Design/Sim/PCB Layout Package for Student Electronics Lab

5 views
Skip to first unread message

Chris Maryan

unread,
Apr 10, 2004, 9:17:48 PM4/10/04
to
I'm putting together a student electronics lab for elec eng and comp eng
students where they can get access to fairly nice equipment for their hobby
and thesis projects. Part of that is giving them access to a schematic
capture/simulation/PCB layout solution. I'm torn on the choice, mostly
because I have little experience with this software and am looking for
guidance from this group. Thus far my options are:
- OrCad: seems to be industry standard, but their educational licensing
terms are a little unfriendly to what we are trying to do.
- Protel: Another big name, don't know too much about it though.
- Proteus: Mostly because it can incorporate PIC microcontrollers into its
mixed signal simulation. PICs are really popular with the students here.
- Any other suggeestions?

The main goal here is to give a powerful tool (we want to offer more than
the cheap/free simulators that some students use at home), that will be
recognized by industry (i.e. they can eventually put this on their resumes)
and that has a relatively fast learning curve for basic design and
simulation (not too dauning for beginners). Most of the designs will be slow
(40MHz or less), mixed signal, low voltage (30V at most) and destined for
small single or double sided boards. Although some have expressed a desire
to try high speed (100MHz+), even microwave and multi layer designs.

Any suggestions? Offers of sponsorship? Crazy rantings?

Many thanks,

Chris


Joerg

unread,
Apr 10, 2004, 10:00:30 PM4/10/04
to
Hi Chris,

There is Eagle from www.cadsoft.de which is nice and not expensive. Schematic
entry plus layout. Could even be free for universities but that I don't know.
However, it is not industry standard and no sim. But my take is that students
should also learn how to interweave programs, iow how to create an output file
that will then run on Berkeley SPICE or something else. In biz they'll face
those challenges a lot.

As far as I can see here in the west OrCAD is pretty much standard. You'd have
to negotiate with the vendor about deals. On the market it costs quite a bit
more than Eagle.

Regards, Joerg.

Leon Heller

unread,
Apr 10, 2004, 10:40:51 PM4/10/04
to

"Chris Maryan" <j...@schmoe.com> wrote in message
news:3%0ec.43458$wq4.2...@news20.bellglobal.com...

EasyPC: http://www.numberone.com

Pulsonix: http://www.pulsonix.com

Leon


Bill Sloman

unread,
Apr 11, 2004, 8:45:24 AM4/11/04
to
Joerg <notthis...@removethispacbell.net> wrote in message news:<4078A7B1...@removethispacbell.net>...

Orcad used to offer a huge educational discount - which is why
Nijmegen University used it.

When I lasted lurked on sci.electronics.cad, Protel seemed to be more
popular - not least because it then sold for half the price of Orcad.

For student training, the gEDA suite for Linux has to be interesting -
not only is it free (as in you don't have to pay for it) but the
source code is available over the web, and the data files use ASCI
characters, so you can see exactly what they contain and edit them by
hand.

http://www.geda.seul.org/

-------
Bill Sloman, Nijmegen

Andrew Sterian

unread,
Apr 11, 2004, 9:53:48 AM4/11/04
to
"Chris Maryan" <j...@schmoe.com> wrote in message news:<3%0ec.43458$wq4.2...@news20.bellglobal.com>...
> I'm putting together a student electronics lab for elec eng and comp eng
> students where they can get access to fairly nice equipment for their hobby
> and thesis projects. Part of that is giving them access to a schematic
> capture/simulation/PCB layout solution. I'm torn on the choice, mostly
> because I have little experience with this software and am looking for
> guidance from this group.
> - Any other suggeestions?

Eagle for schematic capture and PCB layout. It's quite enough for
single-sided/double-sided boards of medium complexity and low speed.

LTSpice (SwitcherCAD) for analog simulation.

FPGA tools like Xilinx WebPack or Altera Quartus for digital
simulation (these are meant to simulate FPGA's/CPLD's but can also be
used as digital logic simulators as they have built-in macromodels of
standard 74XX chips). Microcontroller-based projects will most likely
make more use of the microcontroller simulator than a general digital
simulator (e.g., Microchip's MPLAB, Atmel's AVRStudio).

> The main goal here is to give a powerful tool (we want to offer more than
> the cheap/free simulators that some students use at home), that will be
> recognized by industry (i.e. they can eventually put this on their resumes)
> and that has a relatively fast learning curve for basic design and
> simulation (not too dauning for beginners).

All of your above goals are good except for the "recognized by
industry" one. I hope you're not chasing the toolset whims of industry
but are instead focusing on a solid education of concepts that
transcend this year's choice of favorite tools.

All of the tools I listed above have one important thing in common:
they are FREE for educational use. This is more important to education
than just about anything else (other than how much effort you put into
your course) because:

* Free tools means students can install them on their home
PC's/laptops
* This means you do not have to limit students to working on their
projects in laboratories that are constrained by availability or
proximity to student's homes
* This means you can assign projects that are challenging and very
mature. Students will learn a lot more with these free tools than they
will with expensive "industry standard" tools that they can only work
with in a particular lab on campus.

The above has been my experience with running a Digital Design course.
See http://claymore.engineer.gvsu.edu/~steriana/326/hof.htm for what
can be accomplished with the above tools. Our students have no trouble
finding jobs and learning a new toolset after graduation.

> Any suggestions? Offers of sponsorship? Crazy rantings?

Crazy ranting. Thanks for listening.

JeffM

unread,
Apr 12, 2004, 6:32:04 PM4/12/04
to
>I'm putting together a student electronics lab
>for elec eng and comp eng students
>...for their hobby and thesis projects.
>...access to a schematic capture/simulation/PCB layout solution.
> Chris Maryan

There was a thread recently,
http://groups.google.com/groups?&threadm=f8b945bc.0403281511.39b0bce0%40posting.google.com&rnum=2&prev=/groups%3Fq%3Dconcerned-much-about-drawing-pretty-pictures%26num%3D100%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26ie%3DUTF-8%26oe%3DUTF-8%26safe%3Doff%26filter%3D0
the upshot of which was *you're not training draftsmen*.
Andrew has restated a strong point from it
when he speaks of not "chasing the toolset whims of industry
but...instead focusing on a solid education of concepts".

The descriptions of Cadsoft EAGLE in the current metathread are good.
I do notice that no one has mentioned that
the freeware (demo) version is limited to
80mm x 100mm boards and one (non-tabbed) sheet on schematics.
The demo licence is in keeping with a student's needs.

Sloman's recommendation of Linux-based gEDA / PCB is also apt.
It is not only open source software (free--gratis and libre),
it is a fully-functional package (not crippleware).
Students would love that (as would your funding committee, I think).
http://www.google.com/search?&q=gEDA+PCB+Circuit-Board
(Notice that the 1st listing is MIT.)

The added advantage of no-cost software is that
each student can have it on *his own computer*
and work on HIS schedule, not having to wait in line for a terminal.
If the lab computers have to support other Electronics Software,
the lines will be even longer
(think: load balancing via PERSONAL computers).
IMO, this outweighs a lot of other considerations
in the selection process.

John Jardine

unread,
Apr 12, 2004, 11:02:13 PM4/12/04
to

Bill Sloman <bill....@ieee.org> wrote in message
news:7c584d27.04041...@posting.google.com...
> When I lasted lurked on sci.electronics.cad, Protel seemed to be more
> popular - not least because it then sold for half the price of Orcad.

> -------
> Bill Sloman, Nijmegen

There's a freely available, very effective, 'crack' for Protel. Explains why
lots of people put up with this rubbish software which would otherwise cost
£5000 to buy.


Stephan Rose

unread,
Apr 13, 2004, 10:26:14 AM4/13/04
to


One comment about that gEDA package...that's linux, isn't it?

Do you really think the average student runs linux on their personal
computer at home? I mean..lets really be honest here....I personally
have my doubts...

Heck these days you can't even assume that CS programming majors have
a computer (believe it or not...I've seen it...) Now we're assuming
the average student is running linux? :)

Stephan

Chuck Harris

unread,
Apr 13, 2004, 11:28:30 AM4/13/04
to
Stephan Rose wrote:

> One comment about that gEDA package...that's linux, isn't it?
>
> Do you really think the average student runs linux on their personal
> computer at home? I mean..lets really be honest here....I personally
> have my doubts...
>
> Heck these days you can't even assume that CS programming majors have
> a computer (believe it or not...I've seen it...) Now we're assuming
> the average student is running linux? :)
>
> Stephan

Hi Stephan,

That problem is easily taken care of. Put your gEDA package on a
Knoppix CDROM distribution. Then all they have to do is boot the
CDROM, and they are running a much better operating system, and a
nice EDA package too.

The Knoppix system is designed to coexist with a winblows file system,
and will boot on 99% of the PC's out there... That includes 386's up.

Education is about becoming a better person. Why not help your
students become better computer citizens as well? There really is
no good reason for an educational institution to be running MS
software. Booted up under Knoppix, with one of the 'doze like
gui's on top of gnome, and they won't even know that they aren't
running 'doze... well, except for the lack of crashes, and the
improved speed.

-Chuck Harris

Stephan Rose

unread,
Apr 13, 2004, 1:53:03 PM4/13/04
to
On Tue, 13 Apr 2004 11:28:30 -0400, Chuck Harris <cfha...@erols.com>
wrote:

I don't work for any educational institution but I have a friend who
does so that's how I know lol.

However...I personally can run Windows XP for days, weeks, without a
single reboot....no crashes, no problems. Ever. Only time my machine
ever is rebooted is if I personally need to for some reason. Like
Install an application or something that wants a reboot....

Generally...if you have stability issues...and are running at least
win2k or above it's a hardware problem...

Win9x or below..well..those aren't even supported by MS anymore....so
anyone using those...you get what you pay for.

However that all said....That knoppix thing though does sound like a
very good solution to that problem.

Stephan

Joerg

unread,
Apr 13, 2004, 8:11:27 PM4/13/04
to
Jeff, Linux based software is a problem when you suggest that every student should have it on their PC. Reason is that almost all those PCs run Windows when they buy them and most students would not want to reload another op system. Plus it might
toast the warranty.

Cadsoft/Eagle freeware is limited to I believe single page schematics. But it does come with layout capability. That ought to be enough for most projects, such as doing a uC based design. After all, we want our students to learn the trade but not
be bogged down in months of circuit drawing. There are also nice usenet support groups in several languages and some of the vendor's engineers seem to participate in those.

Regards, Joerg.

Tim Auton

unread,
Apr 13, 2004, 8:20:42 PM4/13/04
to
Joerg <notthis...@removethispacbell.net> wrote:

>Jeff, Linux based software is a problem when you suggest that every student should have it on their PC. Reason is that almost all those PCs run Windows when they buy them and most students would not want to reload another op system. Plus it might
>toast the warranty.

Loading a new OS toasting the warranty? That's a new one on me.

Anyone know how the Linux-based software fares under cygwin?


Tim
--
Love is a travelator.

Chuck Harris

unread,
Apr 13, 2004, 9:27:01 PM4/13/04
to

If you run the utilities under Knoppix's distribution of linux, you will
simply boot off of a CDROM, and use the normal 'doze file system. No
change of operating system or other modification is required.

-Chuck Harris

Kevin Aylward

unread,
Apr 14, 2004, 2:25:57 AM4/14/04
to
Chuck Harris wrote:
> Stephan Rose wrote:
>
>> One comment about that gEDA package...that's linux, isn't it?
>>
>> Do you really think the average student runs linux on their personal
>> computer at home? I mean..lets really be honest here....I personally
>> have my doubts...
>>
>> Heck these days you can't even assume that CS programming majors have
>> a computer (believe it or not...I've seen it...) Now we're assuming
>> the average student is running linux? :)
>>
>> Stephan
>
> Hi Stephan,
>
> That problem is easily taken care of. Put your gEDA package on a
> Knoppix CDROM distribution. Then all they have to do is boot the
> CDROM, and they are running a much better operating system, and a
> nice EDA package too.
>
> The Knoppix system is designed to coexist with a winblows file system,
> and will boot on 99% of the PC's out there... That includes 386's up.
>
> Education is about becoming a better person. Why not help your
> students become better computer citizens as well? There really is
> no good reason for an educational institution to be running MS
> software.

Complete nonsense. You don't live in this real world do you.


Kevin Aylward
salesE...@anasoft.co.uk
http://www.anasoft.co.uk
SuperSpice, a very affordable Mixed-Mode
Windows Simulator with Schematic Capture,
Waveform Display, FFT's and Filter Design.


Ales Hvezda

unread,
Apr 14, 2004, 7:30:57 AM4/14/04
to
[snip]

> >The added advantage of no-cost software is that
> >each student can have it on *his own computer*
> >and work on HIS schedule, not having to wait in line for a terminal.
> >If the lab computers have to support other Electronics Software,
> >the lines will be even longer
> >(think: load balancing via PERSONAL computers).
> >IMO, this outweighs a lot of other considerations
> >in the selection process.
>
> One comment about that gEDA package...that's linux, isn't it?

Yes, gEDA/gaf runs on Unix and Unix like systems (including GNU/Linux,
NetBSD, FreeBSD, Solaris, Irix, and others). However it also runs on
Mac OSX (which is Unix based anyways) and Windows (98/NT/2K/XP).
The Windows port uses the native port of GTK+2 and is a native Win32
application (using mingw not cygwin). There are a couple older Windows
releases on the gEDA site and I'm in the process of working on a new
Windows release. No promises of when it'll be ready though.

-Ales

--
v v
Ales V. Hvezda
ahvezda AT seul dot org
http://www.geda.seul.org/

Chuck Harris

unread,
Apr 14, 2004, 8:47:20 AM4/14/04
to
Kevin Aylward wrote:
> Chuck Harris wrote:

>>Hi Stephan,
>>
>>That problem is easily taken care of. Put your gEDA package on a
>>Knoppix CDROM distribution. Then all they have to do is boot the
>>CDROM, and they are running a much better operating system, and a
>>nice EDA package too.
>>
>>The Knoppix system is designed to coexist with a winblows file system,
>>and will boot on 99% of the PC's out there... That includes 386's up.
>>
>>Education is about becoming a better person. Why not help your
>>students become better computer citizens as well? There really is
>>no good reason for an educational institution to be running MS
>>software.
>
>
> Complete nonsense. You don't live in this real world do you.

If mean the "real world" where Super Spice is a highly desired,
and sought after commodity? No, I don't.

-Chuck Harris

Kevin Aylward

unread,
Apr 14, 2004, 10:17:50 AM4/14/04
to

No, the real world is 400+ Million Windows users. Your claim of "no
reason to use windows" is simple ludicrous. Overwhelmingly, programs are
written for Windows. It is the platform of choice for the consumer. This
is not debatable. Its the way it is, no matter how much you wish things
to be different. Sure, I would like to exist for ever, but it aint
goanna happen.

Charles Edmondson

unread,
Apr 14, 2004, 11:51:41 AM4/14/04
to
Hi Chris,
If you go to Cadence, you can get the Orcad tools, as well as a lot more
expensive/powerful tools at University discounts. There are a couple
of gotchas, as you noted.

If you just want to run Orcad tools, then go to EMA-EDA. They are the
VARS for north america, and get give you the deals that you would need.

Personally, I would probably go with Orcad, just for the reason that
Capture/PSpice is more likely to be used (or at least recognized) by
industry when they go to get a job...

--
Charlie
--
Edmondson Engineering
Unique Solutions to Unusual Problems

Chuck Harris

unread,
Apr 14, 2004, 12:00:07 PM4/14/04
to
Kevin Aylward wrote:

>>>Complete nonsense. You don't live in this real world do you.
>>
>>If mean the "real world" where Super Spice is a highly desired,
>>and sought after commodity? No, I don't.
>
>
> No, the real world is 400+ Million Windows users. Your claim of "no
> reason to use windows" is simple ludicrous. Overwhelmingly, programs are
> written for Windows. It is the platform of choice for the consumer. This
> is not debatable. Its the way it is, no matter how much you wish things
> to be different. Sure, I would like to exist for ever, but it aint
> goanna happen.


We're not talking about consumers here. Consumers consume electronics,
they don't design it, or learn about it... not anymore. Today, if you
know anything at all about how electronic devices work, you are labeled
a geek, and shuffled off to a table near the restrooms.

All of the significant EDA packages have *nix versions.

-Chuck Harris

this bit-@connect-2.co.uk R.Lewis

unread,
Apr 14, 2004, 1:39:52 PM4/14/04
to

"Chuck Harris" <cfha...@erols.com> wrote in message
news:407d6008$0$2763$61fe...@news.rcn.com...

If you believe that 'all of the significant EDA packages have *nix versions'
you either have a very limited experience and knowledge of such packages or
a unique understanding of the word significant.

Kevin Aylward

unread,
Apr 14, 2004, 2:29:10 PM4/14/04
to
Chuck Harris wrote:
> Kevin Aylward wrote:
>
>>>> Complete nonsense. You don't live in this real world do you.
>>>
>>> If mean the "real world" where Super Spice is a highly desired,
>>> and sought after commodity? No, I don't.
>>
>>
>> No, the real world is 400+ Million Windows users. Your claim of "no
>> reason to use windows" is simple ludicrous. Overwhelmingly, programs
>> are written for Windows. It is the platform of choice for the
>> consumer. This is not debatable. Its the way it is, no matter how
>> much you wish things to be different. Sure, I would like to exist
>> for ever, but it aint goanna happen.
>
>
> We're not talking about consumers here.


Of course we are.

>Consumers consume
> electronics, they don't design it, or learn about it... not anymore.

Oh dear...

> Today, if you know anything at all about how electronic devices work,
> you are labeled a geek, and shuffled off to a table near the
> restrooms.
>
> All of the significant EDA packages have *nix versions.
>

Simply clueless.

Joerg

unread,
Apr 14, 2004, 3:04:32 PM4/14/04
to
I can second that. Most companies I worked with are using OrCAD. It seems to be a
de facto standard at least on the US West Coast. Europe is a bit more mixed.

So OrCAD will give students something they can likely use in industry right off
the bat. But then again, if you've learned one system it isn't a big deal to learn
another. I have to do that all the time because my clients use various programs.
It's almost like renting a car where you get a different brand every time.

Regards, Joerg.

Joerg

unread,
Apr 14, 2004, 3:08:21 PM4/14/04
to
Tim, just try to call the tech support when the machine croaked. They'll walk you through all kinds of menus and will most likely drop the ball on you when those menus aren't there anymore because you don't run their pre-installed OS.

Best case in a HW fault situation would be that they agree to take the machine but then reinstall the "regular issue" stuff and I bet they'll charge you extra for that one. It's the only way they can test a repaired PC per their factory standards.

Regards,

Joerg.

Chuck Harris

unread,
Apr 14, 2004, 3:14:35 PM4/14/04
to
R.Lewis wrote:

>>We're not talking about consumers here. Consumers consume electronics,
>>they don't design it, or learn about it... not anymore. Today, if you
>>know anything at all about how electronic devices work, you are labeled
>>a geek, and shuffled off to a table near the restrooms.
>>
>>All of the significant EDA packages have *nix versions.
>
>
> If you believe that 'all of the significant EDA packages have *nix versions'
> you either have a very limited experience and knowledge of such packages or
> a unique understanding of the word significant.

Avant!'s Hercules, Cadence's Dracula, Mentor Graphics' Calibre and
xCalibre, Quickturn's SpeedSim Synopsys' Arcadia, Tanner, DASYS, Vale,
Synplicity, ModelSIM, Symphony EDA, Accel's PCAD, Xilinx XACT, Actel,
Alliance, ...

and, yes, gEDA and PCB.

There are alot more, but these are the ones that come to mind right now.

-Chuck Harris

Spehro Pefhany

unread,
Apr 14, 2004, 3:17:07 PM4/14/04
to

I see Protela lot as well on the US West Coast.


Best regards,
Spehro Pefhany
--
"it's the network..." "The Journey is the reward"
sp...@interlog.com Info for manufacturers: http://www.trexon.com
Embedded software/hardware/analog Info for designers: http://www.speff.com

Joerg

unread,
Apr 14, 2004, 3:27:19 PM4/14/04
to
Yes, Spehro, I have seen Protel, too. Cadsoft/Eagle did not seem to have become very
popular despite its rather modest pricing. Maybe that is because you can't easily hand
off a schematic capture output to a third party layouter and then get it returned with
back annotation and all, something that is done very often. They could substantially
boost the market share if things were a little more compatible.

Regards, Joerg.

this bit-@connect-2.co.uk R.Lewis

unread,
Apr 14, 2004, 5:00:51 PM4/14/04
to

"Chuck Harris" <cfha...@erols.com> wrote in message
news:407d8d9b$0$2810$61fe...@news.rcn.com...

For a start - have a look at Terry Pinnell's list.

Chaos Master

unread,
Apr 14, 2004, 11:19:38 PM4/14/04
to
Tim Auton [tim.auton@uton.[groupSexWithoutTheY]] said while playing with a
machine gun:

It works but programs are sometimes tricky to compile.
There's even a port of KDE for Cygwin. Never tried it though.

And there is a native port of gEDA for Windows but it is outdated.

[]s

--
_____ ___ Chaos Master®
|\/\/\| Posting from Brazil
|/\/\/| MSN: wizard_of_yendor at hotmail.com
___|_____| irc.brasnet.org #XLinuxNews #POA

Chaos Master

unread,
Apr 14, 2004, 11:19:49 PM4/14/04
to
Chuck Harris [cfha...@erols.com] said while playing with a machine gun:

> If you run the utilities under Knoppix's distribution of linux, you will
> simply boot off of a CDROM, and use the normal 'doze file system. No
> change of operating system or other modification is required.

Or even Damn Small Linux can be considered, for those that have old PC's.

And modern distro's (like Mandrake) are easy to configure by someone with a
little computer knowledge. I had success configuring a few Winmodems like Lucent
and HSP ones with little trouble.

Tom Loredo

unread,
Apr 15, 2004, 12:51:02 PM4/15/04
to
Stephan Rose wrote:
>
> One comment about that gEDA package...that's linux, isn't it?
>
> Do you really think the average student runs linux on their personal
> computer at home? I mean..lets really be honest here....I personally
> have my doubts...

Mac OS X users have pretty easy access to such tools via Fink:

http://www.ghz.cc/charles/fink/

-Tom Loredo

--

To respond by email, replace "somewhere" with "astro" in the
return address.

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages