Hello World: Design PCBs with Fritzing

This post is part of the Hello World Projects.

The simple breadboard with a messy, beautiful rainbow of wires sticking this way and that. Easy enough! But now, how does one tidy things up?

Why, printed circuit boards, of course! You know, those green things with lines all over them. Don't worry. It's not that hard. Meet Fritzing, your friendly PCB designer. Fritzing is kind of like LEGOs of PCB design.

Download Fritzing Here.

Step 1: Breadboard Layout

  • Open Fritzing
  • Add components to the workspace
  • Click and drag to add wires
  • Change wire colors
  • Add bend points to wires by clicking & dragging
Bonus: Take a screenshot or save as image file--helpful for sharing projects or documenting your work.

Step 2: Design the PCB

1. Click the PCB tab
2. Route wires so the traces don't cross
  • Drag dotted lines to make traces
  • Right click trace to move trace between layers
  • Right click bend point to make a via, which connects the two layers
  • Click on bendpoints or connection points to see where the trace travels
3. Resize the board
  • Drag corners of the board
4. Adjust the text
  • Click the component, you'll see dotted lines around the component
  • Drag label to reposition
  • Right click to change rotation
  • Double click to change the text

Additional Options

Routing options
  • Design rule check: always use this before sending PCB to fab
  • Autorouter/design rule settings
  • Autoroute: I don't use this much
View options
  • Set Grid Size
  • Align to Grid: snaps wires/components to the grid

Step 3. Export Gerber File

  • Click arrow next to "Export to PCB"
  • Click "Extended Gerber"
  • Zip all Gerber Files for uploading to PCB factory

Step 4. Order PCBs from a Service Provider

I like OSHPark. They are a bit slow (~2 weeks to Seattle), but very cheap for small boards ($5/inch2).

Other PCB Prototyping Companies

I did a few searches, and found some good options. These are quotes based on shipping a 2 layer 1.5x1.7 inch board to Seattle, WA. Actual mileage may vary depending on your design and location.

CompanyQTYLead Time (to Seattle)PriceLimits/Pricing
OSHPark310-14 business days
8-12 production + 2 shipping
$12
$12 PCB + $0 shipping
$5/in2
PCBNet19 BDs
5 prod + 4 shipping
$25
$25 PCB + $0 shipping
under 60in2
ITEAD106 BDs
4 prod + 2 shipping
$28
$10 PCB + $18 shipping
under 5x5cm2
ITEAD1020 BDs (could be longer)
4 prod + 16-? shipping
$15
$10 PCB + $5 shipping
under 5x5cm2
SeeedStudio118-48 BDs
3 prod + 15-45 shipping
$15
$10 PCB + $5 shipping
under 5x5cm2
SeeedStudio15 BDs
3 production + 2 shipping
$40
$10 PCB + $30 shipping
under 5x5cm2
Fritzing117-25 BDs
7-11 production + 10-14 shipping
$21
$17 PCB + $4 shipping
$5.20 + $0.96/cm2

You can also use PCB Shopper to compare price and lead time across other manufacturers. Though, I've found that some of the prices are off. Especially shipping prices, which can account for a good chunk when ordering small batches from China.

Cool? Cool. Now go make things.