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Altium offers feature-packed PCB tool for free

30 Oct 2014  | Max Maxfield

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Altium has announced a free PCB tool called CircuitMaker geared for hobbyists and makers, or people who are just starting to get into PCB design. Despite the tool being made available at no extra cost to the user, the company has retained all the high-end features that usually isn't present on many free software out there.

The thing about Altium Designer is that it contains a lot of features tailored for expert users who are designing PCBs day in and day out, but this means that there's a lot of stuff to learn. By comparison, hobbyists and makers may only wish to create a PCB "now and again," so the last thing they need is a humongous learning curve. Thus, one key aspect of CircuitMaker is its intuitive and easy-to-use interface, all of the important "stuff" is presented in an easily accessible manner in a ribbon at the top of the display.


Another major consideration is that Altium has decided to make CircuitMaker all about "community," so users can easily share ideas and designs, comment on designs and offer suggestions for improvement, and generally help each other along the way.


One of the problems hobbyists and makers tend to run into is sourcing components. Companies such as Allied, Digi-Key, Mouser and RS Components are great for many things, but they may not be ideal when it comes to certain obscure items. In order to address this, CircuitMaker boasts a Community Library of components. Furthermore, CircuitMaker is interfaced to the Octopart database and search aggregator, which allows users to search across hundreds of distributors and thousands of manufacturers.


Octopart boasts millions of component records. In addition to standard components, it allows users to track down unusual parts from obscure vendors, and it also identifies the distributors who currently have those parts in stock.

Last but certainly not least, in addition to schematic capture and board layout, CircuitMaker boasts native 3D capabilities.


Altium expects to release CircuitMaker before the end of the year. The folks at Altium also say that Beta Testing will be starting "very soon." If you are interested in learning more and receiving email notifications of ongoing developments, bounce over to the CircuitMaker website and take a look around.

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