Circuit design software list

What is the best free or cheap electronics design software? It is hard to say in this ever changing field. I some time ago mentioned some software examples in Top Free Electronics Design Tools posting and you can find a long comparison list at Wikipedia Comparison of EDA software page.

For the circuit design I would say that this list from  Mostly free engineering software article is a good list of free/cheap software I can agree:

  • KiCad seems the best known open-source EDA system.
  • gEDA looks very similar.
  • EAGLE is a commercial package with a free version that will handle small double-sided boards.
  • DesignSpark PCB is not open-source, but looks very capable given the cost ($0). It is adware

From has done some playing with KiCad and gEDA (years ago) but I felt that they were lacking something in easy to use (some improvement needed here I think). From those alternatives EAGLE feels the best for me.

Here are also some new on-line focused alternatives:

CircuitBee is an online platform that promises to allow you to share live versions of your circuit schematics on your websites, blogs or forums that I covered three years ago.

Digi-Key Corporation and Aspen Labs launched two years ago one-of-a-kind online ‘Scheme-it’ tool for drawing schematics.

HackEDA is an interesting looking new on-line electronics design tool introduced last year. The premise is simple: most electronic projects are just electronic Lego: You connect your microcontroller to a sensor, add in a battery, throw in a few caps and resistors for good measure, and hopefully everything will work.

circuits.io was promising looking free circuit editor in your browser introduced two years ago. I has browser based schematic and board layout. Anyone familiar with Autodesk knows they have a bit of a habit of taking over the world. Autodesk started with 123D modeling tool that is suitable for designing models for 3D printing. Now Autodesk has followed with 123D Circuits: Autodesk’s free design tool. 123D is web-based software, and using it requires account creation on the circuits.io website. Anything you design sits on the cloud: you can collaborate with others and even embed your circuit (with functioning simulation). All your work is public unless you pay. There are many things similar to Fritzing in this.

CircuitMaker from Altium posting that tells that Altium recently announced CircuitMaker, their entry into the free/low-cost PCB design tool market. They’re entering a big industry, with the likes of Eagle, KiCad, gEDA, and a host of other tool suites. CircuitMaker from Altium posting has introductory video on CircuitMaker and discussion on it. CircuitMaker’s website is pushing the collaboration aspect of the software. The software is still in pre-beta phase.

EasyEDA is an integrated tool for schematic capture, circuit simulation and PCB layout that you use with your web browser. Read more about it from my posting on EasyEDA.

 

Related links: Check my postings on electronics design software.

 

128 Comments

  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    New Online Thermal Design Tool
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_nBdIb24YE&feature=youtu.be

    Aavid Genie allows engineers to design heat sinks and run thermal simulations in minutes! Get thermal reports, drawings and CADs, engineering help, or request a quote in one click.

    https://www.aavid.com/aavid-genie

    Reply
  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Upverter Joins Altium
    http://hackaday.com/2017/08/28/upverter-joins-altium/

    In a post on the Upverter blog today, [Zak Homuth], founder of the online EDA suite Upverter has announced they have been acquired by Altium.

    The largest change in the announcement is the removal of Upverter’s paid professional tier of service. Now, the entirety of Upverter is free. Previously, this paid professional tier included CAM export, 3D preview, BOM management, and unlimited private projects for $1200 per seat per year.

    Upverter Joins Altium
    https://blog.upverter.com/2017/08/28/upverter-joins-altium/

    Introducing the future of electronic product design. And it’s free.

    I have some very exciting news: We’ve been acquired by Altium, a leading provider of design software for the electronics industry.

    Our mission at Upverter from the very start has been to make hardware and product design approachable for everyone: to make hardware less hard. To empower engineers, makers, hobbyists and students by equipping them with world-class technology through an intuitive user experience. We believe the best design tools fade into the background, freeing designers to be truly creative. And over the past seven years we’ve gotten really close to realizing this vision. We’ve built the world’s most sophisticated cloud-based, collaborative hardware design tool. We’ve helped more than 45,000 people design more than 80 thousand devices.

    But we’re not even close to finished yet.

    Altium shares our vision for a powerful, collaborative new style of product design software. Free, but powerful enough to design a real product, accessible-to-all, cloud-based and collaborative, and maybe, most importantly, incredibly intuitive, helpful even, and easy-to-use.

    You may have noticed that today we removed our paid professional account tier. From now on the best, most feature-full, most powerful version of Upverter will be our only version. It will always be free to use, for everyone, from anywhere. Regardless of whether you’re a professional electrical engineer, a maker, a student, a hobbyist or anyone else, you can now design your product, your hardware, your IOT device, your PCB – completely for free using Upverter. Unfettered access for all.

    I want to emphasize that we aren’t making Upverter free for the sake of free, and we aren’t making Upverter free because Altium doesn’t care about it. It’s exactly the the opposite. We believe that this new style of design platform is so valuable, and so necessary, that making it anything other than free would hurt the world

    Between Octopart, which provides free electronic component search and discovery (joined Altium in 2015) and our experiments with EEConcierge, which provides paid design services on-demand, inside your design tool (think of it as in-app purchases), we have come to the conclusion that indirect monetization is the future.

    The team that built Upverter: Steve, Mike, Francesca, Carmen, Ryan, Patryk, Yashwanth and me – the entire team – have joined Altium, and we’re continuing to work on Upverter in the hopes of making it so much better.

    Reply
  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    http://www.altium.com/company/investor-relations/investor-news/market-announcements

    Altium Expands Cloud-Based Offering with Acquisition of Upverter
    http://www.altium.com/resources/investor-announcement/altium_announces_upverter_acquisition_28_aug_2017.pdf

    Sydney, Australia – 28 August 2017 –
    Electronic design software com
    pany Altium Limited (ASX:ALU)
    announced today that it has acquired Upverter, Inc., t
    he developer of the world’s first fully-cloud, fully-
    collaborative electronics design system. Based in To
    ronto, Canada Upverter’s
    entire team of engineers,
    including its CEO and Co-Founder Zak Homuth, will join Altium.
    This transaction will augment Altium’s cloud-bas
    ed competencies and drive further differentiation and
    growth for Altium in the market for next-generation electronic CAD software

    “The acquisition of Upverter represents a significant step
    in the evolution of Altium’s
    cloud strategy to serve
    the needs of future electronic designers. Together,
    Altium and Upverter will leverage the power of
    traditional CAD systems with the lightness and intuitiv
    e qualities that are inherent to web-based solutions
    to form the foundation for a unified, end-to-end clo
    ud-based platform for the design and realization of
    electronic products,” said Alti
    um’s CEO, Aram Mirkazemi.

    Reply
  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Altium Acquires Upverter and EE Concierge
    https://www.eeweb.com/blog/max_maxfield/altium-acquires-upverter-and-ee-concierge

    A few minutes ago as I pen these words, I heard some tremendous news from Zak Homuth, CEO and Cofounder at Upverter.com — Zak informed me that the little rascals just got acquired by Altium.

    Ho hum. Another acquisition. Why should you care? Well, in fact this is of interest to a wide range of PCB designers, from hobbyists, makers, and students to grizzled old professional engineers.

    Although the core Upverter tools are very sophisticated, one of the most powerful and innovative capabilities is the EE Concierge feature. In addition to being embedded in the Upverter tools, this was also made available as an add-on for Eagle and Altium Designer (the team are currently working on making this add-on available in PCB design systems from Cadence and Mentor Graphics).

    What is EE Concierge? Well, imagine you are working on a design, but you are missing one or more parts. You could, of course, spend a few hours creating the symbol and footprint and capturing other data, but time is money and you’ve got better things to do. As an alternative, you can invoke EE Concierge and request that the part be created for you (there’s now a flat fee of $29 per part, irrespective of that part’s complexity).

    A crack team of EE Concierge engineers are standing by around the world.

    So, why is Altium’s acquisition of Upverter a win-win for all concerned — Altium, Upverter, and us users? Well, Upverter’s existing ~45,000 strong user base is an eclectic bunch that, as we’ve already mentioned, includes hobbyists, makers, and students. One thing these folks have in common is lack of money. Meanwhile, Altium has a massive userbase of professional engineers who can afford professional grade design tools, but who tend to be a bit older and more grizzled, as it were.

    Altium also owns the OctoPart search engine, which allows users to search across hundreds of distributors and thousands of manufacturers to track down the components they need for their design.

    Reply
  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    PCB123 Boasts a Native SnapEDA Interface
    https://www.eeweb.com/blog/max_maxfield/pcb123-boasts-a-native-snapeda-interface

    Since SnapEDA libraries are cloud-based, designers will get real-time access to any new symbols and footprints that are added to SnapEDA’s catalog.

    What does this mean? Well, PCB123 from Sunstone Circuits is a free, full-function PCB CAD tool, comprised of a schematic editor, physical layout editor, 3D mechanical previews, and BOM editor.

    Meanwhile, SnapEDA offers a parts library for circuit board design that can shave days off product development. All new models created by SnapEDA conform to the latest IPC standards (IPC-7351B) and are vetted with its patent-pending verification technology. Design content is available for millions of electronic components.

    With the release of PCB123 Version 5.6 and its native SnapEDA interface, designers can now search and download free, cloud-based symbols and footprints directly during design capture and layout, significantly boosting design productivity.

    Reply
  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    PCB123 Boasts a Native SnapEDA Interface
    https://www.eeweb.com/blog/max_maxfield/pcb123-boasts-a-native-snapeda-interface

    Since SnapEDA libraries are cloud-based, designers will get real-time access to any new symbols and footprints that are added to SnapEDA’s catalog.

    Things are happening so quickly in PCB Design and Layout Space (where no one can hear you scream) that my head is spinning. For example, I just heard that the hot-off-the-press release of PCB123 boasts a native SnapEDA interface.

    Reply
  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Convert Your Prototype Circuit boards Into a Pcb
    using the online software JLCPCB and EasyEDA
    https://hackaday.io/project/28372-convert-your-prototype-circuit-boards-into-a-pcb

    Reply
  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Mentor tries the low end, again, with PADS Maker
    https://www.edn.com/electronics-products/electronic-product-reviews/other/4458447/Mentor-tries-the-low-end-again-with-PADS-Maker

    For the second time in recent years, Mentor is taking a stab at entry-level PCB CAD.

    In late 2014, EDN reported on a Mentor-DigiKey collaboration called Designer that was to bring lower-midrange capabilities to users for $600. It’s unclear how long this software remained active, but I can’t find any trace of it today.

    Mentor has again teamed with DigiKey to release the $499 PADS MakerPro and the free PADS Maker. And good news for the abandoned Designer folks: these PADS systems will import your files.

    Not surprisingly, the free version is fairly limited, though not as much as some other free CAD software. The largest board supported is 25 in2, 1,500 connections are allowed (unclear if that means nets or pins), and 6 layers (4 single layers max). What’s a “single layer” you ask? Could it be a “signal” layer? I’m already unimpressed by the documentation.

    In true big-company fashion, a license key is still required, and it only lasts a year. I find that troubling. If Mentor drops support, your software will soon die. Unlike some other free ECAD software, designs remain private and local as opposed to being shared in the cloud.

    The MakerPro version has no connection limit, a maximum PCB size of 50 in2, and handles up to 8 layers (6 single [sic]). Unexpectedly, the Pro license is perpetual.

    https://www.edn.com/electronics-products/other/4437730/Mentor-meets-Digikey–low-cost-CAD-results

    Reply
  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Active-filter design tools shootout
    https://www.edn.com/design/analog/4460233/Active-filter-design-tools-shootout?utm_source=Aspencore&utm_medium=EDN&utm_campaign=social

    What do you really get using a supplier tool for an multiple feedback (MFB) low pass active filter?

    Reply
  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    MPLAB® Mindi™ Analog Simulator
    http://www.microchip.com/mplab/mplab-mindi

    MPLAB® Mindi™ Analog Simulator reduces circuit design time and design risk by simulating analog circuits prior to hardware prototyping. The simulation tool uses a SIMetrix/SIMPLIS simulation environment, with options to use SPICE or piecewise linear modeling, that can cover a very wide set of possible simulation needs. This capable simulation interface is paired with proprietary model files from Microchip, to model specific Microchip analog components in addition to generic circuit devices. Finally, this simulation tool installs and runs locally, on the user’s own PC. Once downloaded, no internet connection is required, and the simulation run time is not dependent on a remotely located server. The result is fast, accurate analog circuit simulations.

    Reply
  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Female Founder Puts EDA in the Cloud
    A challenging demo changes a career
    https://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1332903

    The self-education worked. Her initial code base became the starting point for SnapEDA, which now serves more than 60,000 users in nearly 200 countries. She was the startup’s first customer and investor, bootstrapping her efforts for four years with contract work writing technical columns for Reuters and Forbes and programming for other websites.

    In 2015, SnapEDA was admitted into the Y Combinator startup program. She moved to a house in Silicon Valley, where she lived and worked with her first few employees.

    Cloud-based board design is still plagued by worries about the security of intellectual property and a lack of interoperable tools. Thus, today’s design environment is a hybrid of mainly secured proprietary tools on a local server or desktop with some services like SnapEDA in the cloud.

    “A lot of cloud tools have been launched for sharing, but people didn’t want to switch or couldn’t,” said Baker. “For the short term, its content online and design offline, but price and availability should drive more work to the cloud.”

    The top EDA companies have made their chip design tools available as cloud services but so far seen little traction for them

    A representative of Amazon said that the web giant is seeing an increase in online design, citing work with NXP. Rhines said that board design is typically less compute-intensive, noting that Digi-Key offers online board design tools.

    In this environment, SnapEDA has been eking out a business since 2013 as an adjunct providing vendor-neutral symbols, footprints, and other design elements. It now provides more than 2 million models in nine formats, with plug-ins for tools such as Altium, Eagle, and PCB123 serving an estimated 5,000 active designs a week.

    “Today, engineers are finding dubious content or they make it themselves or they are just simulating if they can’t find models —

    Overall, “I think we need more women in tech … the way to get there is to do cool tech things. I hope I can inspire other women just by doing it.”

    Build circuit boards faster with instant parts
    Download free symbols & footprints for millions of electronic components. The largest source of verified parts.
    https://www.snapeda.com/

    Reply
  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Way I Work: Interview with Natasha Baker, founder of SnapEDA
    https://www.eeweb.com/profile/max-teodorescu/articles/the-way-i-work-interview-with-natasha-baker-founder-of-snapeda

    Natasha Baker is an electrical engineer and founder of the platform SnapEDA, a site she refers to as a “Google for electronic design.” Over half a million engineers use SnapEDA to build their circuit boards faster, making everything from medical devices to electric airplanes. But this wasn’t always the case; Natasha began SnapEDA from her kitchen table with no funds or team — just an idea. It now serves engineers in everything from small shops, to household names like Samsung and General Electric. This is her story. This is the way she works.

    Reply
  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    What’s Coming In KiCad Version 5
    https://hackaday.com/2018/02/10/whats-coming-in-kicad-version-5/

    Way back in the day, at least five years ago, if you wanted to design a printed circuit board your best option was Eagle. Now, Eagle is an Autodesk property, the licensing model has changed (although there’s still a free version, people) and the Open Source EDA suite KiCad is getting better and better. New developers are contributing to the project, and by some measures, KiCad is now the most popular tool to develop Open Source hardware.

    At FOSDEM last week, [Wayne Stambaugh], project lead of KiCad laid out what features are due in the upcoming release of version 5. KiCad just keeps improving, and these new features are really killer features that will make everyone (unjustly) annoyed with Eagle’s new licensing very happy.

    KiCad Version 5 New Feature Demo
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhcD9zJufLA

    Reply
  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Advanced Circuits Releases Upgrades to its Free PCB Design Software
    https://www.eeweb.com/profile/eeweb/news/advanced-circuits-releases-upgrades-to-its-free-pcb-design-software?utm_source=Aspencore&utm_medium=EDN

    Advanced Circuits has released version 4.0 of PCB Artist®. The free design software offers many features and functionality found in paid PCB design packages without the price tag. PCB Artist® includes advanced layout capabilities, a library of over 500,000 components, and free technical support.

    http://www.4pcb.com/news/pcb-artist-40.html

    Reply
  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Autodesk Introduces Parametric Part Generation
    https://hackaday.com/2018/03/08/autodesk-introduces-parametric-part-generation/

    The hardest part of any PCB design is adding parts and components. You shouldn’t use random part libraries, and creating your own part libraries is just a pain. Why have we endured this pain for so long, especially considering that most components follow a standard? Add in the fact that 3D modeling and rendering a board in a mechanical CAD tool is now a thing, making creating your own part libraries even more involved.

    To solve this problem, Autodesk has introduced library.io, a tool to parametrically generate component footprints for Eagle and 3D models for Fusion360. Given that most parts follow a standard — QFP, TO-, DFN, or SOT23 — this is now the easiest way to create a new part in Eagle with its own 3D model that allows you to bring it into mechanical CAD tools.

    https://library.io/

    Reply
  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Computer Vision For PCB Layout
    https://hackaday.com/2018/06/12/computer-vision-for-pcb-layout/

    One of the big problems with doing PCB layout is finding a suitable footprint for the components you want to use. Most tools have some library although — of course — some are better than others. You can often get by with using some generic footprint, too. That’s not handy for schematic layout, though, because you’ll have to remember what pin goes where. But if you can’t find what you are looking for SnapEDA is an interesting source of components available for many different layout tools. What really caught our eye though was a relatively new service they have that uses computer vision and OCR to generate schematic symbols directly from a data sheet.

    https://www.snapeda.com/instabuild/

    Reply
  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Wolfram Alpha Electronic Tips
    https://hackaday.com/2018/08/01/wolfram-alpha-electronic-tips/

    Electronics takes a lot of math. Once you’ve mastered all the algebra and calculus, though, it is sometimes a drag to go through the motions. It also can be error-prone. But these days, you have Wolfram Alpha which will do all the work for you and very easily. I use it all the time when I’m too lazy to solve an equation or do an integral by hand. But did you know it actually has some features specifically for electronics?

    If you want to do a lot with electronics — or nearly any technical field — you are going to have to learn some math and you shouldn’t just rely on tools like Wolfram to skirt understanding the math.

    https://www.wolframalpha.com/

    Reply
  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    FxSolver is a Math Notebook for Engineers
    https://hackaday.com/2018/08/06/fxsolver-is-a-math-notebook-for-engineers/

    If you like to rely on the web to do your electronics and computer math, you’ll want to bookmark FxSolver. It has a wide collection of formulae from disciplines ranging from electronics, computer science, physics, chemistry, and mechanics. There are also the classic math formulations, too.

    https://www.fxsolver.com/

    Reply
  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Circuit VR: Starting an Amplifier Design
    https://hackaday.com/2018/08/10/circuit-vr-starting-an-amplifier-design/

    Sometimes I wish FETs had become practical before bipolar transistors. A FET is a lot more like a tube and amplifies voltages. Bipolar transistors amplify current and that makes them a bit harder to use. Recently, [Jenny List] did a series on transistor amplifiers including the topic of this Circuit VR, the common emitter amplifier. [Jenny] talked about biasing. I’ll start with biasing too, but in the next installment, I want to talk about how to use capacitors in this design and how to blend two amplifiers together and why you’d want to do that.

    Reply
  20. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Visualizing Verilog Simulation
    https://hackaday.com/2018/09/03/visualizing-verilog-simulation/

    You don’t usually think of simulating Verilog code — usually for an FPGA — as a visual process. You write a test script colloquially known as a test bench and run your simulation. You might get some printed information or you might get a graphical result by dumping a waveform, but you don’t usually see the circuit. A new site combines Yosys and a Javascript-based logic simulator to let you visualize and simulate Verilog in your browser. It is a work in progress on GitHub, so you might find a few hiccups like we did, but it is still an impressive piece of work.

    http://digitaljs.tilk.eu/

    Reply
  21. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Open-source Circuit Simulation
    https://hackaday.com/2018/04/29/open-source-circuit-simulation/

    While it’s easy to get a trial version of something like OrCAD PSpice, this software doesn’t have all of the features available unless you’re willing to pony up some cash. Luckily, there’s a fully featured free and open source circuit simulation software called Qucs (Quite Universal Circuit Simulator), released under the GPL, that offers a decent alternative to other paid circuit simulators. Qucs runs its own software separate from SPICE since SPICE isn’t licensed for reuse.

    http://qucs.sourceforge.net/

    Reply
  22. Tomi Engdahl says:

    QElectroTech: An Open Source Wiring Diagram Tool
    https://hackaday.com/2018/05/09/qelectrotech-an-open-source-wiring-diagram-tool/

    There’s a few open source options out there for creating electrical schematics. KiCad and Fritzing are two that will take you from schematic capture to PCB layout. However, there’s been limited options for creating wiring diagrams. Often these are created in Microsoft’s Visio, which is neither open source nor well suited for the task.

    QElectroTech is an open source tool for drawing these types of diagrams. It consists of two tools: an element editor for creating schematic symbols and a diagram editor for creating your drawings. Libraries of common symbols are also included, along with the IEC 60617 standardized symbols.

    Being a schematic editor, QElectroTech does a good job of drawing clean connections between components.

    https://qelectrotech.org/

    Reply

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