PCB123 Feature Requests

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PCB123 Feature Requests

Postby islobodov » Thu Apr 11, 2013 9:42 pm

I've been using PCB123 for a while as the main PCB Designer for the company I work at. As I've used it over the last 3 years or so, there have been times when I wished there would be a certain feature that wasn't available. A really nice feature added fairly recently was being able to turn thermals on and off for individual pins, that helped us out a lot! Just thought I'd list these here for consideration in future versions of PCB123.

1) Individual Pin Spacing Property

The spacing property is currently uniformly applied net-wide. It would be good to be able to override this net-wide spacing for individual objects (pins, traces, polygons) in that net.

2) Spacing around non-plated holes.

It should be possible to specify a spacing from a non-plated hole. For example, if a mounting screw that goes through the PCB is designed to be at a high potential relative to nearby planes on the PCB, you may want to be able to set a spacing of a few mm around that hole. The current workaround for this (put a plated hole at the center of the unplated hole and set a spacing for it instead) generates numerous DRC errors.

3) Slots and cutouts UI

Since Sunstone can manufacture slots and cutouts, it would be nice to have a UI that lets you draw these explicitly in PCB123. Ideally, slots and cutouts would be treated like the PCB Outline polygon. Also, it would be good for the PCB outline to be explicitly shown as a layer in the Layer Display interface in the Layout view. The user should also be able to modify the color and thickness of the PCB Outline as it appears in the Layout view.

4) Object Groups

Ok this is a big feature, don't know how realistic it is given what's under the hood of PCB123, but it would be really useful. A lot of the boards I design have multiple channels of an identical circuit. Like 8 channels of some op-amp circuit, etc. Often, I design the channel, then copy and paste 8 of them on the PCB.

However, if later I discover that some changes are made, I need to either delete all the copies, modify the template channel, then paste it across the PCB again. Or, alternately, I can go and make the change individually on each of the 8 channels.

It would be much better to have an explicit group interface, where you could select several objects (footprints, text, polygons, traces) together, and save them as a group. Then you could insert this group onto your PCBs as many times as you wanted. Then, if you go and modify the original, it would modify all the instances on your PCB, just like when you modify a footprint you can have it update all the instances of that footprint on your PCB.

By the way, there are a lot of issues with positioning when copying and pasting groups of objects in the Layout view. It is never clear/predictable what the reference point of the group is, and if objects in the original group are all snapped to a certain grid, the copies are often offset, because it is the group origin that gets snapped to the grid, and the group origin is set at some unpredictable location depending on the group of objects selected. These problems generally make it a big pain to copy and paste multiple channels of something as little positioning errors occur.

5) Thermal Settings

There should be a way to modify the width of thermals. I often have hole spacings that are much larger than usual (up to 80 mils) due to some of the PCBs I design having high voltage on them. If you ever attach a pin with thermals to a net that has such high spacing, you get absurdly long skinny thermals. I know it's easy to work around this by just drawing in traces manually, but it would be good to have a setting.

6) Unmasked Vias

Autogenerated vias (the ones you get by switching from one layer to another while routing a trace) are always covered in solder mask. As far as I can tell, there is no way to make these unmasked, other than putting in pins manually and using them as vias. It would be good to have a setting to be able to set this property for vias. You can already set the "tented" property for pins that you place yourself, should be able to do the same for vias. Being able to set all the other properties of the via (as if it was a pin you placed, like drill size, pad size, etc) would be nice too.

7) Unmasked Copper Polygons

For top and bottom layers, it would be good if polygons could have a property where they are either covered in solder mask, or not covered. Some of my applications require odd shaped polygons (not easily drawn with pads) that have exposed copper to solder/attach to.

8) Footprint Design Features

a) I sometimes want to generate a footprint that includes double-sided features (for example, silkscreen on both the top and bottom side of the PCB). Some parts may have pins sticking through the PCB which may need to be labeled on the bottom side, for example. It is not currently possible to make footprints like this.

b) It would also sometimes be handy to be able to include traces in a footprint. For example, if I am gonna have 100 of a certain part, and 2 pins of that part are always shorted together, being able to define the footprint with that trace already in place could be handy. This could also be a way to "fake" implementing a grouping feature as discussed above. If the user could put traces into a footprint, then a whole group of parts could be drawn as a footprint and then pasted on the PCB and later edited as needed.

c) An option to get rid of the &RefDes symbol. For a lot of prototype PCBs we build in house (rather than getting produced by an assembly company), we don't need the reference designation to appear by every part. The &RefDes often just clutters the PCB silkscreen. I often have to go through and delete all the RefDes text in the layout view. It would be useful to be able to set a footprint to not display a RefDes. The easiest way to achieve this would be if the user deletes the &RefDes symbol in the footprint editor, that the footprint should not come with a RefDes when placed on the PCB.

I'll add more as I remember/think of additional features that would be nice.
islobodov
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:48 pm

Re: PCB123 Feature Requests

Postby Sal Hernandez » Wed Apr 17, 2013 6:50 am

Thanks for the feedback. Items 1, 2, 3, and 8a are already feature requests and I have added your comments to our existing tickets. I have added new tickets for the remaining items. I know you already know the work around for these most of these items but I will comment for those who do not.

1-2) specific spacing for individual holes. First place a small hole on your layout and assign it to phantom net (a net that will not be used on your board except to adjust spacing for a specific hole size) and adjust the net spacing to accommodate the clearance you want. You can then place this hole inside the original hole to adjust the spacing. This will result in a DRC warning but will result in the desired outcome.

3) We are currently adding slots and cutouts to PCB123 and this feature will be available in V5. Until then the following link explains slots and cutouts in PCB123. Creating Slots or Cutouts

4) This is a major enhancement. No work around available for this functionality. We are aware of the limitations of copy and paste and will work to improve this with future releases.

5) As stated use wide traces to increase thermal width.

6) Similar to the solution for items 1-2 you can use a plated hole over the existing hole to control solder mask relief with some limitations for very small vias. The minimum via size is smaller that the minimum plated hole.

7) Copper regions can be unmasked by including a filled polygon on the solder mask layer in the size and shape of the desired solder mask opening.

8b) You cannot add traces in the footprint edit but you can add polygon lines which can be used to connect pins in the footprint editor. Once you use a polygon as part of a footprint you lose the ability to assign the polygon to a net which will result in a drc warning when you place the footprint on your layout, but this will provide the desired connection.

Please feel free to contact customer support if you have any questions.
Regards,

Sal Hernandez
Software Support Engineer I
Sunstone Circuits
13626 S. Freeman Road
Mulino, OR 97042
Phone: 503-829-9108 x226
Fax: 503-829-5482
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Sal Hernandez
 
Posts: 396
Joined: Wed Jul 06, 2011 12:00 am

Re: PCB123 Feature Requests

Postby islobodov » Mon May 13, 2013 6:55 pm

Thanks for the reply Sal. I look forward to hopefully seeing some of these in future versions. Also, I didn't know about the functionality you mentioned for (7), good to know, thanks!

Just out of curiosity, you mentioned v5. Any idea when that might be expected to come out and what other new features are planned for it?
islobodov
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:48 pm

Re: PCB123 Feature Requests

Postby Sal Hernandez » Tue May 14, 2013 7:52 am

v5 will implement a slots and cutout tool and will remove the current preset hole size limitation. There will also be changes to how the outline is displayed updates to how objects are rendered on your screen and several bug fixes. I'll provide more info as we get closer to the release.
Regards,

Sal Hernandez
Software Support Engineer I
Sunstone Circuits
13626 S. Freeman Road
Mulino, OR 97042
Phone: 503-829-9108 x226
Fax: 503-829-5482
User avatar
Sal Hernandez
 
Posts: 396
Joined: Wed Jul 06, 2011 12:00 am

Re: PCB123 Feature Requests

Postby islobodov » Wed May 15, 2013 8:16 pm

I'll look forward to v5 coming out! A few other things that we've recently been looking at in our designs that we've had to go to other manufacturers for. These relate more to manufacturing capabilities but thought I'd mention them here anyway:

1) Flexible (Polyimide) PCBs

2) Blind/buried vias (and the ability to draw them in PCB123)

3) The ability to get Gerber files from Sunstone in a more automated way (i.e. order the Gerber files online).
islobodov
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:48 pm

Re: PCB123 Feature Requests

Postby Sal Hernandez » Fri May 17, 2013 6:34 am

Thanks for the feedback. I will pass the requests to our management.
Regards,

Sal Hernandez
Software Support Engineer I
Sunstone Circuits
13626 S. Freeman Road
Mulino, OR 97042
Phone: 503-829-9108 x226
Fax: 503-829-5482
User avatar
Sal Hernandez
 
Posts: 396
Joined: Wed Jul 06, 2011 12:00 am




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