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

Apple iOS 9.3.5 - The latest version of...
iOS is the world’s most advanced mobile operating system, and it’s the foundation of iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. It comes with a collection of apps and features that let you do the everyday things... Read more
Parallels Desktop 12.0.0 - Run Windows a...
Parallels allows you to run Windows and Mac applications side by side. Choose your view to make Windows invisible while still using its applications, or keep the familiar Windows background and... Read more
Spotify 1.0.36.124. - Stream music, crea...
Spotify is a streaming music service that gives you on-demand access to millions of songs. Whether you like driving rock, silky R&B, or grandiose classical music, Spotify's massive catalogue puts... Read more
Firefox 48.0.2 - 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
BBEdit 11.6.1 - Powerful text and HTML e...
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
OmniGraffle Pro 6.6.1 - Create diagrams,...
OmniGraffle Pro helps you draw beautiful diagrams, family trees, flow charts, org charts, layouts, and (mathematically speaking) any other directed or non-directed graphs. We've had people use... Read more
OmniGraffle 6.6.1 - Create diagrams, flo...
OmniGraffle helps you draw beautiful diagrams, family trees, flow charts, org charts, layouts, and (mathematically speaking) any other directed or non-directed graphs. We've had people use Graffle to... Read more
Dropbox 8.4.21 - Cloud backup and synchr...
Dropbox is an application that creates a special Finder folder that automatically syncs online and between your computers. It allows you to both backup files and keep them up-to-date between systems... Read more
BetterTouchTool 1.84 - Customize Multi-T...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom... Read more
ScreenFlow 6.1 - Create screen recording...
ScreenFlow is powerful, easy-to-use screencasting software for the Mac. With ScreenFlow you can record the contents of your entire monitor while also capturing your video camera, microphone and your... Read more

Become the King of Avalon in FunPlus’ la...
King Arthur is dead. Considering the legend dates back to the 5th century, it would be surprising if he wasn’t. But in the context of real-time MMO game King of Avalon: Dragon Warfare, Arthur’s death plunges the kingdom into chaos. Evil sorceress... | Read more »
Nightgate (Games)
Nightgate 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: *** Launch Sale: 25% OFF for a limited time! *** In the year 2398, after a great war, a network of intelligent computers known as... | Read more »
3 best fantasy football apps to get you...
Last season didn't go the way you wanted it to in fantasy football. You were super happy following your drafts or auctions, convinced you had outsmarted everyone. You were all set to hustle on the waiver wire, work out some sweet trades, and make... | Read more »
Pokemon GO update: Take me to your leade...
The Team Leaders in Pokemon GO have had it pretty easy up until now. They show up when players reach level 5, make their cases for joining their respective teams, and that's pretty much it. Light work, as Floyd Mayweather might say. [Read more] | Read more »
Ruismaker FM (Music)
Ruismaker FM 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Following up on the success of Ruismaker, here's her crazy twin-sister, designed for people who want to design their own... | Read more »
Space Marshals 2 (Games)
Space Marshals 2 1.0.15 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $5.99, Version: 1.0.15 (iTunes) Description: The sci-fi wild west adventure in outer space continues with Space Marshals 2. This tactical top-down shooter puts you in... | Read more »
Dungeon Warfare (Games)
Dungeon Warfare 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Dungeon Warfare is a challenging tower defense game where you become a dungeon lord to defend your dungeon against greedy... | Read more »
Solitairica (Games)
Solitairica 1.0.7 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0.7 (iTunes) Description: Solitairica takes RPG combat and challenging rogue-like progression to a fresh new place—the world of solitaire! | Read more »
Bowmasters tips, tricks and hints
At least for this writer, archery was one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2016 Rio Olympics. As opposed to target shooting with guns, which was dreadfully boring, watching people shoot arrows at targets was pretty darn cool. [Read more] | Read more »
Best apps for watching live TV
The Olympics have come and gone, leaving nearly everyone in a temporary state of "What the heck am I going to watch on TV right now?" Besides old reruns of Golden Girls, but that goes without saying. [Read more] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

BookBook Releases SurfacePad, BookBook &...
BookBook has released three new covers just for iPad Pro: SurfacePad, BookBook and BookBook Rutledge Edition. BookBook for iPad Pro is a gorgeous leather case reminiscent of a vintage sketchbook.... Read more
Clean Text 1.0 for iOS Reduces Text Cleanup a...
Apimac today announced availability of Clean Text for iOS, a tool for webmasters, graphic designers, developers and magazine editors to reduce text cleanup and editing time, and also for any iPhone... Read more
27-inch iMacs on sale for up to $220 off MSRP
B&H Photo has 27″ Apple iMacs on sale for up to $200 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 27″ 3.3GHz iMac 5K: $2099 $200 off MSRP - 27″ 3.2GHz/1TB Fusion iMac 5K: $1899 $100... Read more
Apple refurbished 13-inch MacBook Airs availa...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 and 2015 13″ MacBook Airs now available starting at $849. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free: - 2016 13″ 1.6GHz/8GB/... Read more
Apple refurbished iPad mini 2s available for...
Apple is offering Certified Refurbished iPad mini 2s for up to $80 off the cost of new minis. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 16GB iPad mini 2 WiFi: $... Read more
Save up to $600 with Apple refurbished Mac Pr...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac Pros available 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 following... Read more
Mac Pros on sale for $200 off MSRP
B&H Photo has Mac Pros on sale for $200 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 3.7GHz 4-core Mac Pro: $2799, $200 off MSRP - 3.5GHz 6-core Mac Pro: $3799, $200... Read more
Will We See A 10.5″ iPad Pro in 2017? – The ‘...
A MacRumors report, cites a research note from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, saying a new size iPad model is in the works. According to the highly respected Cho, who has a strong track record... Read more
IOGEAR USB-C Docking Station Transforms Lapto...
IOGEAR has announced the launch of its innovative USB-C Docking Station with Power Delivery which turns USB-C enabled laptops into desktop workstations. The new IOGEAR USB-C Docking Station features... Read more
12-inch Retina MacBooks on sale for up to $10...
Amazon has 2016 12″ Apple Retina MacBooks on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free: - 12″ 1.1GHz Space Gray Retina MacBook: $1199 $100 off MSRP - 12″ 1.1GHz Silver Retina MacBook: $1224.99 $75 off... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Professional Learning Specialist - A...
# Apple Professional Learning Specialist Job Number: 51234243 Portland, Maine, Maine, United States Posted: Aug. 18, 2016 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** The Read more
*Apple* Mobile Master - Best Buy (United Sta...
What does a Best Buy Apple Mobile Master do? At Best Buy, our mission is to leverage the unique talents and passions of our employees to inspire, delight, and enrich Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions Akron, O...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Simply Mac *Apple* Specialist- Repair Techn...
…The Technician is a master at working with our customers to diagnose and repair Apple devices in a manner that exceeds the expectations set forth by Apple Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions Germanto...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.