I bought an Arduino Uno and a Voice Shield more than a year ago, but only recently bothered to start messing around with them. At the time I purchased it I was intrigued to use a microprocessor platform with so much community support and a powerful language, but once I had the thing it annoyed me that I couldn’t find an easy way to test ideas without combining physical hardware configurations and a locally installed IDE. I like simulation and I like web apps. I like to start something on one machine, leave it going in a browser window, and pick it up on another machine.
Autodesk’s 123D Circuits app provides something of a solution, with several additional benefits. The app originated as simply Circuits.io, falling into Autodesk’s 123D fold last fall. It allows for simulation of simple circuits on a virtual breadboard attached to an Arduino. Users select basic components from a reasonably complete library, control the Arduino through a pop-up code editor, and view the results through a serial output window or the action of components in the breadboard. That’s the visualization you see in the featured image above. There’s also a schematics view, an integrated parts list, and a tool for tying the simulation to a PCB design. The PCB design tool really shines, with pre-built footprints speeding the process quite a bit.
Overall, it’s very reminiscent of Fritzing. That probably shouldn’t be surprising as Fritzing is a leading open-source initiative in this area. The similarity is a very good thing.
While I’d imagine that 123D Circuits would make a great tool for education, whether personal or in a classroom setting, my primary use will more likely revolve around PCB production. Some of my ongoing work may lead to the creation of custom Arduino shields that could be designed and ordered through Autodesk’s app. I think being able to convert my ideas to small runs of professionally manufactured boards will be pretty cool!
Check it out for yourself – 123D Circuits – http://123d.circuits.io/