Open Source Software, like Linux, and Open Hardware, like the Arduino microcontroller, are opening plenty of possibilities for entrepreneurial, off-the-shelf product development. Putting the two together has been a little slow to catch on because traditional development has sought competitive advantage through proprietary designs and patent protection. Open everything…meaning freely available code, schematics, layouts, board design, and so on is getting increased attention.
What more could a garage-based inventor ask for?
How about a program to document everything and help with the design.
Behold. The Fritzing CAD package.
It’s available under for Windows, Macs, and yes, Linux.
Fritzing is a computer aided design editor that you can use to design a breadboard/prototype layout of your microcontroller project. It’s library of parts include resistors, transistors, caps, wires, and microcontrollers. Various flavors of each is represented. Resistor color codes actually show up on the resistors. The program uses vector graphics, with anchor points, so you can run wires between your devices and they will represent the actual circuits.
But it gets better.
You can also switch over to “schematic” view and get a layout of the circuit in standard electronic symbols. Granted the routing is a little goofy, at times. Wire routing and component placement can be moved around without too much trouble, for clarity.
There’s also a “circuit board layout” view that shows the board. Again, it isn’t the smartest board routing program going. It is free and with a little work can be used for simple board layouts.
Fritzing, on Linux is at version 0.3.19 now. It is a little rough around the edges. I think it shows great promise and I am using it for some of my paid tech article work. Creating a graphic for an article of Arduino breadboard project is ten times easier than drawing it in Openoffice.org Draw or Inkscape. You export the output in various industry standard graphics formats including .jpg, .png, and .pdf.
You can also export a cool bill-of-material in plain text.
So, if you need to record your microcontroller circuits complete with graphics and parts lists, why not give the Fritzing CAD package a try. Check out this design.