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Hands-On PC BOARD DESIGN For Beginners: Pt.3

Here's how to print Autotrax PC board designs from within Windows. There's also a step-by-step procedure for etching your own boards.

By Peter Smith

ONCE A BOARD layout is complete, a full-size printout of the design allows you to quickly verify that everything will actually fit. You can position the components in their intended positions on a paper mock-up of the assembly and check for interference between adjacent components, as well as verify component footprints.

If the PC board is to be installed in an enclosure, you can use a paper cut-out of the board to check that it will fit as intended. In addition, if the design includes components that must protrude through panel-work (LEDs, switches, etc), then you can often use the printout as a drilling template.

Autotrax includes a separate program called "Traxplot" for printing tasks. Unfortunately, the list of printers it supports is now rather dated, meaning that it probably won’t work with your particular model. As Traxplot is a DOS-based program, it can’t "see" Windows printers – it uses its own printer driver.

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Fig.1: load your .PCB file via the File menu as the very first step.
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Fig.2: Traxedit's Options menu. Set the "Type of Plot" to the layer that you wish to print. A "Check Plot" prints all selected layers (see Fig.3) superimposed on one another.

The problem is worse in Windows NT, 2000 & XP, where the printer is jealously guarded by the operating system, locking out DOS-based drivers altogether. Luckily, with the addition of some free software and an extra step in the process, you can still print your designs from within Windows. Let’s have a look at what’s involved.

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