High-End Electro-Mechanical Watch PCB Design using Upverter

I have been designing circuits for the last 20 years. As a hobbyist, employee, consultant and independent designer under the brand name Division Furtive. For various reasons, I was often forced to shift from one EDA tool to another. At the end of the day, I think being a good circuit designer mean being able to do the job with any tool available. This context trained me to always be on the lookout for the best EDA tool available. For Division Furtive’s fourth watch, Type 77, I decided to try Upverter because:
– it was free
– I really liked the idea of an online tool with the design residing on the server*
– it is made by a fellow Canadian start-up
*Having to return to old software, either uninstalled or delicensed, is a massive pain. For a project I went as far as storing a laptop with project files and software in case I needed to do edit in the future. Only needing a browser to work on a circuit is a new paradigm for me and I really like it.
The design objective was to make an electro-mechanical watch (moving minute disc inside back-lit hour ring). It would have customizable RGB color (to match your clothing or other things such as your motorcycle) using a built-in optical color sensor at the press of a button. The three GIFs below highlight the watch’s biggest features. The complete promo video (including 3 side-kick devices) can be viewed here.
Being a footprint-freak, I really enjoy investing time early on in the project to devise a good looking and consistent library. Upverter’s built-in libraries and concierge service made this even more enjoyable.
Doing the schematic, I was impressed by the responsiveness and robustness of the user interface. Having used various tools in the past, I mostly fear netlist errors introduced by the tool itself (e.g.: moving a part that end up having distinct nets tied together). Very rapidly I was up and running with a very high level of confidence in the tool.
Layout work was also very reassuring. The user interface is well done, and it is incredible how Upverter is ultra responsive considering it is an online tool (I usually use an average speed internet connection). It works beautifully. Something I guess you only get with new software written from scratch. Most older (and more expensive) software is plagued with annoying bugs that you just learn to live with (the sum of decades of patches). My level of tool-oriented frustration dropped to an all-time low using Upverter and being happy while working really sold me to the tool. By itself, the fact that changes done in schematic are automatically updated in layout without having to manually export a netlist improved my design experience drastically.
Type77-Layout.jpg
Going to production was seamless. Gerber files export and supporting files creation is simple. As a sanity check, I always visualize the gerber files with an independent file viewer just to make sure to avoid sending nonsense to the factory. I used MyRO PCB for manufacturing and hand assembled the first boards as I always do. For the record, the Type 77 PCB did not need any edit and the first board ended up being the working prototype!
Type77-PCBs.jpg
In the end, I was having so much fun designing the Type 77 watch with Upverter that I did not invest nearly as much time as I should have in marketing (while trying to fly solo without Kickstarter at the same time). Even if this was the sleekest Division Furtive watch ever designed, the higher price point made it a tough sale to my current customer base. I ended putting the old saying “quit while you are ahead” in practice and decided it was wiser to simply go back to consulting. At this regard, if you even need design assistance (I also do 3D modeling), you can find me at www.design-game.com

 

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