Every electrical engineer who does DIY projects knows that dozens of free resistor calculators are out there that can save quite a bit of tedious work. Other simple tools can be found, but traditionally the free tool arsenal would stop there. To help sort out the nonsense from the useful online tools, check this blog (especially tools and electronics software sections) and Top Free DIY Tools Every EE Needs article. Those resources lists a large number of tools for almost every electronics design needs.
Then the number of free tools expands, the next question that Can the ECAD Industry Afford Free? That’s a question. I can’t help but wonder whether the established ECAD industry can afford “free”? Can the ECAD Industry Afford Free? article says. Probably the single biggest game-changer has been RS Components’ DesignSpark PCB product, which is a trimmed-down version of commercial design tool “unlimited” capabilities. DesignSpark PCB’s business model is built on the back of increased component sales. Farnell owns EAGLE PCB, which is available in free limited version and commercial larger versions.
What does this development of free tools mean for the “big four” ECAD vendors (Altium, Cadence, Mentor, and Zuken)? Of course, there is no need to panic as electronics design is hardly likely to go away overnight, but the emergence of free tools does pose a difficult conundrum for the establishment. The industry is set for a pretty substantial shakeup when free ECAD tools will soon be “good enough”.