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I don’t know a single programmer that doesn’t make use of open-source code. There’s no need to constantly rebuild the wheel, and great programmers can save themselves a lot of time by reusing great code. The same idea applies to hardware design. More designers are making their design projects accessible to anyone with a simple license, and one of these projects just might for the basis of some of your next electronics projects.
Adapting existing hardware projects can be like sticking a square peg in a round hole. However, experienced designers will be able to identify the pieces they need from schematics and cut out the pieces they don’t need. When you work with an online design platform that includes project sharing and forking features, you can quickly grab an existing project and adapt it to your next design.
How To Get Started With Open Source Electronics Projects
Working with open-source projects requires access to repository of projects that allows you to access all the design data you need to get started. You’ll need to fork the project into your own version to get started. Platforms like GitHub provide this type of functionality, but an online PCB design platform with sharing and forking features allows you to get a firsthand view of the project and PCB layout before you get started.
Once you get started, you’ll quickly find that version control features are very useful for tracking revisions and reverting to previous versions of a design, similar to what you can do with Google Docs. These features are also important if you are collaborating with a team of designers, as this allows a team leader to track revisions by all collaborators.
Throughout the process, you’ll want to take advantage of the verification features in order to check your design against design rules and constraints. This helps ensure that your board will satisfy specific performance requirements and that your design will be manufacturable. Finally, an online design environment that provides sourcing information helps you and your team cut down lead times once you start planning for production.
This is exactly the environment Upverter® has created. There are a host of electronics projects that you can access and fork instantly. Here are some interesting projects that showcase what you can do with an online design platform:
FPGA Development Board
If you need to design an evaluation board for an FPGA, the FPGA Development Board project provides a useful base for designing an evaluation board for many FPGAs. The extensive component library in Upverter already includes many FPGAs, allowing you to tailor your board to specific applications.
The PCB layout in the FPGA Development Board project
nRF52 Smart Watch
For the wearable electronics designers, this project features the PCB for a custom smart watch. This board includes power management/regulation, wireless and Bluetooth connectivity, serial flash memory, accelerometer/gyroscope, adapter for an LCD display, and USB connectivity. The schematic starts out nicely organized with clearly labelled nets, allowing you to quickly grab different functional blocks from the design and start working with them in new electronics projects. You can also start adding or improving the capabilities that are already built into the project with newer components.
PCB layout for the nRF52 smartwatch project
The Vehicle Telematics project is built on top of a PocketBEAGLE board, so it already includes USB connectivity, onboard memory, and all the other bells and whistles that come included with PocketBEAGLE, including an ARM Cortex microcontroller. The flexibility of PocketBEAGLE allows this project to be adapted as a small single board computer that runs Linux. While you may not have the same speed and memory as other single board computers, this board is smaller than your cell phone (2.625×1.625 sq. mm). Head on over to beagleboard.org to get some more ideas for using this platform for new electronics projects.
Compatibility With Other Design Platforms
Open-source hardware projects are useful for cutting down design time, and they have a distinct advantage over open-source software. Software has to be written in a specific language, and you cannot simply copy and paste code between languages. Thankfully, major PCB design software platforms can use compatible file formats, allowing designers to transfer data between different platforms.
If you use other major design tools, you can quickly import your existing design data into Upverter’s online design platform. You can also export your design data from Upverter® into a compatible file format and start using it in your desktop design tools. This gives you the collaboration features that are lacking in many desktop design programs and the flexibility to incorporate online design into your workflow.
The online PCB design environment from Upverter provides distributed teams and individual designers with the design tools they need to design new electronics projects for any application. Designers can quickly access and fork existing from other designers and start to adapt them to their own applications. Upverter continuously updates the platform with new features and capabilities that are demanded by the community.