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

 
AAPL
$102.99
Apple Inc.
+0.52
MSFT
$44.38
Microsoft Corpora
-0.50
GOOG
$532.71
Google Inc.
+6.17

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Evernote 5.6.2 - Create searchable notes...
Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at anytime, from... Read more
OmniOutliner 4.1.3 - Organize your ideas...
OmniOutliner is a flexible program for creating, collecting, and organizing information. Give your creativity a kick start by using an application that's actually designed to help you think. It's... Read more
BBEdit 11.0 - Powerful text and HTML edi...
BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Specifically crafted in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers, this award-winning product provides a... Read more
Apple Security Update 2014-005 - For OS...
Apple Security Update is recommended for all users and improves the security of Mac OS X. For information on the security content of this update, please visit this website: http://support.apple.com/... Read more
EyeTV 3.6.6 - Watch and record TV on you...
EyeTV brings a rich TV experience to your Mac. Watch live TV on your Mac. Pause, rewind, and record whenever you want. EyeTV gives you powerful control over what you watch and how you watch it. Put... Read more
RapidWeaver 6.0 - Create template-based...
RapidWeaver is a next-generation Web design application to help you easily create professional-looking Web sites in minutes. No knowledge of complex code is required, RapidWeaver will take care of... Read more
NTFS 12.0.39 - Provides full read and wr...
Paragon NTFS breaks down the barriers between Windows and OS X. Paragon NTFS effectively solves the communication problems between the Mac system and NTFS, providing full read and write access to... Read more
RestoreMeNot 2.0.3 - Disable window rest...
RestoreMeNot provides a simple way to disable the window restoration for individual applications so that you can fine-tune this behavior to suit your needs. Please note that RestoreMeNot is designed... Read more
Command-C 1.1.5 - Clipboard sharing tool...
Command-C is a revolutionary app which makes easy to share your clipboard between iOS and OS X using your local WiFi network, even if the app is not currently opened. Copy anything (text, pictures,... Read more
Macgo Blu-ray Player 2.10.9.1750 - Blu-r...
Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player can bring you the most unforgettable Blu-ray experience on your Mac. Overview Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player can satisfy just about every need you could possibly have in a Blu-ray... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Super Glyph Quest (Games)
Super Glyph Quest 1.01 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.01 (iTunes) Description: Adventure is back Questers! Combine elemental glyphs together to cast powerful spells and vanquish adorable monsters in... | Read more »
Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Wi...
Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Witch 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $5.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Travel to Northern Allansia’s perilous Icefinger Mountains to defeat the wicked Snow Witch in this... | Read more »
Star Warfare 2: Payback Review
Star Warfare 2: Payback Review By Blake Grundman on October 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: ONE-TRICK PONYUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for Star Warfare 2’s free-firing fun to turn into... | Read more »
TinType by Hipstamatic (Photography)
TinType by Hipstamatic 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Photography Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Create hauntingly beautiful, soul capturing portraits with TinType by Hipstamatic. Inspired by daguerreotypes,... | Read more »
The Latest Update for Heroes of Dragon A...
The Latest Update for Heroes of Dragon Age Introduces Daily PvE Challenges Posted by Ellis Spice on October 22nd, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Bee Brilliant Review
Bee Brilliant Review By Jennifer Allen on October 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: SAMEY MATCH-3Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Want even more Match-3 gaming and fancy a bee based twist? Bee Brilliant is that game. Don’t... | Read more »
A New Trailer has Been Revealed for Epic...
A New Trailer has Been Revealed for Epic of Kings Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 22nd, 2014 [ permalink ] Dead Mage Inc. has released a new, action-packed trailer for the upcoming Epic of Kings. | Read more »
Find the Line Review
Find the Line Review By Campbell Bird on October 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: INSLIDE THE LINESUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Tease out beautiful line drawings in this unique, free-to-play puzzle game.   | Read more »
Things Get Magical in The Sims FreePlay...
Things Get Magical in The Sims FreePlay with a New Halloween Update Posted by Ellis Spice on October 22nd, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
The Silent Age Episode 2 Review
The Silent Age Episode 2 Review By Jennifer Allen on October 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: ROUNDING THINGS OFF NICELYUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Rounding off a great point and click adventure comes The Silent Age... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Save with Best Buy’s College Student Deals
Take an additional $50 off all MacBooks and iMacs at Best Buy Online with their College Students Deals Savings, valid through November 1st. Anyone with a valid .EDU email address can take advantage... Read more
iPad Air 2 & iPad mini 3 Best Tablets Yet...
The new iPads turned out to be pretty much everything I’d been hoping for and more than I’d expected.”More” particularly in terms of a drinking-from-a-firehose choice of models and configurations,... Read more
Drafts 4 Reinvents iOS Productivity App
N Richland Hills, Texas based Agile Tortoise has announced the release of Drafts 4 for iPhone and iPad. Drafts is a quick capture note taking app with flexible output actions. Drafts 4 scales from... Read more
AT&T accepting preorders for new iPads fo...
AT&T Wireless is accepting preorders for the new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, cellular models, for $100 off MSRP with a 2-year service agreement: - 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi + Cellular: $529.99 - 64GB... Read more
Apple offering refurbished Mac Pros for up to...
The Apple Store is offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2013 Mac Pros for up to $600 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each Mac Pro, and shipping is free. The... Read more
Select MacBook Airs $100 off MSRP, free shipp...
B&H Photo has 2014 a couple of MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. They also include free copies of Parallels Desktop and LoJack for... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $100 o...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Strong iPhone, Mac And App Store Sales Drive...
Apple on Monday announced financial results for its fiscal 2014 fourth quarter ended September 27, 2014. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $42.1 billion and quarterly net profit of $8.5 billion... Read more
Apple Posts How-To For OS X Recovery
OS X 10.7 Lion and later include OS X Recovery. This feature includes all of the tools you need to reinstall OS X, repair your disk, and even restore from a Time Machine backup. OS X Recovery... Read more
Mac OS X Versions (Builds) Supported By Vario...
Apple Support has posted a handy resource explaining which Mac OS X versions (builds) originally shipped with or are available for your computer via retail discs, downloads, or Software Update. Apple... Read more

Jobs Board

Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Project Manager / Business Analyst, WW *Appl...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
…customers purchase our products, you're the one who helps them get more out of their new Apple technology. Your day in the Apple Store is filled with a range of Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.