DownStream Technologies, LLC announced the launch ofFabStream™, an integrated printed circuit board (PCB) design and manufacturing solution targeted at theDIY electronics market that consists of small businesses, start-ups, engineers, inventors, hobbyists, andother electronic enthusiasts.
“Our vision for FabStream was to create an intuitive PCB solution for a complex part of the electronicproduct development process. FabStream offers the casual DIY user free comprehensive, yet easy-to-usePCB design tools readily available and integrated with manufacturing,” said Rick Almeida, Founder ofDownStream Technologies and Managing Director of FabStream. “We wanted FabStream to support thoseindividuals who are less experienced in PCB design and manufacturing by eliminating design pitfalls thatcan lead to problems getting a board produced.”
The FabStream service works in three easy steps. First, the user logs onto the FabStream website(www.fabstream.com), selects a FabStream manufacturing partner and downloads the free design software.Next, they proceed to create PCB libraries, schematics and board layouts. Finally, the software leads theuser through the process of ordering PCBs on-line with the manufacturer. Users pay only for the PCBs theypurchase. The service is largely Internet-based so FabStream can be accessed globally and is available
DIY users tend to be generalists responsible for many aspects of product development from circuit,software and mechanical design, through procurement, assembly and field test. As a result design volume isoften low, making the purchase of commercial design software prohibitive, and where assistance with morecomplex parts of development, such as PCB manufacturing, can be beneficial. FabStream also works inlarger corporations where engineers may require a quick proof of concept to validate circuits beforecommitting to a formal engineering implementation. FabStream enables these individuals to quicklydevelop a short-term prototype. Once the circuit is proven out, it can be implemented into the corporatedesign automation flow.
An Integrated Approach
FabStream starts with thefree SoloPCB Design™ software customized to each manufacturing partner. Allof the manufacturer’s production capabilities are built into SoloPCB, allowing the user to work within themanufacturers’ constraints right from the start. Design changes can be made and then verified through anintegrated analyzer that compares the modification to the manufacturer’s rules using a quick pass/failcheck, helping the user keep the design in synch with manufacturing.
SoloPCB does not contain any CAM outputs. Instead, a secure, industry-standard IPC-2581 manufacturingfile is automatically extracted, encrypted and electronically routed to the manufacturer during the orderingprocess. The IPC-2581 file contains all the design information needed for manufacturing, eliminating theneed to create Gerber and NC drill files – which can be problematic for individuals unfamiliar with PCBmanufacturing. The use of IPC-2581 makes SoloPCB the first PCB design tool to use the standardexclusively between design and manufacturing.
Free SoloPCB Design Software
The free SoloPCB Design software consists of commercial-quality schematic capture, PCB layout andautorouting in one, easy-to-use environment. To deliver commercial-level software for free, the basetechnology was acquired from a leading Electronic Design Automation software company headquartered inNorth America and then, enhanced to automate the flow between design and manufacturing. The acquiredbase technology has been used by hundreds of high tech companies around the world for many years,validating that the core functionality is well proven in the field.
“Free software for PCB manufacturing” is not new, but many of the current offerings limit design size andlayer count and lock the user into a single manufacturer. FabStream differentiates itself by the depth of thetechnology that SoloPCB supports. PCBs up to 16 layers can be designed and priced. Complex PCBtechnologies such as blind and buried vias as well as controlled and matched impedance are supported andpriced through an automated RFQ process. The software remains consistent between manufacturers so thatusers can choose the manufacturer that best meets their technological, delivery, and budgetary needs.
Software development is DownStream’s core competency so the company wanted the same level ofexpertise for PCB manufacturing. DownStream has created a network of PCB manufacturing partners tooffer varying levels of service and a wide array of manufacturing alternatives. “Our business arrangementwith our partners allows both parties to do what they’re good at, allows us to continue to focus on softwaredevelopment, while delivering quality and affordable PCB manufacturing,” said Almeida.
FabStream has signed six inaugural manufacturing partners including Bare Board Group, Inc. and MassDesign Inc. in North America; Allfavor Circuits in Shenzhen China; WEdirekt, a division of WürthElektronik Group and LeitOn, GmbH both based in Germany and Prago Board in the Czech Republic.Several other partnerships are being developed and will be announced in the coming months. FabStream isstriving to add partners in key geographical regions around the world so that users can work with localsuppliers. Customized versions of SoloPCB for each manufacturer will be rolled out throughout 2013.
Almeida explains, “The success of FabStream is tied directly to our customers’ success. Unless a user canget a PCB designed and built, we do not receive any income. This gives us strong incentive to make sureour users not only have all the technology they need, but that it’s presented in a way that doesn’t impedetheir workflow”.
Availability and Pricing
Beginning today, FabStream for Mass Design, Inc. is now in Beta Pilot. SoloPCB for Mass Design can bedownloaded at the FabStream website: www.fabstream.com and through Mass Design’s corporate website:www.massdesign.com. The SoloPCB Design Software for Mass Design is free to download and MassDesign’s PCB pricing will apply.
Statement: This post is only the personal view of the author and does not represent the opinions of ALLPCB.com.