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Freeware catches on in electronics DIY projects

Posted: 02 May 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:DIY? tool? freeware?

Circuit Virtual Laboratory's Electronic and Electric Circuit Simulation

There's specific knowledge base simulation, and then there's overkill for those electronic circuit design and simulations, which can be found at Circuit Virtual Laboratory.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, since its site offers tutorials, explanations for electronics and circuit design, and simulation tools for novices and advanced users alike. It offers tutorials for everything from fuzzy logic to complex number phasor linear calculus and every conceivable thing in between. Simulation is also extensive, with free online tools and calculators for bipolar transistor simulation, diode simulation, JFET/MOSFET transistor simulation, and a host of electric simulations. Though the site does not feature a calculator base like CalculatorEdge, it does cater to those with specific circuit design parameters in mind.



TinyCAD may be small, but it packs a punch for design schematics.

TinyCAD does one thing and nothing elsewell, actually, it does two things, but why get technical? The main purpose of the application is to let users design basic or complex electronic or electric circuits. And it boats a massive 755 symbols under 42 libraries to help get those designs created.

Everything users could possibly need is listed in those libraries, including drop-ins for logic gates, connectors, analogue circuits, microcontrollers, power sources, and mechanical symbols. Every symbol can be edited to suit project needs, and users can even incorporate their own customised symbols. Finished designs can be exported to a clipboard for printing. The software even sports a feature that exports the user's circuit netlist in order to manufacture the PCB. That's the software's second feature, and though it doesn't pack everything under the sun (such as simulation), it does what it's meant to do extremely well.

DesignSpark PCB


DesignSpark PCB: Circuit design with PCB layout in one package.

What's circuit design without the PCB design into which it will be embedded? That's like peanut butter without chocolategood separately but great when paired together. That's precisely what DesignSpark PCB does. It's a free-to-use schematic capture and PCB layout tool for electronic design automation.

The Windows-only software packs a schematic editor that allows users to draw up their designs using multiple sheets and myriad component libraries for symbol drop-ins. Don't have the symbol you need? No problem. There are myriad third-party tools that can be added, and customised symbols can be used. Once the circuit design is finished, users can incorporate them into a PCB layout schematic using the PCB Wizard.

One of the more interesting facets of the software is the auto placement of components and routing tracks, which can save users a considerable amount of time in the design phase. A cautionary note on auto placement: Unrouting a track can sometimes lead to inadvertently deleting a component if you're not careful. Also, make sure you have the minimum hardware requirements before using DSPCB. It can be a resource hog, depending on how many libraries are open at any given time.


The gplEDA schematic design program prefers Linux-based OSs but will play with others.

Though DesignSpark PCB favours a Windows OS to run its software, gplEDA prefers Linux systems to lay down the schematic designs. Just like DesignSpark, gplEDA lets users create circuit designs using symbol drop-ins from multiple libraries and place their finished products into a PCB layout for circuit integration.

Tools incorporated into gplEDA include Fritzing (created circuits can be incorporated on to a virtual breadboard for editing), gEDA (circuit design, capture, simulation, prototyping, and production), KiCAD (for circuit conversion to PCBs), Qucs (circuit simulation, complete with GUI interface), and XCircuit (schematic conversion for publishing and manufacturing). The software suite runs natively on Linux-based systems, but it will function on Windows systems with an X-Server running in conjunction.

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