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

BusyCal 2.6.6 - Powerful calendar app wi...
BusyCal is an award-winning desktop calendar that combines personal productivity features for individuals with powerful calendar sharing capabilities for families and workgroups. BusyCal's unique... Read more
MegaSeg 5.9.6 - Professional MP3 DJ appl...
MegaSeg is a complete solution for pro audio/video DJ mixing, radio automation, and music scheduling with rock-solid performance and an easy-to-use design. Mix with visual waveforms and Magic... Read more
KeyCue 7.5 - Displays all menu shortcut...
Need more than one license? Get KeyCue Family for just $15.99. KeyCue lets you view available Command key shortcuts. Simply press and hold the Command key to view a list of all available keyboard... Read more
Apple Pro Video Formats 2.0.1 - Updates...
Apple Pro Video Formats brings updates to Apple's professional-level codes for Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, and Compressor 4. Version 2.0.1: Support for the following professional video codecs Apple... Read more
Maya 2015 - Professional 3D modeling and...
Maya is an award-winning software and powerful, integrated 3D modeling, animation, visual effects, and rendering solution. Because Maya is based on an open architecture, all your work can be scripted... Read more
EtreCheck 2.2 - For troubleshooting your...
EtreCheck is a simple little app to display the important details of your system configuration and allow you to copy that information to the Clipboard. It is meant to be used with Apple Support... Read more
OmniOutliner Pro 4.2 - Pro version of th...
OmniOutliner Pro 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
VLC Media Player 2.2.1 - Popular multime...
VLC Media Player is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, MP3, OGG, ...) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It... Read more
Nisus Writer Pro 2.1.1 - Multilingual wo...
Nisus Writer Pro is a powerful multilingual word processor, similar to its entry level products, but brings new features such as table of contents, indexing, bookmarks, widow and orphan control,... Read more
Tinderbox 6.2.0 - Store and organize you...
Tinderbox is a personal content management assistant. It stores your notes, ideas, and plans. It can help you organize and understand them. And Tinderbox helps you share ideas through Web journals... Read more

Lifeline... (Games)
Lifeline... 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: Lifeline is a playable, branching story of survival against all odds. Using your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch, you will help... | Read more »
Pandemic: The Board Game Has Gone Univer...
Don't let the virus win! Now you can download Pandemic: The Board Game, by F2Z Digital Media, for all of your iOS devices. The app is based on the fantastic board game by Z-man games. As employees of the CDC, you and your friends will have to work... | Read more »
Get Ready to Read Bloomberg Business on...
Fans of Bloomberg Business will soon be able to get all their news on the Apple Watch. The app lets you get the top headlines on your main screen and bookmark stories to read later. Using the motion detection in the Apple Watch, the headlines are... | Read more »
Watch This Homerun is Batting for the Ap...
Eyes Wide Games' Watch This Homerun is purportedly the first sports game coming to the Apple Watch, where you'll be up to bat as the pitcher tries to out-manuever you with fastballs, curveballs, and changeups. Using one-touch controls you can try to... | Read more »
Field Trip Can Take You on a Guided Tour...
Field Trip, by Google’s Niantic Labs, is an exploration app that gives you details about the awesome places you can discover wherever you find yourself. The app can show you local history, delicious restraunts, the best places to shop, and places to... | Read more »
Watch Your Six - SPY_WATCH is Infiltrati...
SPY_WATCH, by Bossa Studios, is a new game designed for the Apple Watch. Runmor has it your spy agency has fallen out of favor. To save it, you'll need to train-up a spy and send them on missions to earn you a stunningly suspicious reputation and... | Read more »
Both Halo: Spartan Assault and Halo: Spa...
Halo: Spartan Assault and Halo: Spartan Strike, by Microsoft, have officially landed on the App Store. Spartan Assault pits you against the Covenant with missions geared to tell the story of the origin of Spartan Ops. In Spartan Strike you'll delve... | Read more »
The Apple Watch Could Revolutionize the...
It’s not here yet but there’s that developing sneaky feeling that the Apple Watch, despite its price tag and low battery life, might yet change quite a lot about how we conduct our lives. While I don’t think it’s going to be an overnight... | Read more »
Mad Skills Motocross 2 Version 2.0 is He...
Mad Skills Motocross 2 fans got some good news this week as Turborilla has given the game its biggest update yet. Now you'll have access to Versus mode where you can compete against your friends in timed challenges. Turborilla has implemented a... | Read more »
Kids Can Practice Healthy Living With Gr...
Bobaka is releasing a new interactive book called Green Riding Hood  in May. The app teaches kids about yoga and organic style of life through mini-games and a fun take on the classic Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Sale! 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros for up to $...
 MacMall has 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $255 off MSRP. Shipping is free: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1794.99 save $205 - 15″ 2.5GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $2244.99 save $255 Adorama... Read more
New 2015 MacBook Airs on sale for up to $75 o...
Save up to $75 on the purchase of a new 2015 13″ or 11″ 1.6GHz MacBook Air at the following resellers. Shipping is free with each model: 11" 128GB MSRP $899 11" 256GB... Read more
Clearance 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros availab...
B&H Photo has leftover 2014 13″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $250 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.6GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro: $1129... Read more
Clearance 2014 MacBook Airs available startin...
B&H Photo has clearance 2014 MacBook Airs available for up to $200 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 11″ 128GB MacBook Air: $729 $170 off original MSRP... Read more
16GB iPad mini 3 on sale for $349, save $50
B&H Photo has the 16GB iPad mini 3 WiFi on sale for $349 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
Mac minis on sale for up to $75 off, starting...
MacMall has Mac minis on sale for up to $75 off MSRP including free shipping. Their prices are the lowest available for these models from any reseller: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $459.99 $40 off - 2.6GHz Mac... Read more
Taichi Temple First Tai Chi Motion Sensor App...
Zhen Wu LLC has announced the official launch of Taichi Temple 1.0, the first motion sensor app for Tai Chi, offering a revolutionary new way to de-compress, relax and exercise all at the same time.... Read more
CleanExit – Erase your Hard Drive Quickly, Se...
CleanExit works on both Macs and PCs, securely and permanently deleting all files from any type of hard drive, flash-based drive or camera media card making the files permanently unrecoverable.... Read more
250 iPhone 6 Tips eBook Released for $1.99
Bournemouth, UK based iOS Guides has released 250 iPhone 6 Tips, a new eBook available in the iBookstore that reveals a wealth of tips and tutorials for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Priced at $1.99,... Read more
TigerText Introduces First Secure Enterprise...
TigerText, a provider of secure, real-time messaging for the enterprise, has announced the launch of TigerText for the Apple Watch. TigerText for the Apple Watch enables users to securely send and... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
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* 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
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
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.