DownStream Launches FabStream PCB Design Tool Print E-mail
Written by Mike Buetow   
Friday, 19 April 2013 11:23

MARLBOROUGH, MA – DownStream Technologies today announced the launch of FabStream, an integrated printed circuit board design and manufacturing solution targeted at the DIY electronics market that consists of small businesses, startups, engineers, inventors, hobbyists, and other electronics enthusiasts.

“Our vision for FabStream was to create an intuitive PCB solution for a complex part of the electronic product development process. FabStream offers the casual DIY user free comprehensive, yet easy-to-use PCB design tools readily available and integrated with manufacturing,” said Rick Almeida, founder of DownStream and managing director of FabStream. “We wanted FabStream to support those individuals who are less experienced in PCB design and manufacturing by eliminating design pitfalls that can lead to problems getting a board produced.”

The FabStream service works in three easy steps. First, the user logs onto the FabStream website, selects a FabStream manufacturing partner and downloads the free design software. Next, they proceed to create PCB libraries, schematics and board layouts. Finally, the software leads the user through the process of ordering PCBs online with the manufacturer. Users pay only for the PCBs they purchase. The service is largely Internet-based so FabStream can be accessed globally and is available 24/7/365.

DIY users tend to be generalists responsible for many aspects of product development from circuit, software and mechanical design, through procurement, assembly and field test. As a result design volume is often low, making the purchase of commercial design software prohibitive, and where assistance with more complex parts of development, such as PCB manufacturing, can be beneficial. FabStream also works in larger corporations where engineers may require a quick proof of concept to validate circuits before committing to a formal engineering implementation. FabStream enables these individuals to quickly develop a short-term prototype. Once the circuit is proven out, it can be implemented into the corporate design automation flow.

An Integrated Approach

FabStream starts with the free SoloPCB Design software customized to each manufacturing partner. All of the manufacturer’s production capabilities are built into SoloPCB, allowing the user to work within the manufacturers’ constraints right from the start. Design changes can be made and then verified through an integrated analyzer that compares the modification to the manufacturer’s rules using a quick pass/fail check, helping the user keep the design in synch with manufacturing.

SoloPCB does not contain any CAM outputs. Instead, a secure, industry-standard IPC-2581 manufacturing file is automatically extracted, encrypted and electronically routed to the manufacturer during the ordering process. The IPC-2581 file contains all the design information needed for manufacturing, eliminating the need to create Gerber and NC drill files – which can be problematic for individuals unfamiliar with PCB manufacturing. The use of IPC-2581 makes SoloPCB the first PCB design tool to use the standard exclusively between design and manufacturing.

Free SoloPCB Design Software

The free SoloPCB Design software consists of commercial-quality schematic capture, PCB layout and autorouting in one, easy-to-use environment. To deliver commercial-level software for free, the base technology was acquired from a leading Electronic Design Automation software company headquartered in North America and then, enhanced to automate the flow between design and manufacturing. The acquired base technology has been used by hundreds of high tech companies around the world for many years, validating that the core functionality is well proven in the field.

“Free software for PCB manufacturing” is not new, but many of the current offerings limit design size and layer count and lock the user into a single manufacturer. FabStream differentiates itself by the depth of the technology that SoloPCB supports. PCBs up to 16 layers can be designed and priced. Complex PCB technologies such as blind and buried vias as well as controlled and matched impedance are supported and priced through an automated RFQ process. The software remains consistent between manufacturers so that users can choose the manufacturer that best meets their technological, delivery, and budgetary needs.

PCB Manufacturing

Software development is DownStream’s core competency so the company wanted the same level of expertise for PCB manufacturing. DownStream has created a network of PCB manufacturing partners to offer varying levels of service and a wide array of manufacturing alternatives. “Our business arrangement with our partners allows both parties to do what they’re good at, allows us to continue to focus on software development, while delivering quality and affordable PCB manufacturing,” said Almeida.

FabStream has signed six inaugural manufacturing partners including Bare Board Group and Mass Design in North America; Allfavor Circuits in Shenzhen China; WEdirekt, a division of Würth Elektronik Group, and LeitOn, both based in Germany; and Prago Board in the Czech Republic. Several other partnerships are being developed and will be announced in the coming months. FabStream is striving to add partners in key geographical regions around the world so that users can work with local suppliers. Customized versions of SoloPCB for each manufacturer will be rolled out throughout 2013.

Almeida explains, “The success of FabStream is tied directly to our customers’ success. Unless a user can get a PCB designed and built, we do not receive any income. This gives us strong incentive to make sure our users not only have all the technology they need, but that it’s presented in a way that doesn’t impede their workflow”.

Beginning today, FabStream for Mass Design, is now in beta pilot. SoloPCB for Mass Design can be downloaded at the FabStream website and through Mass Design. SoloPCB for Mass Design is free to download and Mass Design’s PCB pricing will apply.

 

Last Updated on Friday, 19 April 2013 11:32
 

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