Are you a hardware design engineer, have you ever imagined if you no more need to design schematic and do the PCB layout but just tell what all you want in the design and some mighty power (AI) will do rest for you?
Certainly, there is a push towards automating the hardware design, read about this project from DARPA.
It is no more a fiction. There are various companies across the globe who are trying out artificial intelligence to automate so far the unautomated hardware/PCB design process, some companies are even going even further and trying to generate the embedded code according the design requirements.
We all have seen auto-routers in PCB design but this is more than that, all the companies listed below are trying to capture the requirements at a very high-level and letting the software do the rest of the part automatically.
But, today these tools are still in experimenting & development stage but I feel in a couple of years these tools will become much more advanced and will be able to automate most of the circuit design requirements across various industries. This is definitely the game changer technology in embedded system design.
If you are more interested to get into details of what it takes to create such a tool/technology, read this article from Zak Homuth about Compiling Hardware.
So, are you up for trying them out today what they can do?
Companies building Automation(AI) tools for the Hardware / PCB Design
1. JITX (USA )
JITX is is building next‑generation software to help companies design better electronics. They are dedicated to solving difficult problems with huge impact, their first step is to automate circuit board design.
They are seed‑stage startup, backed by Y Combinator.
JITX: The input is a high-level system block diagram (which could be on the back of a napkin), and a description of the required functionality. We work with you to hammer out the details and then work your design through our tools.
They offer a fixed price or subscription based flexible engagement. Looks like they are not providing a software as of now but helping companies automate hardware design and deliver it faster using their tools in the backend.
Some of the designs they have done (as mentioned on their website) are shown below:
See JITX tool in action using a script to design a PCB.
2. Contunity (GERMANY)
Contunity is a german company who is reducing the complexity of designing electronics with the help of easy to use drag and drop tool to pick the required building block and then the software will automatically build the rest of the design.
See a quick introduction about what they are trying to build and why.
Short product demo video is here:
They are still running pilot projects with focus on large companies and enterprises. Their official release is planned for middle of the next year.
You can contact them if you are interested to try their tool which is still in development stage.
3. Circuit Tree (INDIA)
Circuit Tree is an Indian startup who is trying to do the similar thing but they have a GUI based online tool to input the requirements.
They have another more advanced way of giving detailed custom inputs. They are taking the high level requirement inputs and generating Schematic, PCB Design, BOM with pricing using Octopart database automatically using their backend tool.
After the design is generated, an inhouse team looks at the design and gives it a final finish before delivery. It is estimated that their tools helps engineers save anywhere between 70 – 90% of the circuit design effort.
Some of the example PCB designs (Github) they have developed using their tool are shown below:
You can also watch a demo of their tool here:
If you are interested to take their services or want to try their tool, request for a demo here: https://app.circuit-tree.com/
4. CircuitMind (UK)
Circuit Mind is another technology company based out of London trying to completely automate the design of electronic circuits. Their compiler takes in the requirements for a circuit board and outputs the circuit board design.
They have a short introduction video on their website. It looks like they are in very early stage of development and not yet ready to showcase what they have already built. I was not able to find more details on their website or somewhere else. I will try to contact their founders and if I get more details I will add here later.
Hope you find this article interesting and now you know some of the companies who are trying to change the way the hardware is getting designed today. Future is really going to be interesting and hopefully hardware design is not going to be that hard.
There is another company Gumstix originally a system-on-module manufacturing company based out of California. They have launched an online tool by name Geppetto which enables board design with an ease of drag and drop of components and also shows the board in 3D so you know how your board look before ordering.
One can see the cost of the board after the design is ready and they claim to deliver board in 15 working day with 2200 USD setup charge + board cost.
As per my knowledge they are using pre-built circuit blocks and then later once the order is placed, in-house engineering team designs the board and get it manufactured by an outside EMS company.
They are trying to automate the whole process which includes hardware design, sourcing, manufacturing, testing in one shot.
The only limitation is, they don’t provide design files to you and they have limited component and hardware platform support. But, over the period of time I believe they will build more component support and it will become quite widely used tool.
Geppetto Introduction Video
If you like the article please share with others. You can also read some of my other articles on embedded system design here.
If you a startup or a hardware engineer and need help in your design, you can contact me here.