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PCB Design Tools at Maker Faire Open Source Hardware Summit

Judy Warner
|  Created: September 20, 2017  |  Updated: December 8, 2020

In response to a grassroots swell of “makers”, Maker Media launched the first Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006. By 2014 over 215,000 attendees flocked to their two flagship events in New York city and San Francisco. Over the years, these large events spawned Featured Maker Faires, Mini-Maker Faires and School Maker Faires all around the world.

If you’ve not heard of or been to a Maker Faire, I think their website describes it best:

“Maker Faire is the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth—a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned.”

Screaming Circuits at Makerfaire
Duane Benson and Team from Screaming Maker

(a quick-turn design and fabrication platform for PCBs)

You may be surprised to learn that Altium is part of (and serves) the maker community through a free EDA tool called CircuitMaker. This tool provides creative makers to have access to a no-cost PCB design tool and to join the CircuitMaker community. This software has enabled hundreds of technical makers from around the globe to create and collaborate on everything from power supplies to nixie clocks.

The Maker Faire in New York City is one of their two flagship events.  Colby Siemer, an Altium Applications Engineer (AE), along with a small team--including yours truly--attended and hosted a table there on September 23-24 and captured the below photos showing some of the inventive creations on display. We will also share some video we captured as soon as it is available--so stay tuned! Until then, enjoy the video we shot at last year’s San Diego Maker Faire. Maker media also puts out a very colorful and popular magazine called Make.

The maker culture, in general, supports open-source hardware. Typical interests enjoyed by the maker culture include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronics, robotics, 3D printing, and the use of more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and, mainly, its predecessor, the traditional arts and crafts.

Because of this connection, Siemer’s calendar this fall also includes the Open Source Hardware Association’s annual Summit. The 2017 Summit will be held in Denver, Colorado on October 5th at City Hall. This is a place for open source hardware hackers to come and exchange ideas, hear speakers, and network with fellow hackers.

You may wonder why a company like Altium, who produces one of the world's leading professional PCB design tools (Altium Designer®) is involved in the and hardware hacker communities--or makes a free software tool to support them. Let me explain. From our beginnings, two young Australian innovators from the University of Tasmania were trying to create a hardware product in an era when ECAD tools were only available to large companies with deep pockets and minicomputers (or expensive dedicated engineering stations).

Frustrated by the lack of access to these tools, Nick Martin and Dave Warren developed a software tool for their own use on an early version of a personal computer that was just emerging at the time (making them both makers and hackers). Some have called that moment in electronics history the “big bang of EDA.” At Altium, we continue in the spirit of Martin and Warren in being committed to producing fully functional EDA tools to anyone who wants them. Some of the best ideas and the most talented PCB designers emerge from the creative and innovative community of makers and hardware hackers. Therefore, we will continue to produce and support no or low-cost tools like CircuitMaker® and CircuitStudio® and pack them with rich features to give a foot up to those in these incredible communities (of which we are a part of).

We encourage you to find a Faire in your local area and revel in the wonder, as we do, at the amazing creations put on display there. It truly is the “greatest show and tells on earth!”

Marcus Cheung
Marcus Cheung, Captain of the NYU Tandon Motorsports Team showing off NYU's first Baja SAE vehicle

Makerfaire Dragon float
"Heavy Meta" The Fire Breathing Dragon

Bike at Makerfaire
Double Decker bike with Side-Car....and a Knight in Shining Armor giving rides!

Judy at Makerfaire
Judy Warner on the opening day of NYC Maker Faire with the renown Maker Bot.
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About Author

About Author

Judy Warner has held a unique variety of roles in the electronics industry for over 25 years. She has a background in PCB Manufacturing, RF and Microwave PCBs and Contract Manufacturing, focusing on Mil/Aero applications. 

She has also been a writer, blogger, and journalist for several industry publications such as Microwave Journal, PCB007 Magazine, PCB Design007, PCD&F, and IEEE Microwave Magazine, and an active board member for PCEA (Printed Circuit Engineering Association). In 2017, Warner joined Altium as the Director of Community Engagement. In addition to hosting the OnTrack Podcast and creating the OnTrack Newsletter, she launched Altium's annual user conference, AltiumLive. Warner's passion is to provide resources, support, and advocate for PCB Design Engineers worldwide.

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