Several browser-based PCB design tools have emerged in the past couple of years, yet the vast majority of designers are still using the same desktop applications that have dominated the EDA industry for decades.
Now PCBWeb, a new design tool from the founders of Aspen Labs, the media company behind the electrical engineering community EEWeb, is the latest product to be introduced into this competitive space. Their goal? To provide a full-featured online circuit design and manufacturing solution for professional engineers.
Aspen Labs is no stranger to developing web-based CAD tools. Last year they launched SchemeIt, a simple electronics diagramming tool, and PartSim, a graphical SPICE simulator. But PCBWeb marks the company’s first introduction of a full-featured design tool, complete with schematic capture and PCB layout.
After two years of development, the product is finally in public beta and available for free. But although the price tag is compelling, PCBWeb shows serious potential to compete with major players based on its technical merit alone, which is in ongoing development.
The company has made an explicit push towards ease-of-use, but make no mistake -- this tool was not designed for weekend hobbyists, says Cody Miller, president and co-founder of Aspen Labs.
“Our goal is not to be an entry-level tool or toy,” says Miller. “Our goal over the next five years is to be a full-featured, serious design tool competitive to mid-level PCB design tools.”
Upon signing into PCBWeb, users can open an existing project, create a new one, or add collaborators to a project (Fig. 1). Each project has three views -- the schematic, PCB layout, and bill of materials (BOM). For the purpose of testing the product, I decided to capture and lay out a simple bandpass filter.
The parts library contains over 100,000 parts arranged by category. There is parametric search built directly into the parts database (Fig. 2), and hovering over a part displays its characteristics, such as the manufacturer, mounting and package type, RoHS compliance, and the part’s electrical specifications, such as gain bandwidth product and operating temperature.
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