So, I started making the printed circuit board versions of the laser tag kit in Upverter. Upverter is an electronic design automation tool, which can be used to design electronics. It's supposed to have lots of parts and have a concierge service where they will add parts that they don't have in their system. I decided to check it out.
I started with the headband / sensor package, as that is the easiest thing to make. As a note, I haven't done much PCB design. The only other PCB that I've made is an arduino shield in Fritzing. But, here is how this process went.
It started pretty well, with the first few minutes following their schematic tutorial. That tutorial was pretty straightforward, and I started setting up the schematic pretty easily. They didn't have the correct infrared receiver, but I sent it in to their "concierge" service to add it. They said it'd be done in 24 hours. Cool.
After setting up the schematic, I headed over to the PCB Layout screen to start putting together my circtuit.
And I immediately ran into a brick wall. I couldn't find the button for the second step in their tutorial. I had to Google search how to find it, as it wasn't straightforward where you actually clicked and went to change the board size. Maybe I just missed it, but I think tutorials should be very clear, as you are getting used to the interface and locations of everything.
A couple of gripes:
All of my resistors didn't show up on the PCB. They have "generic" parts you can use, but those parts didn't show up in my PCB layout. And, I didn't know of a path forward to add them. So, I just replaced all of them with real ones, and then it was fine.
I couldn't find the button to add text to the silkscreen. I checked their tutorials, but they've updated their software since then, so the button they used was hidden in a different menu. That was an annoying waste of 20 minutes searching for something that I couldn't find easily.
Finally, I never got the actual infrared receiver. Of the two components I cared about on the board (the transistor and the infrared receiver), only one of them was the correct part. I ended up using dummy parts for all the other parts. Oh well. Perhaps they will add the infrared receiver eventually, but I wasn't going to wait. They said 24 hours, and I waited 72 and still haven't seen it.
Overall, Upverter had everything I needed to make the PCB, but it didn't have all the parts and didn't have a clear tutorial for explaining some of what I think are basic functions. Could I get it to output what I needed? Absolutely. I sent the Gerber files to Osh Park to see if the board works. But it wasn't the "everything is here and is easy to use" result that it advertised itself as.