Just as the
paperless office, predicted to quickly become a reality when personal computers
were beginning to dominate the workplace and home in the 1980s, has yet to occur,
neither has desktop software for high-end applications totally replaced online equivalents.
Microsoft has made good progress in the last few years in moving part of their Office
suite online, but you still need a local copy of Visio, Project, and even their
Visual Studio software development tools if you want to use them. Graphics and video
editing software cannot be used efficiently online. The problem is mostly due to
time latency between user input and software display response. Speed on the host
server end is addressable with pumped up computing power and extra Internet connections,
but a bottleneck still exists at the Internet-based user-host interface.
One venue that has made a lot of progress
in the last decade and a half has been the online schematic capture, simulation,
and printed circuit board (PCB) layout realm. PCB manufacturing companies who want
to provide their customers with a convenient, easy-to-use, highly functional, and
very importantly, Free, platform for creating, testing, and ordering ready-to-use
substrates, have led the way.
I remember using some of the first online interfaces in the early 2000s and being
frustrated by the clunky interface and limited electronic component library of parts.
Being an old guy now, I can also claim to have used some of the first PC-based circuit
layout and simulation software in the 1980s - with the same frustrations. My first
version of Spectrum Software's
analog simulator came on a 5¼" floppy disk and ran on a PC with an I80286
processor. At the time, mainframe computers with dumb terminals were the only "real"
systems for doing that work. Prior to then, and coincident with the early software,
I and others did PCB layout (nothing more sophisticated than 2-sided) on Mylar sheets
and Rubylith tape. Most of
our prototype board substrates, designed for wire bonding with bare die and surface
mount passive components, were polyimide. We laid down thin strips of Kapton tape
across traces when soldering wires to the board to prevent it from wicking into
the gold wire bonding region.
An e-mail I received today from
EasyEDA prompted me to take a look
at what the latest in online EDA tools has to offer since it has been a while since
I explored the field. To say their EDA tools are impressive is an understatement.
Not only is the user interface very responsive, but the overall capabilities for
circuit design, simulation, PCB layout, and parts list generation are very intuitive
to use. Rather than bore you with my version of EasyEDA's features, a well-done
introductory video is embedded that will take you through the highlights. For some
reason, I really got a kick out of the "A few hours later" frame that was displayed
to bridge the time between beginning the layout process and completing it
(rather than showing the entire thing).
EasyEDA, Web-Based EDA Tool
As with most of the online simulation and layout tools, unless you are willing
to pay some nominal amount for a private account, everything you create is placed
in the publicly accessible space where anyone can see and use it. EasyEDA does give
you 2 private project spaces, but that is no guarantee your work will not be compromised
since a lot - if not most - of the quick-turn PCB houses are located offshore where
your country's privacy laws are not enforceable.
A Google search for
online PCB layout will turn up dozens of results.
EasyEDA, BTW, comes up at the top
of the list of non-advertisements (at least at this moment
Disclaimer: This article does
not imply recommended use of EasyEDA for any reason whatsoever. It is simply a means
of letting you know of an option that you can explore for yourself to determine
for whether it is a good fit for your needs.
RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling
2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed
formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit
design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at
the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps
while typing up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got
Mail" when a new message arrived...
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