For a maker, there’s now no excuse in not using his/her creativity to the maximum extent. All the tools are readily available, you just need to think of what you want to do and shape that will into something real. Electronics industry now offers everything from advanced microcontrollers to low power radios, various sensors, displays, a multitude of module of all kinds and also pcb manufacturing. Take the latter as a good example:
I still remember buying prototyping PCBs and my early constructions using jumper wires. Then I got one step further, by making my own PCBs, with toner transfer and a small motor to drill the holes. This allowed tiny traces and with some extra attention, even double layering.
The biggest challenge was that the tiniest defect could result in hardly traceable bugs, and believe me, there were lots of issues with the DIY boards due to the toner not transferring properly. Then there were those vias-es, so many times I used a lot of time, trying to make a design single layer or with very few passes, just trying to work around the problem.
EasyEDA online all-in-one tool
Due to my recent involvement in hardware production, I got to know a few manufacturing companies. EasyEDA was one of them, and I knew they do PCBs and that they also have a nice online Gerber Viewer which came handy several times. What I didn’t know up until recently was their online tools include SCH and PCB editing, a huge library of symbols and components, project management and collaborative work. There’s also ngspice based simulation tool and a community forum.
Now imagine a free tool that connects you with your colleagues for doing the perfect design work together, or just adding a remote friend to have a look on your newly finished board, to look for errors or do some improvements. This is fantastic, especially after the bad news concerning Eagle’s lastest perverting by Autodesk.
Once the board is done, you can use the Gerber viewer for a last minute check, then go ahead and order the production, at some very decent rates. I compared EasyEDA with several manufacturers, and for the sizes I needed (about 110×60 cm, FR4, dual layer) cost was about 1$ / pcs for 100pcs. Given their powerful online tools, I’ll surely use those more.