CircuitMaker

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Altium CircuitMaker
CircuitMaker Logo.png
Developer(s) Altium
Initial release January 2015
Stable release
1.3.0.181 / October 2016
Written in Delphi, C++, C#
Operating system Microsoft Windows
Size ca. 600 MB
Available in English
Type Electronic design automation
License Proprietary
Website www.circuitmaker.com

CircuitMaker is electronic design automation software for printed circuit board designs targeted at the hobby, hacker, and maker community.[1][2] CircuitMaker is available as freeware, and the hardware designed with it may be used for commercial and non-commercial purposes without limitations.[3] It is currently available publicly as version 1.3 by Altium Limited, with the first non-beta release on January 17, 2016.[4]

History[edit]

MicroCode CircuitMaker[edit]

CircuitMaker, TraxMaker and SimCode were originally developed by the Orem-based MicroCode Engineering, Inc. since 1988. CircuitMaker 5 for Windows 3.1, 9x and NT became available in 1997,[5] CircuitMaker 6, CircuitMaker PRO, TraxMaker 3 and TraxMaker PRO in 1998.[6][7][8]

Protel CircuitMaker[edit]

Electronic design automation software (EDA) developer Protel marketed CircuitMaker 2000 as a schematic capture tool, together with TraxMaker as its PCB layout counterpart, as a powerful yet affordable solution for circuit board needs.[9] Its ease of use and comparatively low cost quickly gained it popularity among students, and the software suite was commonly used to teach circuit board design to engineering students in universities.[10] The wide availability of plug-ins and component libraries have accelerated adoption, and quickly amassed a worldwide community. When Protel was renamed Altium Limited in the early 2000s, engineering efforts were redirected towards the development of DXP 2004,[11] and CircuitMaker 2000 was eventually discontinued. Due to its new status as abandonware, CircuitMaker 2000 remained popular among hobby users and students.[12] This popularity has been observed by Altium, and the most successful features of CircuitMaker 2000 have since been integrated in DXP 2004 and later were incorporated into Altium Designer.

Altium CircuitMaker[edit]

Open source hardware and easy-to-use development boards such as the Arduino and the Raspberry Pi have increased community interest in electronics, particularly in fablabs,[13] hackerspaces and makerspaces. The leading EDA software vendors traditionally lack free versions, and professional licenses are unaffordable for amateurs. This resulted in high piracy rates for professional software packages, or users sticking to outdated software, including CircuitMaker 2000. Several initiatives such as EAGLE have attempted to fill this void, releasing restricted versions of semi-professional EDA tools. The rise of KiCAD further fragmented the market. This pressure eventually provided the incentive for Altium to release a simplified and more user friendly version of their professional EDA software package and flagship product, Altium Designer, targeted at less complex circuit board projects. This culminated into the rebirth of CircuitMaker as schematic capture and PCB design software.

Despite the resemblance in naming, the current CircuitMaker differs entirely from CircuitMaker 2000 regarding features and graphical user interface: the SPICE simulation module has been removed; the library system has been overhauled; and the controls changed from classic menus to a more modern and visually appealing ribbon interface.

Merge with Upverter[edit]

On May 14th, 2018, Altium announced plans to merge CircuitMaker and Upverter into a single, free to use design platform. The company justifies this move by citing common requests among Upverter users for an offline desktop editor, and common requests among CircuitMaker users for a true cross-platform hardware design environment. Hence CircuitMaker will become the "Upverter Desktop Client"[14][15]

Features[edit]

CircuitMaker implements schematic capture and PCB design using the same engine as Altium Designer, providing an almost identical user experience. The schematic editor includes basic component placement and circuit design as well as advanced multi-channel design and hierarchical schematics. All schematics are uploaded to the Altium server and can be viewed by anyone with a CircuitMaker account, stimulating design re-use.[16] CircuitMaker supports integration with the Octopart search engine[17] and allows drag and drop placement of components from the Octopart search results if schematic models are attached to them. Users can build missing schematic symbols and commit them to the server, called the Community Vault, making them available for other users. The continuously growing part database eliminates the need for a custom schematic symbol or footprint design for common parts, increasing user-friendliness for beginners.

Concurrency editing was added in version 1.3[18]

Transfer of schematics to a PCB is a straightforward process in CircuitMaker since PCB footprints are automatically attached to any component on the schematic that was picked from the Octopart library. PCB footprints may have simple 3D models or complex STEP models attached to them, enabling real time 3D rendering of the PCB during development.[19] CircuitMaker supports design rule configuration and real time design rule checking. Some advanced features, including differential pair routing and polygon pour management, are also available.[20] Production files can be exported directly, although an external Gerber viewer must be used to check the exports. The entire PCB can also be exported as a 3D STEP model for further use in mechanical 3D CAD software.

Open source hardware[edit]

CircuitMaker requires a free account to represent its users in the community.[21] An active internet connection is required to start and use the software.[22] Users are allowed to have 2 private projects, the so-called sandbox mode for practicing. By default, all schematics and PCBs are uploaded to the server and can be viewed by other users as soon as they are committed through the internal svn engine. While this renders CircuitMaker undesirable for closed source projects, it encourages collaboration in the community. Users are allowed to fork existing projects, or request permission to collaborate in existing projects. Importing schematic documents and PCBs from other EDA packages (OrCAD, PADS, P-CAD, EAGLE) is supported. Users are allowed to own unlimited projects, and there is no hard limit on board complexity.[23] However, Altium warns that users may experience a performance drop for large projects.[24]

All documents are under version control by default, allowing users to revert changes made in their projects, and build new versions of existing schematic symbols or footprints in the Community Vault. Users can comment on each other's projects and parts, rate them, and propose improvements.

CircuitMaker supports direct generation of production files in industry standard formats such as Gerber and NC Drill, as well as printing of stencils for DIY circuit board etching.[citation needed]

Online community[edit]

As of April 2017, there are over 110,000 registered users within the CircuitMaker Community,[25] together authoring over 12 000 PCB projects.[26] The ease of use has led to rapid adoption of CircuitMaker by schools and universities to teach PCB design.[27][28]

Criticism[edit]

As a result of its reliance on the Altium Designer schematic capture and PCB design engine, CircuitMaker is only available for the Windows operating system. This requires users to have access to a Windows license to use CircuitMaker. Dependence on Windows has been cited as a weakness of the CircuitMaker project, and Altium has reported to current users that a cross-platform solution is in development.[29][30] As of 2017, CircuitMaker can be run in Wine on Ubuntu, with limitations,[31][32] but the installation procedure is cumbersome, and many users reported it does not work on their Linux distribution.[33] This currently forces most users to fall back to a complete virtual machine. Unofficial support for Linux and BSD users is provided by Altium staff and volunteers on the CircuitMaker forum.[34] CircuitMaker currently does not install or run on ReactOS due to a .NET Framework related error.[35]

A second concern is the lock-in resulting from CircuitMaker's cloud centric approach. While users can import resources from competing EDA software packages,[36] CircuitMaker does not support exporting design resources itself. Reviewers consider this in conflict with the open source ideology. However, a workaround for this issue is provided by Altium Designer 15 and 16 which do support the import of CircuitMaker files.[37] A trial version of Altium Designer can be requested free of charge from Altium for this purpose.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Graves, George (20 June 2015). "Altium Gives Away The Farm With New CircuitMaker Software". Hackaday. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  2. ^ Fabio, Adam (24 September 2015). "CircuitMaker From Altium". Hackaday. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  3. ^ "CircuitMaker FAQs". Retrieved 24 November 2015. No, there is no licensing to worry about, and no subscription to maintain. The original version of CircuitMaker (latest edition was CircuitMaker200) always came with a free version targeted towards the educational market. The current version of CircuitMaker is totally free, giving you all the tools to think big and make cool stuff, with features and functionality to facilitate creation of diverse and challenging designs.
  4. ^ "CircuitMaker". Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  5. ^ https://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1211384
  6. ^ https://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1212568
  7. ^ https://www.electronicproducts.com/Software/Low-cost_circuit_design_tools_offer_advanced_features.aspx
  8. ^ http://www.land.ufrj.br/~daniel/cl/CircuitMaker_User_Manual.pdf
  9. ^ Protel International Limited (2000). CircuitMaker 2000: the virtual electronics lab (PDF). Star Printery Pty Ltd. pp. 1–2. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-04-15. Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  10. ^ Vickery, Christopher (2009). "Getting Started with CircuitMaker". Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  11. ^ Yan, Ni (2007). Practical Exercises of Protel DXP2004. PRC: Science Press. ISBN 703019845X.
  12. ^ Onwubolu, Godfrey (2005). Mechatronics: Principles and Applications. Elsevier Ltd. pp. 637–640. ISBN 978-0-7506-6379-3.
  13. ^ Verbelen, Yannick; Van Belle, Davy; Tiete, Jelmer (2013). "Experimental Analysis of Small Scale PCB Manufacturing Techniques for Fablabs" (PDF). International Journal of Engineering Innovation & Research. IJEIR. 2 (2): 134–143. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  14. ^ Jordan, Benjamin. "Upverter and CircuitMaker - Have your cake and eat it too!". Altium LLC. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  15. ^ Zak Homuth (2018-05-15). "And away we go... Merge!". Upverter.
  16. ^ Jordan, Ben (12 November 2015). "The original Design Re-Use - Components". Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  17. ^ Maxfield, Clive (28 October 2014). "Free CircuitMaker PCB Tool From Altium". EETimes. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  18. ^ Fijolek, Rafal (5 August 2016). "Collaboration in CircuitMaker extends to real time concurrency editing!". Circuitmaker. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  19. ^ Maxfield, Clive (28 October 2014). "Free CircuitMaker PCB Tool From Altium". EETimes. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  20. ^ Jones, Dave (16 June 2015). "EEVblog 754 Altium CircuitMaker first impressions". Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  21. ^ "Getting CircuitMaker Installed and Running". Retrieved 24 November 2015. To use CircuitMaker requires an account to be setup. This is achieved by registering to become part of the CircuitMaker Community - through the CircuitMaker website.
  22. ^ Jones, Dave (26 September 2013). "EEVblog 527: Altium entry level PCB tool rant". Retrieved 24 November 2015. It requires an internet connection to make the thing work. You cannot start the thing or otherwise work on your projects without an internet connection.
  23. ^ "It's All Free". Retrieved 24 November 2015. CircuitMaker is completely free, with zero limitations to hold back your design potential.
  24. ^ "CircuitMaker FAQs". Retrieved 24 November 2015. While there are no 'hard limits' per se, the software has been engineered to make it impractical for use with large designs. To this end, the PCB Editor will start to exibit [sic] performance degradation when editing designs containing 5000 pads, becoming virtually unusable with designs containing 50,000 pads. Degradation itself takes the form of progressive slow-down in PCB editing functions (such as routing, placing components, polygon pours, etc).
  25. ^ Jordan, Ben (11 October 2016). "How do we love CircuitMaker? Let us count the USERS". CircuitMaker Blog. Retrieved 22 April 2017. (...) CircuitMaker has now surpassed the 100,000 registered users mark (...)
  26. ^ "Projects". CircuitMaker. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  27. ^ "Computer Aided Design". Rapptor Education (in Dutch). Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  28. ^ Verbelen, Yannick (2016). Design & Prototyping (PDF) (in Dutch). Vrije Universiteit Brussel. pp. 37–52.
  29. ^ Jones, Dave (26 September 2013). "EEVblog 527: Altium entry level PCB tool rant". Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  30. ^ "Is there a Linux edition of CircuitMaker?". Retrieved 24 November 2015. While we appreciate the passion of Linux users, Altium products are currently only Windows-based. We will investigate support for Linux in the future, but do not make any promises of implementation, or time line. In the meantime, you can run CircuitMaker by running Windows in a Virtual Machine on Linux.
  31. ^ Jordan, Ben (29 June 2016). "3 Steps for Installing CircuitMaker on Linux". CircuitMaker Blog. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  32. ^ Fred, Jim (5 March 2017). "CircuitMaker on Ubuntu 16.04". WineHQ. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  33. ^ Anderson, James (23 August 2016). "CircuitMaker on Linux". CircuitMaker Forum. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  34. ^ Carlson, Jay (13 June 2015). "Mac / Linux Version". CircuitMaker Forum. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  35. ^ Verbelen, Yannick (2 March 2017). "CircuitMaker on ReactOS". CircuitMaker Forum. Retrieved 16 April 2017. In VMware 12, using the latest version of the ReactOS alpha, CircuitMaker downloads and installs without the "orange box" issue seen in WINE, but hangs forever when trying to install .NET Framework 4.0.
  36. ^ "My EAGLE design is not importing - why?". CircuitMaker FAQ. 10 March 2016. Retrieved 15 April 2017. CircuitMaker's EAGLE Importer is able to import EAGLE design files saved with EAGLE version 6.4.0 (or later).
  37. ^ Loughhead, Phil (25 November 2015). "Moving CircuitMaker files to Altium Designer". CircuitMaker Forum. Retrieved 15 April 2017. Importing into AD15 or AD16 is the only method of transferring a CircuitMaker PCB file to Altium Designer.

External links[edit]