Using the Autodesk EAGLE free version for electronic hobbyists

Using the Autodesk EAGLE free version for electronic hobbyists
Published: by Renier Delport
Collection(s): Blog, Microelectronics

Autodesk EAGLE is a PC software package that designs printed circuit boards (PCB). It contains a complete set of PCB layout and schematic editing tools, library content and community-driven features – ultimately helping you to get custom PCBs manufactured.

Using the Autodesk EAGLE free version for electronic hobbyists
Example of a PCB design made with Autodesk EAGLE. Image taken from their website.

At the time of discovery (and writing this), Autodesk EAGLE was already on version 8.3.2. For me, with a bit of encouragement from Ben Heck and help from Jeremy Blum, the software was quite easy to get into. I managed to build and export my own first prototype in less than two days.

Packages

Autodesk EAGLE is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. It is currently available in 3 packages:

  • Premium (U$65/month): Includes 999 schematic sheets, 16 signal layers, and unlimited board areas
  • Standard (U$15/month): Includes 99 schematic sheets, 4 signal layers, and 160×160 cm board area
  • Free (download)

Autodesk EAGLE free version

The Autodesk EAGLE free version is fully functional, but only includes 2 schematic sheets, 2 signal layers and a 80×80 cm board area. All the necessary layers, e.g. top, bottom, silk-screen, hole layers, are still available allowing for a fully functional, single and/or double sided PCB design – perfect for students and electronic hobbyists for non-commercial use.

Useful features for beginners

Autodesk EAGLE makes the process of PCB design fairly simple. PCB creation starts after creating a new project directory where all the files are going to be stored.

Schematic editor

PCB designs start off by using the Schematic editor where all the components are placed in a literal way and wired/linked together.

The components/parts are selectible from build-in and downloadable Libraries wherafter it is exported to the Board editor.

By using components from a Library, Autodesk EAGLE also has the ability to export part lists which can link to various online electronic supplier websites for ordering. As far as I know, there are no South African websites available.

Board editor

The Board editor uses links from Schematic editor. Board dimensions, and silk-screens can be added and changed in this view. The Board editor also makes it easy to switch between layers to make sure each of them are perfect.

Cam processor

Upon completion of the PCB, it can be exported to various formats, including the very popular Gerber file format(s). From the Board editor, different layers can also be saved as PDF files for printing and the making of custom PCBs.

Summary

It took me some time to make the leap into PCB development, but everyone needs to start somewhere. Thus far, Autodesk EAGLE is a great piece of software perfect electronic hobbyists like myself.

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About the author

Renier finds himself busy with creative web design and his websites, motorcycling, photoshopping, micro electronics, non-commercialised music, superhero movies, badass series and many other things that are not interesting to most people.