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Message started by Jack Schmidling on Sep 15th, 2013 at 4:10pm

Title: Simple Automation
Post by Jack Schmidling on Sep 15th, 2013 at 4:10pm
I have made a lot of progress since last posting.  Have 3 projects running on strip boards and really like them.

I have given up on the schematic to VeeCad as just too complicated for my old brain and just  used the simplified method and shuffle things around till it works.

My hangup is all the details required to automate the process just don't make much sense for onezy twozy projects.

All one should really need to say is Point A goes to Point B, C to D, etc.  What difference do all the nitty gritty details of the part make.  All that one needs are generic  part outlines and that a strip board is used.

I make up such a list from the schematic and use this to check the layout and the assembled board with a meter.

Aside from that, half the parts I use, I can't find VeeCad compatible devices.

Seems like a computer could do this layout without all the other details and save a vast amount of time.

Is there anything out there like this?

js


Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Roger Lascelles on Sep 16th, 2013 at 8:08am
Welcome, Jack!

Sorry to answer with questions, but I need more info so I can help..

Question 1 : You say, "... half the parts I use, I can't find VeeCad compatible devices". Do you mean you can't find TinyCAD symbols, or you can't find VeeCAD outlines? Can you please name a couple of the parts you can't find?

Question 2 : You say, "... a computer could do this layout without all the other details". Do you mean, you want to specify the connections (nets) only, without a schematic? In that case, you can make a netlist in a text editor - and I can show you how. But you'll still need the "nitty gritty details" of the component and package names, plus a list of which pin connects to which pin.

Question 3 : Do you want a program that provides a "bin of parts" you can wire together, and doesn't worry about if it's wired up correctly, then yes, there are other programs for that - quite a few. These are the equivalent of the Simplified Method you have been using. Google for "stripboard editor programs".

Comment : Jack, I can see you are finding it hard. As long as you are happy to post on the forum, I will do my best to give useful answers.

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Jack Schmidling on Sep 17th, 2013 at 6:27am
[quote author=3F3A3337305E0 link=1379257839/1#1 date=1379315295]Welcome, Jack!

Sorry to answer with questions, but I need more info so I can help..

Question 1 : You say, "... half the parts I use, I can't find VeeCad compatible devices". Do you mean you can't find TinyCAD symbols, or you can't find VeeCAD outlines? Can you please name a couple of the parts you can't find?

I think at this point, the answer is I can't find TC symbols partly because somewhere I read that the only ones that work are the ones provided by Veecad for TC.

I am attaching a schematic for the part I just finished along with my layout for it.  I left off the ICSP stuffand the external resonator The relay would not fit on my board.  Also a divider instead of  the contrast pot.

I can't find a PIC 16f628 so I substituted a gereric 18 pin DIP, I can't find an LCD display but I guess a 16 pin SIP would work. About all I found was a transistor, switch and resistor.

Question 2 : You say, "... a computer could do this layout without all the other details". Do you mean, you want to specify the connections (nets) only, without a schematic? In that case, you can make a netlist in a text editor - and I can show you how. But you'll still need the "nitty gritty details" of the component and package names, plus a list of which pin connects to which pin.

I think that  is what I want to do.  There has to be some sort of schematic involved but frequently I just reproduce projects like this one and don't bother with one.

The pin to pin list I do anyway but I don't  understand why the list needs more than the footprint and pin numbers.  The schematic needs to know PNP/NPN but the board layout doesn't.  So, just what details does it need?

Question 3 : Do you want a program that provides a "bin of parts" you can wire together, and doesn't worry about if it's wired up correctly, then yes, there are other programs for that - quite a few. These are the equivalent of the Simplified Method

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Jack Schmidling on Sep 17th, 2013 at 6:32am
Is there a word limit here?  It won't let me put my response on one msg.

Question 3 : Do you want a program that provides a "bin of parts" you can wire together, and doesn't worry about if it's wired up correctly, then yes, there are other programs for that - quite a few. These are the equivalent of the Simplified Method you have been using. Google for "stripboard editor programs".

I think that is what I am doing now.  I want something that optimizes the board space and comes up the X's and links more or less from my list.  I assume that is what this program does.

Comment : Jack, I can see you are finding it hard. As long as you are happy to post on the forum, I will do my best to give useful

I had to write this in my emailer as the board kept moving my text to the end and deleting your words.

Anyway, I will appreciate any help you can give me.  I really like the strip boards and VeeCad  is a big help in laying them out but it can do much more.


This is the source of the project...

http://embedded-lab.com/blog/?p=1378

One other thing.  How do I make a emailable copy of a layout.  I had to do a screen capture, edit and jpg it.


Thanks,

Jack


Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Jack Schmidling on Sep 17th, 2013 at 6:40am
I forgot the attachments.

js

Actually, I  don't any way to attach.

The schematic is on the web link provided in the previous.

js

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Roger Lascelles on Sep 17th, 2013 at 1:15pm
Thanks for your informative reply.

SYMBOLS: The internet is flooded with TinyCAD symbols that have errors, are incomplete, weird, very large, or have package or pin names different to VeeCAD.

The library problem seems huge to beginners, who ask on forums for symbols. It turns out this is not an issue, once you can make your own symbols. To make a PIC16f628, I would duplicate another similar PIC16xxx part in the library and alter some of the pin names. The idea is to develop your own "additional" library, adding two or three new parts on every project. Or just use the DIP18 generic part, as you did.

INFORMATION VEECAD NEEDS
  • Designator (eg. R2), so it can identify the component.
  • Package(ie. Outline) (eg. DIP18), so it knows what shape to choose from its library.
for the layout as a whole, VeeCAD needs to know:
  • Names of pins that are supposed to be connected together. (eg. R1 Pin 1 connects to C5 pin 2). And those pin names must match the pin names in the VeeCAD outline.
As you rightly say, the "Value" (eg. NPN or BC557) has no significance to VeeCAD. VeeCAD stores it to help jog your memory during layout, and for the Bill of Materials report. It can be blank if you like.

A QUICKER WAY: You regret the time and fuss of entering all the information correctly, especially since you often don't need a schematic.

Because human beings are adapted to process visual information, I think that a schematic is the most accurate way of communicating a circuit to the computer.

One alternative is to write the netlist information with a text editor. If you inspect a Protel .NET file, you will get the idea. See the VeeCAD help file topic "Reference -> Protel Netlist Format". Very hard to get right.

Another alternative is for me to add a netlist entry form into VeeCAD. I have used such a form, and it was tedious and error prone.

MORE IN NEXT POST

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Roger Lascelles on Sep 17th, 2013 at 1:32pm
continued from previous post..

EMAILING OR POSTING A LAYOUT
On this forum, the VeeCAD project file is very useful - other VeeCAD users can open it by double-clicking the attachment icon in your post or email. VeeCAD has a Graphic Copy feature - see the help file topic "Using VeeCAD -> Graphic Copy". After copy, you Paste into an editor like Windows Paint, where you can save a file. Otherwise, Print Screen is similar.

WORD LIMIT
Max 2000 characters. Look for a counter  underneath the text entry box.

ATTACHING FILES
To add files to your post - look for the the "Browse" button at the bottom of the form.

Circuit CAD is a factory. You tool up, and crank out the circuits. If you make only a couple of circuits ever, all the work of learning and setting up is not justified. If you are going to keep building circuits, then it will be worth the hassle you are having at present. The good part is that you understand the process. The bad part is you don't like the hassle.

I'm hoping that you will persevere and find the barriers melt away.

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Jack Schmidling on Sep 17th, 2013 at 3:40pm
Thanks for the push.  I will persevere and learn to do it right and post questions as they come up.

But first, I need to understand what  the end result is going to be.  Reading one of the help files, it looks like netlist just dumps a bunch of parts on the board and I still have to place them, the links and breaks manually and then  just use the program to check it for correctness.  This is not what I had in mind.

Am I missing something?

js


Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Jack Schmidling on Sep 18th, 2013 at 12:42am
Here is a snag I just  came up with.

Most of the symbols I placed on a new drawing don't seem to have any serious existence.

When I click on them, the only dialog I get refers polygons and lines.

The resistor, cap and transistor allow names and attributes.

js

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Roger Lascelles on Sep 18th, 2013 at 10:22am
WHAT YOU GET OUT OF VEECAD

VeeCAD won't complete your layout in a single mouse click, because it can't know where you want to put components like your display and controls. However, if you place the "fixed" parts - those that can't change shape - VeeCAD will cut the board tracks, add wire links and place the "fill in" parts like resistors and axial capacitors. How well this works varies with actual circuit and your initial placement. Many users depend on this "autoroute" feature.

VeeCAD gives you certainty. You build large circuits, check for track shorts and then power up - and the thing works.

VeeCAD gives you a good looking layout, because you don't have to add untidy board modifications when you discover a mistake.

VeeCAD lets you refine your layout. You can move parts and blocks of parts, slide parts together, generally tweak the layout, so your layout is more compact. It turns out to be nice to have a tool that helps you know what connects to what, and where the current will flow.

TINYCAD SYMBOLS IN PIECES

If these symbols are from the VeeCAD supplied libraries, then TinyCAD is misbehaving. If the symbols came from the internet, then  anything is possible - perhaps the symbols are pictorial only and not used to make a netlist.

HI

I enjoyed your website at http://schmidling.com . I see that you are a resourceful person with a range of skills, and you haven't stopped learning. Nice to know who is at the other end of your posts. I'm 15 years your junior, and caught the end of the vacum tube era in the 1960s. I like working with my hands, and would rather work on something interesting, than buy something ready made.

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by HELLI on Sep 18th, 2013 at 11:36am
Hi Jack,
Yes, Veecad does dump all your components in a pile. Where it does score is making sure that the things that are supposed to be connected, are and the things that are not supposed to be connected, are not.
When I use stripboard I usually want the pieces to be as small and compact as possible and it helps with that as I can move and juggle the components around without putting them in holes.
Regards,
Hamilton

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Jack Schmidling on Sep 19th, 2013 at 8:03pm
Thanks for the background.  I think I understand it better now.  I just need to figure out how to fit it into my MO.

And Roger, thanks for the comments on the web site.  It is sort of the story of my life which I have tried to make as interesting as possible.

I didn't realize that you were the author of the program until yesterday and I congratulate you on a fantastic product even though I only understand about  half of it.

One annoyance that I wonder about, actually two, relate to the board size and display.

Neither of the boards I have used fit into the mins for the board size and it would be nice if the outline would fit exactly.  The first was 19 x 33 and the new ones I just bought are 25 x 40.

This leads to the other issue, unless I am missing something, the only way to see the hole numbers is either printing or in the print appearance mode.  I spend half my layout time counting holes and don't understand why they are not on the basic layout.

Also, starting at zero may feel good to a mathematician but it has lead me into several errors.  When one counts holes in a row, one expects the number to agree with the number of holes.  0/0 may satisfy Descart but there really is a hole there and it should be called number 1 not 0.

Other than that, I love it.

Jack http://schmidling.com


Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Roger Lascelles on Sep 20th, 2013 at 7:54am
Jack,

MINIMUM BOARD SIZE

I'll look into the minimum board dimensions, and see what is possible.

HOLE COUNTING

Too much hole counting doesn't sound right. Did you remember to use sticky label "rulers" along the board edges?

The fastest way to build your board is right at the computer. You move the mouse to any component pin, read the (x,y) coordinates at the bottom left corner of the window, then use your sticky label rulers to locate that spot on your board.

You say the first hole "should be called number 1 not 0". If VeeCAD starts measuring at "1", your sticky label ruler will go 1, 11, 21 .. , instead of 0, 10, 20 like other rulers, and users will complain to me. It helps to think in terms of measuring distances or spaces between holes, instead of counting holes.


Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by HELLI on Sep 20th, 2013 at 10:51am
Hi Jack,
The min board size can be set as low as you want BUT it must be done before you put components on the board. If you have components on the board you can only set the board size to where there are no components.
Set the board size big to start with, lay out your circuit, squeeze it to the minimum you can and then set the board size and you can then trim off the excess board where there are no components.

The only problem I have with this is that I have a CR2032 battery that hangs out over the size of the board and VeeCAD doesn't let me trim to only where the connections are. I would need to create a footprint for the battery as a semi-circle to be able to trim the board to the minimum.
Hamilton

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Jack Schmidling on Sep 20th, 2013 at 3:04pm
[quote author=3431383C3B550 link=1379257839/12#12 date=1379660059]Jack,

Did you remember to use sticky label "rulers" along the board edges?

News to me and not a word in the help list.

Please elaborate.

js

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Roger Lascelles on Sep 20th, 2013 at 3:34pm

Roger Lascelles wrote on Aug 23rd, 2013 at 5:57am:
You can view the post where we talked about rulers by clicking the link above

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by HELLI on Sep 20th, 2013 at 3:43pm
Hi Jack,
What I usually do is to mark with a fine felt tip every 5 holes and a slightly longer one every 10 on the board. This reduces the amount of counting. You could even divide the board into 5 hole squares if you want. What some people do is to stick a label on the edge of the board with the markings on it. Another way is to print the layout full size, cut it out and then stick it to the board and put the component wires through the paper at the right place. You can (or not) then tear away the paper.
I too asked about starting at 0/1 and got more or less the same answer. As a programmer in C all arrays start at 0 and rulers too when you think about it also start at 0. If you want to continue starting at 1 then count the gaps between the holes   :D.
Hamilton

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Jack Schmidling on Sep 20th, 2013 at 4:05pm

HELLI wrote on Sep 20th, 2013 at 10:51am:
Hi Jack,
The min board size can be set as low as you want BUT it must be done before you put components on the board.


That's a cute bandaid but my problem is that I want to see the limits of the board as I am working it out.  The best I  have come up with is a few wire boxes along the edges.

As a beginner, there are a few other things that I would find helpful.

1.  It would be nice if there was some id on the print out like; name, version, file name, etc.

2.  When several programs are open, there is no way of knowing what they are.  They all are called "Stripboard Editor"  and I have to open each one to see which is the working file and which are just library pages.

Other than that, I love it.

js

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Roger Lascelles on Sep 20th, 2013 at 4:22pm
Thanks for pointing out that multiple VeeCAD instances have the same Taskbar text, and when you go Alt-TAB to switch programs. I'll have it fixed in the next release.

You can use placeable text to show the project name or file name or version number.

Below is an example of board rulers.
BoardRulers_002.png (54 KB | 281 )

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by HELLI on Sep 20th, 2013 at 5:08pm
Hi Jack,
How do you know the exact size of the board BEFORE you lay it out? :-?
Hamilton

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Jack Schmidling on Sep 20th, 2013 at 7:39pm

HELLI wrote on Sep 20th, 2013 at 5:08pm:
Hi Jack,
How do you know the exact size of the board BEFORE you lay it out? :-?
Hamilton


I buy a bunch of boards on Ebay and make my projects fit.  I just  ordered some bigger boards for bigger projects.

js

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Jack Schmidling on Sep 20th, 2013 at 7:46pm

Roger Lascelles wrote on Sep 20th, 2013 at 4:22pm:
Thanks for pointing out that multiple VeeCAD instances have the same Taskbar text, and when you go Alt-TAB to switch programs. I'll have it fixed in the next release.


That was easy.  How about the hole numbers on the layout?

>You can use placeable text to show the project name or file name or version number.

Haven't found that yet.  How does one do that?

>Below is an example of board rulers.

I thought you were talking about some program feature.

js

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Roger Lascelles on Sep 21st, 2013 at 2:52am
Placeable text, net tracing and auto-routing are the big omissions from the free version.

Can you explain what you mean by "hole numbers on the layout".

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Jack Schmidling on Sep 21st, 2013 at 3:54pm

Roger Lascelles wrote on Sep 21st, 2013 at 2:52am:
Placeable text, net tracing and auto-routing are the big omissions from the free version.

Can you explain what you mean by "hole numbers on the layout".


In this case, I am referring to something like what one sees on a print out, viz.,
0 through n, locations visible on the computer display while one is laying out.

BTW, I forgot that this  was a free version so I  guess I should purchase before complaining.


js



Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Jack Schmidling on Sep 22nd, 2013 at 6:18am
One more idea occurs to me.  Once one has a strip board layout that works, it would be neat if one could remove all the junk and just leave what is  needed for artwork to etch another board or two.

Is there any such program out there?

js


Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Roger Lascelles on Sep 22nd, 2013 at 8:39am
PAID VERSION: I learn from and assist all VeeCAD users, free or paid.

RULERS ON DISPLAY: There is an X,Y display in the status bar which I find to be all I need. See picture. Optional rulers are on my long list of things to do, but other changes take priority.

MAKE A PCB FROM VEECAD : I too dream of such a thing, but that is some time off, if ever.  At the moment, all I can offer is the ability to use the same schematic to make PCB and Stripboard layouts. To do that, your VeeCAD outline library must match your PCB program outline library. If you want ready-to-run matching libraries, use Seetrax XL Designer or DesignSpark PCB - VeeCAD installs matching libraries at C:\Program Files\VeeCAD\Library\ in the XLDesigner and DesignSpark folders. Otherwise, you can adapt VeeCAD libraries to match any PCB program.
CoordDisplay.png (0 KB | 242 )

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Jack Schmidling on Sep 22nd, 2013 at 3:31pm

Roger Lascelles wrote on Sep 22nd, 2013 at 8:39am:
PAID VERSION: I learn from and assist all VeeCAD users, free or paid.

RULERS ON DISPLAY: There is an X,Y display in the status bar which I find to be all I need. See picture.


Don't see a picture but I see the x,y now.  That is perfect and all I need.

Thanks,

js

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Jack Schmidling on Sep 25th, 2013 at 5:53pm
Here is another question that comes to mind.

I tried making a normal pcb layout of a project already working on Strip Board and gave up in disgust.  I am not very good at this but it seems like, although strip board may require more board space, it may actually require fewer jumpers than a single sided PCB.

Maybe lots less. 

Any thoughts?

js


Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Roger Lascelles on Sep 26th, 2013 at 3:26am
Hello Jack

Since stripboard is in effect a single sided PCB with parallel tracks, your single sided PCB shouldn't need more links than stripboard.

Some circuits or portions of circuits are a planar graph - ie. can be connected on single sided board without any crossovers, provided you snake the tracks in between pins in the right way.

The concept of the planar graph is useful. By looping a track by a different path, you can often eliminate a link. Let's say you find a track gets in the way of another track. Instead of making a link, follow the blocking track until it terminates at a pin. Go around that pin and now you are on the other side of the blocking track. Don't overdo it or your board will be a swirl of tracks. Also, fast logic or high frequency circuits don't like long snakey grounds.

Don't plonk down your components and try to connect them with tracks. Instead, move the components around, particularly resistors and capactitors, just like you do in VeeCAD.

Finally, there is a good chance your VeeCAD layouts can be more compact. If you email me your layouts I will try to compact them and send them back. Also, since you don't have the full version Net Trace feature, you will have to work harder to make compact layouts.

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Jack Schmidling on Sep 28th, 2013 at 8:49pm
I will ponder the planar graph thing but this is actually a little embarrassing.  I dug in my heels and laid out the project for PCB and ended up with only 2 jumpers after a few hours of fiddling.

My strip board version is attached and as you can see there are about 20 jumpers on it.
It is up and running but  I am sure this are a lot of things you could do better so if you are up to the challenge, have at it.

I am going to do it over and rotate the display 180 as it would fit right over the parts on the board.  This did not occur to me when laying it out.

The schematic is at....

http://embedded-lab.com/blog/?p=1378

Thanks for your help,

Jack

Hmmmmm   I can't find the attach button.

js

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Roger Lascelles on Sep 29th, 2013 at 9:41am
To attach, zip your file, then click the "Browse" button.

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Jack Schmidling on Oct 3rd, 2013 at 2:55am
So were us this browse button?

And what is the point of ziping a 3k file?

Never mind, I found the collapse/expand button but the second question still applies.

js

Title: Re: Simple Automation
Post by Roger Lascelles on Oct 3rd, 2013 at 4:24am
Just above the browse button, are the words:

     "Allowed file types: txt doc docx psd pdf bmp jpe jpg jpeg gif png swf zip rar tar"

There is a reason for this - unusual file types are potentially dangerous and are better off included inside a ZIP, RAR or TAR archive file. Some web browsers show warnings or prevent download of certain file types.

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