OSHPark Orders in 2015: 5
I’ve designed and ordered several boards using Eagle and KiCAD and worked professionally with Altium. There are lots of resources out there to help people learn how to design their own PCBs, and it’s really not that difficult if you use the right resources.
+ Eagle – Hands down the best place to start learning. It’s not too cumbersome, actually works well and sets you up to understand other PCB design software as well. The free version is limited to small 2-layer boards, but your first PCB shouldn’t be an 8-layer behemoth anyways.
+ KiCad – The OpenSource choice for PCB design. With no restrictions on layers or board size, it’s only limited by your imagination and clunky design flow. Want to switch between PCB and schematic frequently to change things? Forget about it. If you know what you want to do, KiCad really does work great. But don’t wander around aimlessly in there; you will get hurt.
+ CircuitMaker – Altium in the cloud. Has a long-awaited free tier for hobbyists. Watch Dave Jones’ famous “Altium Rant” to get some context on this one. I downloaded it but haven’t tried it yet. Supposedly it’s fully featured. I’ll have to give it a fair shot some day. I didn’t like UpVerter but I love OnShape so I’m 1-1 on CAD in the cloud. UPDATE: Dave Jones tried it and it isn’t terrible, except for the total lack of control over your design files.
+ Fritzing – Free software with a focus on hobbyists and beginners. Fritzing lets you switch between schematic, breadboard, PCB and Arduino code. This is super useful for creating nice-looking breadboard diagrams. Otherwise it just does a lot of things poorly.
Fab houses/services I’ve used:
+ OSHPark – $5 per square inch, fabbed in the US with purple solder mask and a beautiful ENIG finish. Easily the most fun service to use
+Seeed Studio – Easy-to-use site to get boards fabbed in China. Cheap and long lead time
+4PCB/Advanced Circuits – Regular PCB fab company. There a several companies in the US like this with poor differentiation from one another. If you’re fabbing boards at higher volumes or need strange solder mask colors and slots, you’ll find someone who can help you here, for a price of course.
Other fun resources: