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Re: gEDA-user: ExpressPCB is evil.... was: Re: New user to PCB - what does this error mean?

On Jan 11, 2009, at 8:32 AM, Stuart Brorson wrote:
> Be very careful with the fab houses which offer you "free" design
> software -- there's usually a catch of some sort.  ExpressPCB is
> particularly bad.  Their software exports to a format which is only
> readable by their factory.  Therefore, once you do a design with their
> software, then you're locked into using their fab services forever.
> To belabor the obvious:  ExpressPCB's software  will not generate
> Gerbers.

   Too true.  I did a commercial project for a startup company using  
ExpressPCB from 2001 to 2003.  I took over for another engineer (the  
boss used him up and burnt him out, which he later did to me as  
well...should've seen that coming) and it was already well in- 
progress with ExpressPCB.  I ended up redesigning most of it, but the  
boss refused to let me change.  He was completely nontechnical, but a  
terrible micro-manager.  He was the type to take his car into the  
shop for engine work and tell them which tools to use.

   I did about six boards for that project, and I was always happy  
with ExpressPCB...the board quality was good, the turnaround time was  
good, and the pricing was decent.  The vendor lock-in problem always  
stuck in the back of my mind, though.

   When it was time to do a low-volume production run (500 units), we  
negotiated pricing with them.  It worked out pretty well, but the  
pricing was a bit higher than we could've gotten through a place like  

   So yes, while the basic idea is evil, the ExpressPCB people don't  
really seem to be abusing it, at least in my experience.  My biggest  
beef with them was always that their software was only available for  
Windows.  I ran it in an emulator and it worked well, albeit slowly.

   I was midway through redoing the main unit's layout with PCB to  
get Gerbers when the operation began to implode.

> Although the gEDA/PCB design flow might not seem as spiffy and easy to
> use as that offered by ExpressPCB's stuff [1], gEDA/PCB does output
> fully standard Gerber files which you can take anywhere.  It's all
> about who controls your design, and using gEDA, it's *you* who
> controls it.

   Granted I've not looked at ExpressPCB's software in the past few  
years, but in my opinion, PCB is much more powerful.  ExpressPCB's  
software's strength is ease of use, not necessarily power.  Heck, in  
the version that was current when I first started the project I  
mentioned above, one couldn't even define one's own footprints!


Dave McGuire
Port Charlotte, FL

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