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I created a shield for Arduino on a soldering board. The next step shall be to implement the circuit on a PCB. I'm new to this, so I'd like to know what the basic steps in designing a PCB are.

More specifically,

  1. What software do I use for this? Is free software sufficient, or do I get substantially more value from a commercial package?

  2. Can I have a single PCB printed by a commercial provider, or are there minimum quantities? What is the approximate cost for a shield-sized PCB in a small quantity - is it in the tens, or rather in the hundreds of bucks?

Of course, any pointers to good tutorials on the Web will be appreciated, too!

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Software packages are, amongst others

  • Fritzing (more target at beginners)
  • Eagle (free for board of size 100 x 80 mm (4 x 3.2 inches)).
  • KiCad (open source)

Companies that make you pcb in small quantities are e.g.

I personally create my own double layer PCBs at home. I first started with the toner-transfer method, but now use photo lithography. I etch in Hydrochloric acid and hydrogen-peroxide. I can have a finished board in 1-2 hours, instead of having to wait a week or so. Great learning experience.

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What software do I use for this? Is free software sufficient, or do I get substantially more value from a commercial package?

There are plenty of good free ones, or free versions of commercial ones. Use the one that best suits your way of working - they are all different, try some out and find out which you like best. I use a free one for all my work (but then I am a FOSS junkie).

Can I have a single PCB printed by a commercial provider, or are there minimum quantities? What is the approximate cost for a shield-sized PCB in a small quantity - is it in the tens, or rather in the hundreds of bucks?

Generally, no. It'd be just too costly. There are small quantity houses around though, and I often use iTead for my prototyping, since they will do batches of just 10 boards at a reasonable cost.

The basic steps in designing a PCB though are:

  1. Design it as a schematic
  2. Lay it out as a PCB design
  3. Get a prototype made
  4. Build it
  5. Correct the mistakes
  6. Go back to 3

If you only want one circuit and it is a pretty simple one you might want to give making the PCB yourself a go - it's quite rewarding and if nothing else gives you good insights into PCB design requirements and how best to lay out a PCB and the tracks for a good reliable etch. If you have a laser printer the Toner Transfer method of home PCB production is good.

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  • it seems that your toner transfer link above is broken.
    – Jerry
    Jul 5 '16 at 13:00

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