If you take your electronics projects seriously, then you’re going to want to have custom PCBs manufactured. Breadboards and perfboards are fine for prototyping, but a real PCB is more compact, durable, and professional — and ultimately more affordable if you make more than a few. But, like many other makers, you may be intimated by the very complicated software that is used to design custom PCBs. Earlier this year, Patchr PCB design software made the job easier than ever to do, and now you can order PCBs directly through them.
The Patchr drag-and-drop PCB design software was just released a few months ago, and is likely the easiest software on the market to get started with. Virtually all other PCB design software, including the maker-favorite KiCAD, breaks the workflow down into two parts: schematic design and board design. With that workflow, you first have to build a complete functional schematic before you can even begin working on the actual board. Patchr allows you to jump right into the board design by simply dragging component footprints, such as an ATmega328P microcontroller, into place. Once those components are in position, you can draw traces between pins to connect them.
While this design process isn’t as flexible or comprehensive as that provided by software like KiCAD, it is very intuitive and easy to use. If you can wire up a breadboard, you can use the Patchr software. Once you have your board designed, you can then have it fabricated directly through Patchr. They’ve teamed up with Royal Circuits, a US-based PCB manufacturer, to handle that fabrication. The prices aren’t the lowest, but Royal Circuits is a proven manufacturer that makes high-quality PCBs. If you’d prefer to use a different fabrication house, you can always export your board design in the standard Gerber format.