Many people have heard of Arduino, and many have heard of Processing. Two of the best open source tools in the interaction designer’s toolkit. They are like Photoshop is to a photographer and Illustrator is to, well an illustrator. So you come up with a great idea, and you use the Arduino to create the physical interaction, and Processing to do the software interaction, but what about the hardware prototyping. You can’t just leave it on a breadboard for ever.
The cleaver people who made Fritzing took a whole new approach to PCB design, rather than expecting people to learn complicated but more comprehensive software like EAGLE the new approach works on the idea that you probably have a breadboard wired into your Arduino right in front of you. You start by inputing your breadboard layout using a fantastic vector based drag and drop interface with wires and resistors and everything. Then you can move to schematic view or PCB view and make your circuit diagram or PCB layout (respectively).
So why am I so excited?
The Fritzing project is also open source and free to use like the others, but to help fund development more professionally they have started a web store and are trying to setup a service which allows them to offer manufacturing as well as design software under one roof.
To test out this brand new facility they gave 12 people the opportunity to have their designs produced, and really wanted to have a go, I quickly made my design and despite a few quirks it worked very well, I found the schematic view hard to use but it wasn’t important because all I needed was a PCB layout, and I was amazed, where as before I needed to sit down and struggle through the impossible UI of EAGLE this time the mildly elegant and very intuitive interface of Fritzing meant that despite my lack of time I was able to build the whole project and submit it to the competition email address in time for the deadline (more or less).
I won’t bother explaining what the project I built did but if you came to my degree show you’ll probably know about ‘the tree’ and this is a miniaturised version of that.
To the point
I a writing this post because I wanted to share my excitement about Fritzing but also show you some photos of my newly etched PCBs which arrived on Friday.
The one problem I would like to complain about is the lack of 2 sided board designs, meaning several things go wrong. The two I had were that I had to use jumper wires on my design because pins needed to cross over and there was no second layer to go via. Also because there are only pads on the bottom side it means the pins which push into the Arduino have no where to solder onto, which was a big problem until I figured out a little hack to my header pins to fix them to the underside…
Basically just push the black bit to one end and poke it through the top and solder to the bottom rather than poking the short side through the bottom and soldering to the top as you would expect.
This is the finished design…
And finally because these lovely people share their software with the world and bought me two great little PCBs and because I want to support their future development and to get 2 LAYER SUPPORT!!! (HINT HINT!!) I have donated €30 what I felt I could afford to the Fritzing team.
Also I wanted to say thanks to @tinker_it on twitter for bringing my attention to the competition via her tweet.