"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." (Robert A. Heinlein)

Friday, 30 April 2010

Sharing hardware projects with Fritzing

As I started with my first experiments with the, recently bought, Arduino board (I'm mainly reproducing examples provided with development software) I've also started looking for a good program for sharing circuit schematics. There are many Linux programs to draw circuit schematics, I played a little with KiCad for example, but usually these programs aren't suited for producing images to be shared on the net. This is not surprising if you think that usually a circuit CAD program is required to produce high quality output for printing (or plotting) of very complex hardware projects while my requirements were quite the opposite. What I was looking for was a program to easily produce low quality images of very simple circuits.

Fritzing

Fritzing is a open source tool specifically aimed to the documentation, sharing and teaching of electronic projects. I downloaded the Linux 32 Bit version from the download page and extracted it in "/opt/" folder:

sudo mv fritzing.2010.04.16.linux.i386.tar.bz2 /opt/
sudo tar xvjf fritzing.2010.04.16.linux.i386.tar.bz2
then I started it by executing the "Fritzing.sh" script



First impressions

I tested Fritzing with a vary  simple circuit needed to test the “analog-in-out-serial” tutorial program. The first impression that Fritzing gave me was of an unusual program, the default view, the breadboard view, is clearly aimed to teaching and it looks a little odd to who, like me, is used to think a circuit first in diagram terms and then porting it to the breadboard.

Fritzing-bb

Anyway the breadboard view is very natural to use if you have ever used any real breadboard. The more traditional schematics view is also intuitive and provides a handy auto-routing function that works fine enough.

Fritzing-schem

Last but not least Fritzing has a printed circuit board view, It seems to have all is needed but I tested it with a circuit too small to do any evaluation.

Produced output

Fritzing schematics projects can be exported in many formats: printable formats (pdf, postscript) , formats useful for porting the projects on more “professional” tools (Eagle, Gerber) and also can be directly exported as jpg or png images for sharing projects on the 'net.
Here is my simple circuit schematic

AnalogInOutSerial_schem

Here is the breadboard view

AnalogInOutSerial_bb

And here is how the real thing looks like

25042010196-2

Conclusions

Fritzing is a almost unique program. There are many tools for designing electronics but if your target is sharing your projects Fritzing is almost without rivals.