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.
Ben and Karel
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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.
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.
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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.
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…
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23 10 / 2012
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22 10 / 2012
Soft launch became rocket launch
Karel and I are truly amazed by the great press coverage we received last week and by the many awesome encouragements we got via Twitter and email. To be frank, we didn’t really plan on this and were expecting to slowly launch circuits.io while we still finished some features. But we grab this wonderful opportunity with all four of our hands and are working fearlessly to make circuits.io the best place to design, share and order electronics on the web. We are working on a few thrilling new ideas that will revolutionise electronic design
Today, we released an all new component search, powered by Octopart, and a super easy component builder. This will allow our community to collectively build the worlds largest open component library.
Although you can already download the Gerber files of all the circuits on the site and order your own circuit boards, circuits.io will show its full potential if we allow to seamlessly order circuit boards right from the site. The last couple of weeks we have been talking to a large number of PCB manufacturers in the US and Europe. We are looking for shops that can produce low-volume circuits boards of premium quality with low turn around time. The search is closing in and we are confident that we will be able to offer PCB ordering from the site in a couple of weeks.
Ben Schrauwen - co-founder circuits.io
Image source: tijd.be
19 10 / 2012