Which free PCB design software is the best?

What is Free PCB Design Software?

Free PCB design software is a type of computer-aided design (CAD) software that allows you to create PCB layouts without the need for expensive licenses or subscriptions. These programs typically offer a range of features and tools that enable you to design complex PCBs with ease, including schematic capture, layout editing, and simulation capabilities.

While free PCB design software may not have all the advanced features of paid programs, they can still be an excellent choice for hobbyists, students, and even professional designers who are working on smaller projects or have limited budgets.

Top Free PCB Design Software Options

Here are some of the best free PCB design software options available:

1. KiCad

KiCad is an open-source PCB design software that has been around since 1992. It offers a complete suite of tools for designing electronic circuits, including schematic capture, PCB layout, and gerber file generation. KiCad is known for its user-friendly interface and extensive library of components, making it a popular choice among hobbyists and professionals alike.

Some of the key features of KiCad include:

  • Cross-platform compatibility (Windows, Mac, Linux)
  • Integrated 3D viewer for visualizing PCB designs
  • Extensive documentation and community support
  • Ability to create custom components and footprints

2. Fritzing

Fritzing is another open-source PCB design software that is geared towards beginners and educators. It offers a unique approach to PCB design, allowing users to create breadboard-style layouts that can be easily converted into schematic diagrams and PCB layouts.

Some of the key features of Fritzing include:

  • Intuitive drag-and-drop interface
  • Large library of components and modules
  • Ability to share designs with others via the Fritzing website
  • Integration with Arduino and Raspberry Pi platforms

3. EasyEDA

EasyEDA is a web-based PCB design software that offers a range of features for creating schematic diagrams and PCB layouts. It includes a large library of components and modules, as well as a powerful autorouter for quickly generating PCB layouts.

Some of the key features of EasyEDA include:

  • Cloud-based platform with real-time collaboration features
  • Extensive library of components and modules
  • Powerful autorouter and design rule checking (DRC) tools
  • Integration with popular pcb fabrication services

4. DesignSpark PCB

DesignSpark PCB is a free PCB design software offered by RS Components, a leading distributor of electronic components. It offers a range of features for creating schematic diagrams and PCB layouts, including a library of over 250,000 components and a powerful autorouter.

Some of the key features of DesignSpark PCB include:

  • Intuitive user interface with built-in tutorials
  • Library of over 250,000 components from leading manufacturers
  • Powerful autorouter and design rule checking (DRC) tools
  • Integration with RS Components for easy ordering of components

5. CircuitMaker

CircuitMaker is a free PCB design software offered by Altium, a leading provider of PCB design tools. It offers a range of features for creating schematic diagrams and PCB layouts, including a large library of components and a powerful autorouter.

Some of the key features of CircuitMaker include:

  • Cloud-based platform with real-time collaboration features
  • Extensive library of components and modules
  • Powerful autorouter and design rule checking (DRC) tools
  • Integration with Altium Designer for more advanced features

Comparison Table

Here’s a comparison table of the key features of each free PCB design software:

Software Operating System Schematic Capture PCB Layout Autorouter 3D Viewer Library Size Collaboration
KiCad Windows, Mac, Linux Yes Yes Yes Yes Large No
Fritzing Windows, Mac, Linux Yes Yes No No Medium Yes
EasyEDA Web-based Yes Yes Yes Yes Large Yes
DesignSpark PCB Windows Yes Yes Yes Yes Very Large No
CircuitMaker Web-based Yes Yes Yes Yes Large Yes

FAQs

1. Is free PCB design software as good as paid software?

While free PCB design software may not have all the advanced features of paid programs, they can still be an excellent choice for many users. Free software like KiCad and EasyEDA offer a range of powerful tools for creating high-quality PCBs, and can be a great option for hobbyists, students, and even professional designers working on smaller projects.

2. Can I use free PCB design software for commercial projects?

Most free PCB design software programs allow users to create designs for commercial purposes, although it’s always a good idea to check the specific licensing terms for each program. Some programs, like CircuitMaker, require users to share their designs publicly, which may not be suitable for all commercial projects.

3. Which free PCB design software is best for beginners?

For beginners, Fritzing and EasyEDA are both excellent choices. Fritzing offers a unique breadboard-style interface that can be easier for beginners to understand, while EasyEDA provides a web-based platform with built-in tutorials and a user-friendly interface.

4. Can I use free PCB design software on Linux or Mac computers?

Some free PCB design software programs, like KiCad and Fritzing, offer cross-platform compatibility and can be used on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers. Other programs, like DesignSpark PCB, are only available for Windows. Web-based programs like EasyEDA and CircuitMaker can be used on any platform with a compatible web browser.

5. How large are the component libraries in free PCB design software?

The size of the component libraries varies between different free PCB design software programs. DesignSpark PCB has one of the largest libraries, with over 250,000 components from leading manufacturers. KiCad, EasyEDA, and CircuitMaker also have extensive libraries with a wide range of components and modules.

Conclusion

Choosing the best free PCB design software depends on your specific needs and preferences. If you’re a beginner, programs like Fritzing and EasyEDA may be the best choice, while more advanced users may prefer the powerful features of KiCad or DesignSpark PCB. Ultimately, all of the programs listed in this article offer excellent features and capabilities for designing high-quality PCBs, and are definitely worth considering if you’re looking for a free PCB design solution.