Circuit Maker Open Beta
On the 16th of May Altium released Beta 1.04 of Circuit Maker, and opened the beta testing to all.
You bet I was keen to try it!
Second First Impressions
Earlier I blogged about my experience with the closed beta, and I wanted to see the difference between the two.
I installed CM, opened it, logged in and started my first project. I find that if I have *some thing* in particular I can focus on it, rather than much about with simple circuits that my heart isn't really into.
So when the Clipsal 780K1 Light Switch Multiplier died at my folks place, and after finding out it was $200 for replacement unit, I decided to make a clone of it so my pensioner parents can have a spare.
So, if you get into CM, look up Switch Multiplier and you might find my project.
So I added a schematic sheet (from the Project command on the ribbon) and set to lookng up parts.
The first change is that CM no longer uses the Octopart database, but one called Ciiva. No idea why, but it just is.
Anyway, the starting point I chose was the DPDT relay used in the 780K1. I knew that the Finder 55.12 series was suitable and, yay, it's there in the Ciiva database.
You get started by right clicking on your part, and selecting 'Build This Component'.
At the time there wasn't a schematic symbol or pcb footprint associated with the part. No worries, happy to build some!
The component screen shows the part, and shows the holding places for the schematic symbol and footprint models (and notably a simulation model - forum posts suggest that simulation is a feature yet to come to CM).
If you have used Altium, you will find the Schematic Symbol editor to be very familiar. The ribbon is a bit cluttered (never been a fan of that interface) but it's easy to navigate. From there you can place pins, symbols and all the things you need to build a schematic symbol.
The schematic part building is very familiar to the way Altium does it, with the exception of the higher power tools (like list editing groups of parts). But hey, time is money and Altium users have paid for the power tools. In CM, it's free so you can spend a little more time on it :)
In a few minutes my pins were defined and my symbol was ready to go.
Each symbol needs a footprint. I'm happy that CM supports the use of 3D models, and import is as easy as in Altium.
After finding an appropriate Step Model from 3D Content Central, I placed it in the footprint editor and then tried to move it like you do in Altium. Left click, go to drag it and... error!
This left me confused! What is the point of having 3D models if you cant place them like you need? Sort answer is yes you can, but you need to get into the Ribbon interface. While in 3D view (keys 2 / 3 toggle between 2D and 3D in the footprint editor, the same with the PCB editor).
With the 3D options you can select move and then drag the part around, but you can also do the very cool things like 'Align face with board' (orients the step model and lays it on the top of the PCB in some simple step) and add snap points.
Pro-tip - when placing snap points, press the space bar to toggle 'midpoint mode'. The snap point is then placed midway between two points you select and make the selection of the middle of a pin a breeze.
In the screenshot above you can see where I've added snap points to the pins (pads have already been placed).
In 2D mode, when you start placing your pads, and if you have selected the 'outline' layer (where step models are imported to by default) you can use the snap points to locate your pads
And here you can see how when the pad I'm moving is 'locked' to the snap point (the white snap points turn the cursor grid black when all is aligned).
Being able to do this I placed all my pads in less than a minute. I then checked that the model was correct by measuring the distance between the pads and comparing them to the datasheet dimensions. At this point, all is looking good!
Once the symbol and footprint are built, you can push them back to the database by committing them. Now they are there for the rest of the world to use!
Once built, the part is automatically added to your 'Favourites' library. If you right click on the library name and select refresh, you new part shows up. You can then drag it into your schematic.
So far it's taken me about 15 minutes to get to this point, with the exception of the hour I spent seeking step models in 3D Content Central. Yes I got distracted....
You can also double click the part in your schematic and adjust parameters if needed.
In my case I had to change the default designator from L? to K? - probably because I'd used an inductor symbol while building my relay.
Not in the Database (Custom Part Creation)
One big criticism I had with the closed beta was that if the part didn't exist in the Octopart database you were screwed. Things like Fiducial's, Edge Connectors and Tag-Connect
Well, Altium have listened, and fixed it!
If you right click on any part in the Ciiva database, you can find the 'Build New Custom Component' menu entry.
Just like before, you can launch the symbol and footprint editors by clicking on the model place holders, and you can build your part just like before.
CM may be a free tool, but it's got some powerful features. You can for example set parts 'types'. In this case I've chosen 'Standard (No BOM)'. This will stop the BOM generator adding what is only pcb artwork being added to your Bill of Materials. Excellent!
With that, my first custom, not-locked-to-a-database part was ready. Next up, I'll complete my schematic and talk about building my pcb.