five years. Personally, what I like about it, is that it does not suffer from featuritis. It seems to do what it is supposed to do but no more. The interface feels very clean and intuitive and the tutorial was enough to get me started in about two hours. Should you get stuck there is always the Osmond Yahoo! Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/osmondpcb/. Osmond exports Gerber/Excellon files so you can have your boards made anywhere you like. One of Osmond's drawbacks is that it does not do autorouting. Though it can do rat's nests and can indicate which pads need to be connected, you have to route the tracks around the board yourself as it cannot do it automatically. As long as the boards are not too complex, this need not be a problem. An example of a small print designed in Osmond can be seen in Figure 2-5. Osmond comes with various parts libraries. What I found somewhat tedious was making part names in LogicWorks' parts/net lists match the part names in Osmond's libraries.


Figure 3: Silkscreen side of the one-sided print resulting from the Osmond file shown in Figure 2


Figure 4: The side with the tracks.


Figure 5: The completed print with components.

Electric

(open source; pre-built OSX binary: 40 USD)

http://www.staticfreesoft.com/

Electric is somewhat different from the other packages mentioned here as it was not originally developed for the Macintosh. It is also the only package which I haven't tried for myself. Electric is open source, cross-platform software for schematic capture, simulation and PCB layout. However, compiling the source using XCode or CodeWarrior is apparently non-trivial: one has to do quite a bit of tweaking. The recommended compiler is Qt by Trolltech (www.trolltech.com). Although Qt is far from free (1550USD), a 30 day evaluation version is available. If you are not into compiling Electric yourself, you can always order a CD with a pre-built OSX binary.

Gerber Viewers

To send your design to a print manufacturer it needs to be in a file format called Gerber. It is always a nice sanity check to be able to view these files before you send them off. There are two Gerber viewers available. One is GerberReader which is a utility included with Douglas Professional. You may find that this utility alone makes it worth to spend $25 on Douglas Professional. The other is Gerber2PDF, a Python command-line utility which you can get from the Osmond home page. It takes a little effort to install but it does actually work very well, with different board layers being output to separate pages of a multipage PDF document. When you open such a document with Apple's Preview app, you can simply switch layers by pressing page icons in the drawer.

Summary

So there you have it, there is quite some choice actually. Some of these packages have been around since the very start of the Mac: obviously the Macintosh GUI worked miracles for such spatial tasks as schematic capture and PCB routing. What this list of pointers does not address is the user experience: each of these packages has its own idiosyncrasies. Therefore I would strongly recommend that you try out a few of these packages for yourself before you jump. The nice thing is that virtually all of them are available in evaluation versions of their software so that you can get a feel for the full package whilst not spending more than 25-50 US Dollars.


Tom Djajadiningrat is a member of the Designed Intelligence Group, a research and teaching facility of Eindhoven University of Technology, which focuses on the design of intelligent products and services. You can reach him at j.p.djajadiningrat@tue.nl

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Parallels Desktop 10.2.0 - Run Windows a...
Parallels Desktop is simply the world's bestselling, top-rated, and most trusted solution for running Windows applications on your Mac. With Parallels Desktop for Mac, you can seamlessly run both... Read more
LaunchBar 6.2 - Powerful file/URL/email...
LaunchBar is an award-winning productivity utility that offers an amazingly intuitive and efficient way to search and access any kind of information stored on your computer or on the Web. It provides... Read more
Firefox 37.0 - Fast, safe Web browser. (...
Firefox offers a fast, safe Web browsing experience. Browse quickly, securely, and effortlessly. With its industry-leading features, Firefox is the choice of Web development professionals and casual... Read more
Arq 4.11 - Online backup to Google Drive...
Arq is super-easy online backup for the Mac. Back up to your own Google Drive storage (15GB free storage), your own Amazon Glacier ($.01/GB per month storage) or S3, or any SFTP server. Arq backs up... Read more
MacFamilyTree 7.3.4 - Create and explore...
MacFamilyTree gives genealogy a facelift: it's modern, interactive, incredibly fast, and easy to use. We're convinced that generations of chroniclers would have loved to trade in their genealogy... Read more
Yummy FTP 1.10.2 - FTP/SFTP/FTPS client...
Yummy FTP is an FTP + SFTP + FTPS file transfer client which focuses on speed, reliability and productivity. Whether you need to transfer a few files or a few thousand, schedule automatic backups, or... Read more
VueScan 9.5.08 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
Iridient Developer 3.0.1 - Powerful imag...
Iridient Developer (was RAW Developer) is a powerful image conversion application designed specifically for OS X. Iridient Developer gives advanced photographers total control over every aspect of... Read more
Monodraw 0.8.4.1 - Powerful ASCII art ed...
Monodraw allows you to easily create text-based art (like diagrams, layouts, flow charts) and visually represent algorithms, data structures, binary formats and more. Because it's all just text, it... Read more
Air Video Server HD 2.1.0 - Stream video...
Air Video Server HD streams videos instantly from your computer on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Apple TV. No need to worry about converting or transferring files. We took everything that was... Read more

Marvel Mighty Heroes, the Ultimate Marve...
DeNA and Marvel Entertainment have brought us a new action-packed brawler: Marvel Mighty Heroes. You can play with up to four of your friends as you favorite marvel heroes like Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man, Captain America, Star-Lord, Hulk, and... | Read more »
Take Note - The Jot Script 2 Evernote Ed...
Adonit's Jot Script 2 sylus has an all-new edition that's meant to be Evernote's BFF. The sylus has been redesigned to work better with iPads and give you faster stroke tracking, smoother line rendering, and better tip-to-line accuracy. | Read more »
INFINIT Lets Mobile Users Send Files of...
Infinit  is a file sharing app that ignores file size limits. It maintains the original quality of your photos and videos so you can be sure they look awesome after sending. You can move entire albums of photos or full HD films from your iPhone to... | Read more »
Serious Sam Double D Developer is Making...
There's nothing like the thrill of watching a horse race, especially when the horses are drunk.  | Read more »
2K Announces WWE 2K, Mobile's First...
It seems like this month has been pretty big for wrestling. First Wrestlemania, then 2K has announces that they're releasing  WWE 2K for iOS. It's a simulation-based WWE game where you'll get to play with several WWE superstars such as John Cena, ... | Read more »
How the Apple Watch Could Change the Fac...
The Apple Watch is still a ways out, but my previous musings on the wearable’s various features got me thinking: what might it be like a year after launch? Two years? Five years? What if it becomes a symbiotic part of the iOS framework to the point... | Read more »
You Can Start Challenging Your Friends t...
Last year we reported that Sebastian Gosztyla's new game, Dual, was theorized to be released sometime during the summer of 2014. Sadly that did not become a reality, but the good news it there is now an official release date. | Read more »
Forgotten Memories : Alternate Realities...
Forgotten Memories : Alternate Realities, from Psychoz Interactive, is planned for release on April 23. The Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Alone in the Dark inspired horror game puts you in the shoes of Rose Hawkins as she searches for a missing... | Read more »
Pie In The Sky: A Pizza Odyssey (Games)
Pie In The Sky: A Pizza Odyssey 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A game about delivering pizza. In space. | Read more »
Chosen Gives Hopeful Singers, Songwriter...
If YouTube videos and reality TV shows like The Voice have taught us one thing, it’s that there are a lot of people out there who are anxious to show the world their talents. And if they’ve taught us a second thing, it’s that there’s an almost... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Will Microsoft’s Surface 3 Give The 12-inch M...
The more I ruminate over the new 12-inch MacBook, the more it occurs that it’s probably going to be more of a cannibalization threat to high-end iPads (including a new 12-inch ‘Pad when/if that... Read more
13-inch 2.4GHz Retina MacBook Pro available f...
MacMall has the 2013 13″ 2.4GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro available for $949.99 for a limited time. Shipping is free. Their price is $350 off original MSRP, and it’s the only sub-$1000 new Retina... Read more
Adobe Brings Powerful Layout-Design Capabilit...
Adobe today announced the availability of Adobe Comp CC, a free iPad app that enables rapid creation of layout concepts for mobile, Web and print projects. With Comp CC, designers can rough out and... Read more
13-inch 2.6GHz/256GB Retina MacBook Pro avail...
Best Buy has clearance 2014 13″ 2.6GHz/256GB Retina MacBook Pros available for $1199.99 including free shipping. Their price is $300 off original MSRP, and it’s the lowest price for this model.... Read more
Updated Mac Price Trackers
We’ve updated our Mac Price Trackers with the latest information on prices, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers: - 15″ MacBook Pros - 13″ MacBook... Read more
21-inch 1.4GHz iMac on sale for $999, save $1...
Best Buy has the 21″ 1.4GHz iMac on sale for $999.99 on their online store. Choose free shipping or free local store pick up. Price is for online orders only, in-store prices may vary. Their price is... Read more
2.6GHz Mac mini on sale for $649, save $50
Amazon has the 2.6GHz Mac mini on sale for $649.99 including free shipping. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
Textkraft Professional 3.2 Powerful iPad Text...
Finally it’s springtime, at least theoretically in my neck of the woods, where we’re still navigating canyons between towering snowbanks with temperatures well below freezing in winter weather that... Read more
Apple offering refurbished 27-inch 5K iMacs f...
The Apple Store is offering Apple Certified Refurbished 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMacs for $2119 including free shipping. Their price is $380 off the price of new models, and it’s the lowest price available for... Read more
16GB iPad mini on sale for $199, save $50
Walmart has 16GB iPad minis (1st generation) available for $199.99 on their online store, including free shipping. Their price is $50 off MSRP. Online orders only. Read more

Jobs Board

DevOps Software Engineer - *Apple* Pay, iOS...
**Job Summary** Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Sr. Technical Services Consultant, *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple Professional Services (APS) has an opening for a senior technical position that contributes to Apple 's efforts for strategic and transactional Read more
Lead *Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail...
**Job Summary** Job Summary The Lead ASC is an Apple employee who serves as the Apple business manager and influencer in a hyper-business critical Reseller's store Read more
*Apple* Pay - Site Reliability Engineer - Ap...
**Job Summary** Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.