06 1 / 2014

Autodesk acquires circuits.io


It’s been little over a year since we launched circuits.io and it has been a roller coaster ride ever since. Just a couple of months ago we created 123D Circuits as a partnership with Autodesk, the easiest and most playful way to design, experiment with and order electronics on-line.

Autodesk was amazed by the community response we got when launching 123D Circuits. This is when they made a bold move: Autodesk made an offer to acquire circuits.io! With this, Autodesk becomes not only a major player in enterprise and maker 3D design, but now also adds electronics to the mix, an integral part of most projects.

Before signing the deal we spent a lot of time talking to Autodesk about their vision for 123D Circuits. There is a strong alignment on topics like furthering education and the vision of making electronics more accessible. Karel and Ben, together with the guys from our main contractor We Work We Play, will join Autodesk.

But what changes for you, the user? Basically nothing! The tool will stay free and the payed offering got even cheaper and simpler. The biggest change is that we migrate all users to the Autodesk single sign-on system, allowing us to deeply integrate 123D Circuits with the other 3D CAD tools such as Tinkercad, 123D Make, … Migrating is easy, just go to http://123d.circuits.io/migrate and follow the steps. Also make sure to check all the new additions we made in the last weeks. As a token of gratitude for the paying customers of circuits.io, we offer them a 123D Premium account for free for one year!

Exciting times are ahead for electronics with deep integration between functional and aesthetic design, and all of this in software that can be used by makers around the world!

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09 9 / 2013

It has always been our mission to make designing and experimenting with electronics accessible to as many people as possible. With circuits.io we already made a big leap in this direction. But for people getting started with electronics, schematics and layout are often still daunting. Over the summer we partnered up with Autodesk to fix this.

We are proud to announce the new version of circuits.io making it even easier and more intuitive to design electronics: 123D Circuits.io. Here are some of the most important new features:

  • virtual breadboard based design, allowing to build and experiment with circuits just as you would in real life
  • you can add an Arduino to your design, and edit the code right in your browser
  • real-time and interactive simulation of both your Arduino code and the circuit attached to it
  • full collaborative editing (think of Google Docs for electronics)
  • powerful yet easy component editor, making it super easy to add new components to the shared library
  • easily create beautiful circuit boards with: free text, b-splice silkscreen art, arbitrary board shapes, …
  • ability to embed your design, including simulation on your blog or in an instructable

123D Circuits.io enables beginners to easily get started with electronics. Instead of blowing up a component, you can now experiment freely in the live simulated virtual breadboard environment together with friends without being afraid of breaking something. 123D Circuits.io even allows you to simulate Arduino code along with your electronics to control it all or to learn about programming and Arduino. Let’s admit it, even pros could make good use of such a tool.

But don’t be fooled in thinking that 123D Circuits.io is just a toy. The underlying engine is still the powerful technology of circuits.io: easy to use circuit board layout tool, one-click PCB manufacturing service, live DRC, multi-layer boards, smart copper pours, large component library, Eagle import, auto 3D enclosure generation, modular design and much more!

We created a number of Instructables to help you get started with 123D Circuits.io and have extensive help pages, even including pointers to learn the basics of electronics.

Best of all is that 123D Circuits is still free for open designs, and affordable plans are available for those wanting more. I hope you are as excited as us about 123D Circuits.io. Head over to 123D.circuits.io and give it a try.

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30 5 / 2013

This is a CNC milled enclosure auto-generated on circuits.io and available on any board on the site. The case template matches the board size and for the mounting holes we place small stubs to keep the board in place. It can be easily customised as we use OpenJSCAD which allows you to easily tweak the enclosure in a javascript editor. Go ahead and improve the case yourself.

This is a CNC milled enclosure auto-generated on circuits.io and available on any board on the site. The case template matches the board size and for the mounting holes we place small stubs to keep the board in place. It can be easily customised as we use OpenJSCAD which allows you to easily tweak the enclosure in a javascript editor. Go ahead and improve the case yourself.

30 5 / 2013

Go pro with Circuits.io (and auto-generate a 3D printable enclosure for your board)

Circuits.io is a free electronics design tool where we monetize on manufacturing by making it super easy to get your boards produced. The trade-off is that we ask all design to be open hardware so the community can build on your work and even order it. A quite straightforward business model.

We were however getting increasing requests for allowing private designs so people can first experiment before open sourcing or if they want to protect their IP. We looked at great examples of this model such as GitHub and today we launch our payed subscription plans: Maker and Professional. At 12$ per month, the Maker plan offers you up to 5 private designs and 5% discount on all PCB orders. The Professional plan, priced at 25$, lets you create unlimited private designs and also offers you a 5% discount on PCB orders. So these plans are not only interesting if you need private designs, but are also a bargain if you regularly order PCBs. 


We are additionally rolling out these exciting new features and improvements today:

  • full undo/redo functionality that can undo any operation you perform,
  • support for slotted footprints (not well supported in many other software packages, but very important to have proper connector mounting holes),
  • via tool, ideal for placing thermal vias (note that these are auto-connected to a net, and not just disconnected vias),
  • big speed ups when editing larger designs,
  • a zoomable circuit overview page, 
  • added SVG as embedding option,
  • improved DRC and ratsnest visualisation,
  • faster Eagle import,
  • various smaller UX and bug fixes.

We added one more cool feature that I know will interest many of you: auto-generated 3D printable enclosures. For each of the designs on circuits.io we generate an OpenJSCAD enclosure that can afterwards be fully customised and 3D printed or CNC’d by you. At every drill hole, we generate a nicely fitting stub so you can just slide your board in place. This is just version 1 as we don’t have 3D models for all our components yet, but we will soon be able to auto-size the hight of the enclosure and even subtract connectors from the sides, how cool would that be!


Hope you enjoy this release as much as we liked building it :)

PS: we still have some nice stickers left after the Maker Faire, shoot us an email if you would like one.

17 4 / 2013

Circuits.io is growing up

Circuits.io has been an easy little electronics design tool in the browser, but some feature were missing to allow for it being used on bigger projects. Today we release a dozen new features lifting it up from being this nice little editor to a serious competitor.

Let’s start with the schematics editor. We now highlight a net when you hover over it, making it much more easy to understand more complex designs. You can select a net and easily disconnect devices or remove the whole net. Furthermore, the user interface has a more intuitive wiring process. But the biggest one is that we support cut and paste, making it easy to design bigger schematics where similar components are often reused.


The PCB editor now supports 45 degree rotations, allows to flip devices to the other side of the board, change the width of exisiting tracks and vias, and highlights terminals during routing, making it much easier to route advanced boards. Via sizes are now automatically calculated to have the same copper section as the tracks they are connected to. Furthermore, we added a feature that allows to measure track widths of existing nets, and of the net you are currently routing. This is critical when designing high fequency boards where wire lengths needs to be matched. 

Something specific about circuits.io, which you don’t find in many other tools, is that the PCB wires and devices are actually connected, even when moving them. This makes it much more intuitive and less error prone to move already routed nets and devices. In the past however, this sometimes led to unexpected wire movement behavior. This has now been much improved. Wires will move as far as they can under the current routing contraints, and then detach, showing a live ratsnest line.


We also added the ability to switch footprints of devices, even if they already were routed. This enables you to design the schematic first using the general concept of the device, and only at the layout phase decide on which footprint you want to use. The default devices that show up in the toolbox all have been updated to be available in many industry standard footprints.

Last but not least, we added the ability to easily do multi layered circuit boards, a must for more advanced designs. This allows to have ground and power planes in the inner layers to avoid crosstalk and improve power stability, or just gives you more layers for very dense routing. Switching to specific layers is as easy as pressing 1, 2, 3.


We are quite excited with the big leap forward, drastically increasing the complexity of what you can design on circuits.io. But we are even more excited about a couple a really big improvements we will announce soon. We’ll keep you posted.

Happy hacking!

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20 3 / 2013

Today we add two nice features to circuits.io that allow you to show off your designs: external circuit embedding and printable PCBs.

Often when working on a project you like to share it on your blog or post it on a forum. Circuits.io now allows you to easily embed a schematic and PCB layout in external websites. These embedded views are not static images but the actual javascript viewer we use on circuits.io itself! This allows you to zoom and pan the design. We are also working on a Bill Of Materials tab, trace highlighting and interactive component properties, so expect more goodies to come inside your embedded views. You can find the embed button at the top right on every circuit page.

Secondly, we added a nice little feature to generate photorealistic and easily printable correct-sized PCBs. You might think its a bit weird to print a PCB on paper, but it is actually very helpful to be able to see the effective form factor of the board and footprint sizes to ensures everything fits correctly before placing an order. This can save you a redesign and a couple of weeks of delay! By the way, we do strongly believe that you will be able to print actual working electronics using your home inkjet printer in the near future, what we release today is just the first step :)


Furthermore, we made lots of improvements on the backend side and build a whole framework that allows us to track client-side browser exceptions and errors. This allowed us to detect and fix several edge case bugs. This continuous Quality Assurance enables us to improve our SaaS on a daily basis.

Happy hacking!

The circuits.io team

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20 2 / 2013

Take your Eagle designs to the cloud

It took quite some sleepless nights to get there, but we can finally proudly announce that you are now able to import your existing Eagle design files to circuits.io, both schematic and PCB layout. Your Eagle design is turned into a native circuits.io schematic and board layout, open to ordering and forking. The original Eagle files are even made available for download from the circuit’s page.


This is a major milestone for us. Not only can the number of high quality designs on the site quickly increase, but all the components in the imported Eagle files will also become available to everybody on the site. A particularly nice possibility is that imported designs can be used to extract reusable hardware modules from (both schematic and routed PCB section), allowing easy design reuse for electronics.

We had to significantly push the boundary of what our design tool supported and are proud that almost all Eagle features are available. Some small things that are not yet possible are: more than 2 layers, multiple sheets and overlapping polygon pours. Also note that with the import feature you can quickly get very big designs in circuits.io, this can be a bit taxing for our javascript based editor, but we are working on speed-ups as we speak.

So feel free to import all your existing Eagle designs (or even Open Hardware designs you find in the wild, here is a nice example) and make them easily sharable, forkable, editable and orderable, right from your browser. You can even take an existing Eagle design and start a fundraising campaign to get your design to the masses! You can find the import button on your dashboard.

Happy hacking!

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15 1 / 2013

Advancing browser based PCB layout

Today we release two new advanced PCB layout features: live copper pour and trace snapping.

Copper pouring is the process of filling the empty space on a PCB with copper. This is required to reduce power problems and interference on the board. Any serious design uses it. In existing tools, the copper pour outline is defined, and in a later step the actual copper filling is computed. From a user experience view, this is quite problematic as you might have to redo part of your board if after copper filling it appears that some connections cannot be made. Another big problem with many tools is that connectivity of the copper areas are not checked or enforced. This can lead to unconnected copper areas that can cause interference.


The copper fill we implemented on circuits.io is computed live, a non-trivial feat using javascript! After every update you instantly see the final board design. It is also fully compatible with our live connectivity and manufacturabilty checking (ERC and DRC) so any design mistakes are directly visually shown. It even works accross modules so ground planes defined in a module can be extended in a circuit using the module. We have a short video showing the live copper pour.


Next we added trace snapping. While routing, traces snap to many things such as pads and grid lines, but will also snap parallel to existing traces with the minimal copper to copper clearance. This allows you to easily make tidy board designs and makes differential pair routing possible (which is needed for e.g. USB 2.0). As an extra, we also added the ability to select a whole net by shift-double clicking a track segment, super handy for moving a whole net or deleting the routing so it can be re-routed.

We made a couple of short video tutorials available walking you through each of the new features. You can now also find all tutorials under the new "learn" section in the menu bar.

28 11 / 2012

Bootstrap your electronics projects on circuits.io

At circuits.io we want to revolutionise how people design, manufacture and buy electronics. Up until today, we have been focusing on rethinking the tools used to design electronics. Instead of expensive and complex desktop software, circuits.io allows you to design electronics in your browser using an intuitive design process that pushes the boundaries of electronics design software. Ordering a prototype board is as easy as a single mouse click.

Today we announce the next step in our plan: Ordering fully assembled electronic boards on circuits.io. Because the current economics of electronics manufacturing still requires high volumes, we decided to created “Bootstrap Campaigns”. This allows you to take your design on circuits.io (or even your own Gerber files), and create a funding campaign for it. Anybody can support your project by pre-ordering one or more boards. If the funding goal is reached within the pre-set deadline, we will get your boards manufactured and shipped to all people who signed in. Think of this as a “Kickstarter” or “Indiegogo” specialized in electronics, with that difference that we not only help you find funding for your project, but also get your project manufactured and shipped to your supporters. And circuits.io only takes a small revenue share and pays the remaining profit to you.

Our goal is to make you successful. If your design turns out to be a huge hit, you might decide to start your own venture. Circuits.io will even give you the manufacturing contacts so you can set up your own supply chain. Or you can decide to stay with us and use circuits.io for manufacturing-as-a-service.

Our first amazing Bootstrap Campaign is also available today: a Raspberry Pi robotic shield. Pre-order a board and turn this first campaign into a success!

If you are interested in starting your own Bootstrap Campaign, just contact us.

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01 11 / 2012

On your marks, get set, release!

During the last two weeks we worked like mad-men to get a whole bunch of amazing features ready. Although circuits.io might be a circuit and PCB design tool in the browser, this does not mean that it should be a toy tool. On the contrary, its time to innovate! With the features we present today, it will become clear that circuits.io is already more advanced than what you find in many desktop design tools.

First there is our new photo realistic PCB preview. You can now actually see what your final product will look like,  front and back. This allows you to make sure everything is placed correctly and can give you confidence in the design you created. Note that these are CSS-styled SVG files, so they are infinitely zoomable and it’s super easy to create other color schemes. 

We also introduce a list with required components for each circuit (also called “Bill of Material” or BOM). But this is not your average BOM! For components that are built via Octopart, we can directly show the prices at several large component providers, and directly link to the order page for the components. How easy is that!

And that is not all. One of the most important things when creating a printed circuit board layout is testing if the design can actually be manufactured (also called Design Rule Check or DRC). If tracks are drawn too close together, they can come back short-circuited because the fab was not able to manufacture such fine features. What normally happens is that you spend hours designing the board, and then at the end run a slow routine to check if your design can actually be manufactured. Often these tool just give textual feedback. That’s just wrong. What we have built is live design rule checking, while you are editing the board. You are gently reminded with yellow shaded areas if you designed something we will not be able to manufacture. Doing this will lead to boards that can always be produced, without any rework. Only the most expensive tools in the industry currently have this feature. On circuits.io it is free!

And finally… We have opened shop! All boards on the site can be ordered with just a simple click. After a few weeks of talking to several PCB manufacturers we partnered with a few that can deliver highest quality board at very competitive prices for low-volume orders. These boards are made in the US! To make sure the boards that are ordered actually come back ok, the order process uses the above mentioned PCB tests for validation: boards that do not pass the tests cannot be ordered. 

These new features demonstrate the path we want are taking to revolutionize electronic design. I hope this is as exciting to you as it is to us. More coming soon…

Keep creating!

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