Perspective

Hi Everyone, Ben Jordan here.

Remember me? I did a whole raft of videos about Altium Designer “design secrets”, ran tech support for a while, and then was the whole business owner for “CircuitMaker” for it’s first two years of life.

I’ve been playing around in Upverter for a few months now, because we (Altium) acquired Upverter and I was asked to work with these guys.

At first, I had some apprehension. I’m shooting you straight here. It came from about 2 years ago when I did some competitive analysis between Upverter and CircuitMaker for the live collaboration capabilities. At that time, Upverter felt so restrictive to me because from the ground up the user interface is designed to have one (and only one) way to perform each task in the design process, whereas Altium software (Altium Designer, CircuitMaker etc.) typically offer a much more featured and flexible approach. That’s not always better, by the way – it depends who you are and what you want to acheive.

So, taking a deep breath, I forced myself to go through a complete project from front to back, to make myself learn how to use Upverter and to see what the philosophy really was behind it from inception.

And you know what?

I’m a believer.

I don’t say this lightly.

Upverter as a startup since 2011 put all their effort into doing things differently than the “old EDA” guard. The user experience philosophy was strongly typed to not just make a schematic and PCB tool in the cloud, but to make it do the bidding of designers in the simplest way possible. And initially, I’m not gonna lie, to someone who spent literally years learning a “mainstream” power tool for board level electronics design (ie. me) Upverter at first seemed overly simple. But scratching the surface by forcing myself to use Upverter for a *real project* has totally given me a new perspective.

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This tool is efficient because it’s elegent. Elegence in software and UX design is actually extremely hard to do. The more progress you make on a product design – hardware or software – the more ideas enter into the mix, and the more tempting it is to add those features. This is called feature creep in traditional software circles, but more commonly referred to as “bloat” these days.

At first, working with Upverter felt a little too tight and restrictive for me, but it wasn’t long before I realized that the design was getting done faster than I had expected, and it was because of a few things that would be easy to take for granted if you’d been using Upverter for a while:

  • Obvious control menu structure.
  • Selection Filters.
  • Automatic synchronization.
  • Every numerical field is a calculator.

There are quite a few others too – but I’m still learning Upverter and these were the first few UI/UX items that stood out as productivity gains to me. My favorite is perhaps the last one – that in any object properties dialogue you can type a mathematical formula into the field and Upverter will just calculate the result for you. This saves so much time especially when creating footprints for new components. It’s a thing you’d expect any tool to have, and I can say that Altium Designer users have been asking for this for many years and still don’t have it. (They have other cool stuff BTW, but still…)

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That may seem like a small thing. It’s HUGE. This alone saved me LOTs of time doing the design you see above (my next Guitar Pedal Design – I’m calling it the “Sausage Factory” – stay tuned for a video demoing the prototype!!)

There’s a lot more to say, but a blog shouldn’t be too long – but as I learned a long time ago, the best way to learn something is to have to teach it to someone else. So to that end, look forward to future blogs and videos from me about how to actually do cool designs and use these productivity accelerators in Upverter.

My hat’s off to Zak, Mike and Steve for doing the hard work of being a startup, and taking on the hard problems of hardware. I’m personally excited that together we can make hardware less hard – even more, make it so you can take your ideas and turn them into working devices, regardless of who you are. Whether you’re a student, hobbyist, hacker, or professional engineer it does not matter. Together we’re making Upverter into the platform that will make it easy to get to a working “thing”.

Tour Update – June 12th and 14th.

So June 12th and 14th we travelled to New York and Boston to meet local users of Upverter and Circuitmaker, east some great BBQ, and connect on the merge and how it’s all going. 

Connecting in person, meeting some new friends, and some old ones, is always good!

Overall, we have so far had a good response, with most people coming to the events having used Upverter mainly, CircuitMaker a little, and it was great to be able to share plans.

The cool thing is the people who came out confirmed what we believed: that designers of the future are not necessarily electrical engineers, and that we need to bring Upverter and Circuitmaker together to create a system that’s easy to use but powerful enough to allow people of any skill or discipline to get their ideas working.

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In Brooklyn, NY, JF Brandon brought along a BotFactory SV2 PCB printer – this baby is in pre-production and soon to be released so it was great having a sneak preview. Who knows, maybe he’ll let me borrow one for a while and do some vlogging with it – fingers crossed 😉

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We also got to catch up with friends from PCB:NG – experts at rapid low-cost turnkey prototyping. Glad to hear the future about what we’re doing.

Myself, Zak and Mike then got the train up to Boston for the meetup on June 14th.

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We picked the Cambridge district to be close to MIT and Harvard. We already knew from Google Analytics that there are a bunch of CircuitMaker and Upverter users there. On of the local hacker spaces sent a couple of representatives along too, and there were a few post-grad researchers from MIT too. Talking to these fine people again confirmed that many Upverter and CircuitMaker users have some electronics knowledge but are not Electrical Engineers in their core job, research or discipline. They asked some great questions about the future of the platform, such as:

  • How does Altium propose to make electronics deisgn  more accessible?
  • What operating systems will we support in future versions of the CAD desktop?
  • How can we improve automation so anyone can quickly route the PCB or place components?
  • Which brand will remain – Upverter or CircuitMaker?
  • …and many more.

To these, we answer – we want to build a system for design that let’s users essentially start with a feature spec, bring in the “modules” they need, configure, tweak, customize, and build. This is hard to do. But we think with Upverter and CircuitMaker we have the technology, DNA, and investment capital to make this real. As to OSes – that’s the beauty of cloud – any device with a browser can run Upverter. For the desktop, true cross-platform (Windows, Mac and mainstream Linux) is on the roadmap but will take a little time. Automation is an interesting one – we definitely need to beef this up if we’re going to make design accessible, and machine learning will play a significant role.

And as to the branding question?…

Upverter.

 

And away we go… Merge!

ricknmorty

 

Since joining Altium last summer we’ve been hard at work on a new version of Upverter. I wanted to give you a sneak peek of what to expect in the upcoming version!

The biggest change you’re likely to notice is that we are merging the Upverter and CircuitMaker communities together. For Upverter users this should be pretty amazing. You’ll notice a lot more users and a lot more stuff in the explore section. You’ll see a bunch of CircuitMaker designs that have been migrated over and can now be edited and forked inside Upverter. You’ll have a more powerful publishing platform for showcasing your work. You’ll also see a lot more activity on the forum, including all the old CircuitMaker forum posts.

Upverter is getting a lot more powerful, including the addition of sheet management, part alignment, spacing controls, reliable pours, and more.

Our library of verified parts is expanding to include all of the parts built and verified by the expert Altium librarians over the past 10 years. We’ve added over 250,000 parts to the Upverter library over the past few months.

One of the hardest and most exciting parts of the merge is that we are making the CircuitMaker desktop editor work with Upverter designs. Two of the biggest feature requests we’ve had over the years were an offline mode, and better routing. CircuitMaker is packed full of amazing Altium technology – hierarchical schematic, push-and-shove routing, batch output generation, Native3D™, and offline editing. Making CircuitMaker work seamlessly with Upverter will allow you to use Upverter for the kind of stuff it’s best at, and CircuitMaker when you need a desktop editor.

Our goal is the best of both worlds. To develop Upverter into the most powerful, but also the easiest to use, hardware product design platform. To remain natively cloud based and collaborative. But also to allow you to work offline, in desktop software and with the very powerful editing features CircuitMaker has baked-in whenever needed. It’s about choice and flexibility and our mission of helping you bring your ideas to life faster and easier.

Finally, we’ve substantially increased the number of engineers working on Upverter and we’re committed to investing in building the best Upverter platform we possibly can. We’re adding new, Upverter only features. We’re building ways to migrate powerful features from Altium Designer into Upverter. We’re making Upverter more extensible and hackable. And we’re working on a new and more approachable system design environment so less technical designers can bring their products to life in Upverter.

We are all pretty excited about this upcoming release and we’ll keep you posted as we work on it. We are also doing an event tour to share our ideas, give previews, and get your thoughts – more on that here. We don’t have a hard launch date for all of this, but it looks like Christmas time 2018.

Stay tuned!!

Zak & The Upverter Team

 

If you are a CircuitMaker user, you can read about the merge here.

Design your own semiconductor chip

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Our friends at efabless are hosting a series of challenges over the coming weeks and months where you can design your own semiconductor chip in just a few hours.

You don’t need to know anything about semiconductor design. They guide you through the whole process and the result is your very own chip that you could then use in your PCB designs.

You can see the contests here.

Upverter customer, AXIS, lauches Indiegogo campaign

Upverter success story, AXIS, lauches Indiegogo campaign



AXIS launches Indiegogo for the AXIS Gear

In June, Upverter met with AXIS to discuss the success of their product development using the Upverter platform.  AXIS’ head product development engineer, Marc Bishara, praised Upverter for its attentiveness and support for their customers.  AXIS took advantage of Upverter’s unique cloud-based design to have design reviews of their board before production.

“This was my first fully functional PCB, so from the start we don’t necessarily have the expertise to be 100% confident of the things that we’re doing.  Getting a second set of eyes on the board, to see issues that would potentially mess up the board or impact our ability to run diagnostics on it after it was printed, was useful.  The design review is great.”

— Marc Bishara, Product Development Engineer, AXIS

You can read more about our customer success story with AXIS

here

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You can visit AXIS’ Indiegogo campaign

here

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Try Upverter yourself for free

here

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Wondering how other HW startups did it?

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“The discipline of building hardware at scale is not something you can easily learn at school, even at university. While the path (e.g. tools, knowledge base, peer community) to become a good software developer is readily available to all in this Internet age, this is not true yet for hardware development.” – Eric Klein (Lemnos Labs)

The explosion of hardware startups has left many aspiring entrepreneurs and hardware makers thirsting for knowledge on how to build and sell amazing products themselves.

We’re very excited to announce that several dozen hardware startup founders have graciously agreed to help answer your questions. They’re from companies like Fitbit, Whistle, Zen, Spark, The Orange Chef, Misfit and many more! They have experience with a variety of products including wearables, smart thermostats, trackers, and cameras. They’re happy to contribute their expertise on everything from crowdfunding, prototyping, design, manufacturing, business development and anything else you can think of!

To participate in the Hardware startup founder Q&A, please submit your questions HERE.

Share Hardware Projects without Screenshots or Dropbox

Let’s face it: uploading schematics from your EDA to a fileserver is pretty goofy. Maybe not as goofy as pasting screenshots, but goofy nonetheless.

If you’re sharing with something like Dropbox, everyone needs to have a compatible EDA to even view your design, and you have to muck around with privileges within your file server to make sure only the right people get access.

If you’re using screenshots, all hope is lost: nobody can zoom in; search is impossible; and good luck inspecting the attributes of anything.

Enter Upverter.

Whether you’re posting a design review on a forum, communicating with your manufacturer, or just showing off: Upverter gives you the power to truly share your design with anyone on any platform. When you grant access to a group or make a design public, you’re empowering colleagues and friends to make a difference.

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Designs shared on Upverter:

  • Are fully searchable. You can search for any reference designator, part number, net name, or issue in the entire design and navigate directly to it.
  • Are completely navigable. You can pan and zoom in on any part of either the schematic or PCB. No nasty screenshot pixels!
  • Can be cross-probed. Select anything on the schematic and slam tab: you’re magically transported to the layout-side representation of your selection.
  • Can evaluate design rules. If you just hand me a file from another EDA, I don’t share your constraint setup. On Upverter, anyone interacting with your design gets to see exactly the same design rule reports you see.
  • Can be annotated. With the right permissions, shared designs can be marked up with our Issues Management tools. Others can highlight a region on your schematic or PCB they think is a problem and start a discussion about it – without leaving the tool!

All accounts start with a 14-day trial, and we offer a community edition for unlimited non-commercial open source hardware designs free of charge.

Learn how to import from EagleAltium Designer, or OrCAD Capture.

To learn more about how Upverter can accelerate electronics design, watch our superpowers video: