It wasn’t long ago that if you wanted to design a circuit board, you’d do so on graph paper and the only way to test it would be to actually build it, usually onto a bread board. Harnessing the power of software as an electronics hobbyist or enthusiast takes some of the burden of drawing and testing out of the hobby and can even enable quick and powerful circuits using cheap programmable circuit boards like the Arduino. It’s easier than ever to get into electronics, so let’s have a look at some of the software solutions you can use for your DIY electronics projects.
Printed Circuit Board Design
Before you use an API for electronics parts, you’ll need a PCB. Thankfully, there are hundreds of software applications that have been released, both for free and as paid for versions, that exist to help you with printed circuit board designs. Industry standard applications like Autodesk Eagle are well known but can be expensive, with the named software only available as part of the Fusion 360 application suite. So, if you’re looking for something to get you started, KiCAD and DesignSpark are both a great place to start. These free applications support many of the same features as paid-for solutions and can be just as intuitive to learn. KiCAD even has a 3D viewer and support for up to 32 PCB layers, powerful enough for any DIY project. If you want something even more flexible, a web-based PCB designer like EasyEDA could be an option.
Circuit Simulation Software
Circuit simulation software comes in many different shapes and sizes, but they all have the same basic goal – they let you take your circuit design and test and analyze its performance before you actually commit to building it. From the grandfathers of the software genre like QUC Simulator to wonderfully executed breadboard simulators like DcAcLab or 123D Circuits (which can even simulate an Arduino in the circuit), these circuit simulators can form a really good addition to your DIY electronics workflow. They give credence to the old saying “measure twice, cut once.”
Arduino has given electronics enthusiasts the world over cheap and easy access to the world of tinkerers and makers and now forms an important part of DIY and home electronics enthusiasts kits the world over. It’s a programmable circuit board that can be used for hundreds upon hundreds of different projects and ideas. Makers have turned Arduinos into weather displays, motion sensors for lights, fingerprint scanners and much more. There is no end to creativity with an Arduino in your project. The guiding force when it comes to Arduino is the IDE (integrated development environment) and the Arduino IDE is what you’ll need here.
There we have it – three useful software application types that can streamline and help you with any electronics build, no matter how simple or complex it might be. While nothing will ever replace the bread board for testing and tweaking your circuit design, they’ll certainly assist with your projects!