I recently had to get some PCBs made up for a little project, so had to leave my favoured ExpressPCB behind and use DipTrace again, in order to generate some gerber files for manufacturing (normally we'd just etch our own boards, but time is tight with this one, so they're on a three-day turnaround from a UK-based manufacturer).
I was looking for a gerber viewer when I came across Jason's post about a web-based 3d renderer: https://plus.google.com/u/0/105009608886388132613/posts/1oST39owVAZ
Now that looked exciting. I uploaded the gerber files generated from DipTrace and eagerly waiting for the image to appear..... nothing. Whether it was the gerber file, my lack of 3d graphics hardware in my little notebook or something else, I don't know. I do know that other people commented that they couldn't get it to work either. So no 3D renderings for us.....
Then I spotted this little icon on the toolbar:
So what would that do....?
Ta-da! A perfectly rendered (and populated) PCB. I'm not quite sure how to get the components to sit down in the board properly (seriously, who solders their components so they stand up like that?) but as a quick overview of how your final board could look (especially now we're moving away from through-hole and trying to use SMT wherever we can) it gives great results!
We might just give DIPTrace another go.
Familiarity and laziness have kept us using ExpressPCB. But these 3D renderings do add a fresh dimension to documenting projects (-no- pun intended) so maybe it's time to give it a whirl. The freeware version is quite restrictive with only 300 pins allowed. But for simple, little projects like this one, that's more than enough!