Parent article: CircuitMaker Documentation
This page presents a listing of frequently asked questions about CircuitMaker. Click on a question to display its answer. For further, more detailed information on aspects of the software, use the links available in the panel to the right.
To use CircuitMaker requires an account to be setup. This is achieved by registering to become part of the CircuitMaker Community - through the CircuitMaker website. Initial installation of CircuitMaker is performed using the CircuitMaker Installer. This wizard-based installer is accessed by running a small (approx. 9MB) executable – CircuitMakerSetup.exe. This executable is downloaded from the website, and can be saved anywhere on your hard disk.
No, there is no licensing to worry about, and no subscription to maintain. CircuitMaker is totally free, giving you all the tools to think big and make cool stuff, with features and functionality to facilitate creation of diverse and challenging designs.
Generally, issues with downloading and installing CircuitMaker are related to firewalls and/or antivirus software. If you are having trouble, it is worth trying with them temporarily disabled.
If you are still having issues please read the following FAQs first, then try searching the Forum. If you still have no luck, start a new thread on the Forum.
The following is a list of URLs, and the required ports that need to be opened for them, in order for CircuitMaker to work:
When I start CircuitMaker, the Community window is blank and I get the following error:
This error may be because CircuitMaker received a certificate issued from untrusted source as it attempted to access the Community site. To check and resolve this:
If you can see this page in Firefox on your computer, it means that Firefox now has access to the correct security certificate. The advantage of using Firefox is that the internal security certificate that is issued to it by your proxy server, can also be used in CircuitMaker. Because you can access the CircuitMaker site in Firefox, you should now be able to get CircuitMaker working too, by copying the internal certificate from Firefox to CircuitMaker.
For both Firefox and CircuitMaker, the certificate is stored in:
With CircuitMaker not running, copy the cert8.db certificate file from Firefox to the following CircuitMaker folder:
Restart CircuitMaker, it should now connect to the Community site .
CircuitMaker starts, I can see the public projects and also the Forum topics, but I cannot open any project. If I open the Libraries panel it says Please log in.
For a number of designers this issue has turned out to be related to the Windows Internet Options, which was resolved by resetting them.
To do this:
Since CircuitMaker is a solution built for community-based design, you will need to be signed-in to the CircuitMaker Community to use the software. Once signed-in, you will have access to the wealth of design projects and components built by other members of the community, and of course be able to add your own creations for others to see.
The software can be set to check for new updates, on the System - General Settings page of the Preferences dialog. Use the drop-down associated to the Check fequency field - in the Automatic Updates region of the page - to specify how often a check is made. Choose from Never, On Start-up, Every day, Every 3 days, Every week, Every 2 weeks, and Every month. The default checking frequency is Every 3 days.
Alternatively, access the Extensions & Updates area by clicking the Extensions & Updates link, in the Tasks pane of CircuitMaker's Start page. Once there, click the Updates link to access the Updates page for the area. When a new version of the platform is available, a notification will be present in the Platform Updates region.
CircuitMaker's unified design environment consists of various Servers plugged into a core platform. Together with the core platform itself, these servers provide the resources of the software – its features and functionality. These are delivered in the form of commands, dialogs, panels, and the like. These resources are documented and collated by server. Use the following methods to locate information on a particular resource:
The CircuitMaker video tutorial series covers the entire PCB design process in CircuitMaker. You can find the videos over in the Video Vault.
CircuitMaker employs online management of design components, facilitated through the integration of the Ciiva electronic parts database. Containing millions of unique parts across various manufacturers and distributors, you can get pricing, stock information, datasheets, and more, directly from within CircuitMaker.
Hundreds of thousands of the components in the Ciiva database have a CircuitMaker component bound to them. These components reside in the secure, cloud-based Community Vault. And for those parts in the database that don't have an associated component, you can create one – with schematic symbol and PCB footprint, as required. You can even create custom components that don't exist anywhere in the Ciiva database!
A user can simply search for a part in the Ciiva database – directly from within CircuitMaker's Libraries panel – and then use the associated Community Vault component in their design. No more libraries stored locally on a hard drive – rather, an impressive catalog of components built-upon, and ratified by, the design collective. You can even save frequently used versions of components to your own Favorites library!
CircuitMaker is a community-based PCB design tool, where PCB design projects are made available to everyone in the design community – members can open a project for inspection, or create a new version from it (see Forking, below).
To achieve this, CircuitMaker designs are stored in the cloud, in a free, community storage Vault. Using the Community Vault is completely transparent, as a designer you browse, create, open and save projects and project documents that are stored in the Vault, from within CircuitMaker. PCB projects stored in the Community Vault are available to everyone in the CircuitMaker community.
You are the author, but the design projects created using CircuitMaker may include certain open source, or other software, originated from third parties that is subject to:
By using CircuitMaker you acknowledge that any project you post will be subject to one or more open source software or hardware licenses. The exact terms of GPL, LGPL, and some other licenses are provided to you with your particular product. Please refer to the exact terms of the GPL and LGPL at http://www.fsf.org (Free Software Foundation) or http://www.opensource.org (Open Source Initiative) regarding your rights under said license.
CircuitMaker is a full featured PCB design product that is designed for the open hardware community, regardless of whether designs are commercial or not.
CircuitMaker was created specifically for the maker and open hardware community, with the aim that designs are shared and visible to the public. Appreciating that you might not want to share your project until it has reached a suitable level of completeness, you can store up to 2 projects in your own private Sandbox. As you create a new Project you set the project to be either a Public project, or a Sandbox project.
To switch an existing project from Sandbox to Public, select the project in the Community region of the Start page (not in the Tasks list), as shown in the animation below. Click the Edit button to open the Edit Project dialog, where you can switch the project from Sandbox to Public.
Storing designs and components in the Community Vault enables collaboration between users. CircuitMaker is an open hardware platform, and having those great shared community resources would not be possible if designs were stored locally on each user’s computer.
While we appreciate the passion of Mac users, Altium products are currently only Windows-based. We will investigate support for Mac in the future, but do not make any promises of implementation, or time line. In the meantime, you can run CircuitMaker on Mac using Boot Camp® in conjunction with Parallels Desktop®, which works quite well.
While we appreciate the passion of Linux users, Altium products are currently only Windows-based. We will investigate support for Linux in the future, but do not make any promises of implementation, or time line. In the meantime, you can run CircuitMaker by running Windows in a Virtual Machine on Linux.
Essentially, there are no limitations to CircuitMaker (aside from your imagination!). So there are no limits on layers used, size of board, number of components, or number of nets.
As per the system requirements, CircuitMaker requires a minimum screen resolution of 1280 x 1024 pixels, for all dialogs to display correctly. It is possible to work on a screen with a lower resolution, for example 1024 x 768 or 1366 x 768, but it will require moving some dialogs around on the screen to access the buttons at the bottom of the dialog.
This How-To Geeks article includes links to 2 versions of an AutoHotKey script that allow a dialog to easily be moved around the screen using a keystroke+mouse action, without needing access to the dialog title bar. The download available from the lower link also includes a compiled version of the script, which does not require AutoHotKey to be already running on your PC.
The CircuitMaker Forum is the best place to report those bugs. Please provide as many details as possible, as well as images and any step-by-step instructions to recreate the issue.
From a designer's perspective, a CircuitMaker (or vault-based) component gathers together all information needed to represent that component across all design domains, within a single entity. It could therefore be thought of as a container in this respect. A 'bucket' into which all domain models and parametric information is stored.
However, while a CircuitMaker component can, for convenience, be considered as a single package of data and models in the Community Vault, these elements are in fact separate. The vault component entity (or 'item') is composed of just the base ID and parametric information, and the models are separate vault items that are linked to the component item.
A vault component is therefore built up from a master Component item (with its own editor in CircuitMaker) plus a number of linked types of Model items (each with their own editors in CircuitMaker).
The Community Vault is not exposed to the user. CircuitMaker's streamlined interface means that all data sourcing and linking is performed in the background, negating the need (and additional complexity) to interact directly with the vault. Your central access point for CircuitMaker's automated component management system is the Libraries panel, while design projects are managed through the community's Projects area (from the Start page, simply click the link to Open Project).
It’s possible that you may be searching Ciiva with with the ‘Has Model’ box checked, which will only return results with symbol and footprint models attached. Unchecking this box will search the entire Ciiva database, and may reveal more part options for your design.
If you have searched Ciiva with the ‘Has Model’ box unchecked and are still finding no results, it’s likely that your part is not in the Ciiva database at all. While the Ciiva database is enormous, there are still many parts out there not covered.
In the future, we will explore options to expand our part database, even expanding to more part aggregators similar to Ciiva. In the meantime, you can always create a new custom component to fill the gap.
When you browse through the Ciiva components in the Libraries panel, you will notice that some components have symbol and footprint models, while others do not. If the Ciiva component does not have models, it means that there is no design component stored in the CircuitMaker Community Vault for that Ciiva component. Any CircuitMaker designer can create a suitable CircuitMaker design component for a Ciiva component, which will then be available to all designers in the CircuitMaker community. You are also free to make a new version of any design component, if the existing version is not suitable for your requirements.
Use commands available on the panel's right-click context menu to either build the initial component for a Ciiva part (where it doesn't exist), build a new version of the component (where it does), or build a completely custom component - if you can't find it in a search of the Ciiva database.
This is the Community Vault's high integrity at play. To ensure no data is ever overwritten, each time an existing version of a component is edited, or a new version of that component is built, it is released (commited) to the vault into the next revision of the parent Component Item. Technically, the moment editing is invoked, the next planned revision of the Component Item is 'reserved', ensuring no other user can come along and release their own modification into that same revision, before the user has finished and either committed or discarded their changes.
These different versions of a CircuitMaker component (technically, revisions of the vault-based Component Item), are distinguished by the revision id element of the component's full identifier (which appears in the form <Item Id>-<Revision ID>). For example CMP-1248485-A.1 is the first revision, CMP-1248485-A.2 is the next, and so on.
CircuitMaker offers the concept of a 'favorite collection' of components. These represent vault-based components that you created or edited, or any that you have manually added to the favorites list. Your Favorites library can be accessed through the Libraries panel, or through the Favorites Library section of CircuitMaker's Start page (View | System | Start).
The basic design flow is:
To create an SMD pad that has a hole in it:
The animation below shows the process, with the display being switched to 3D mode to show the pad before it is edited, and after.
The key points to remember about creating and using a multi-part component include:
The STEP model is placed on to the PCB footprint, positioning it can be tricky because it may have a completely different 3 dimensional orientation to the footprint.
Once the footprint has been defined, you are ready to place and orient the STEP model:
The video shows these steps in detail.
An excellent source for 3D STEP models is www.3dcontentcentral.com
Yes, absolutely! Catering for true collaborative design within the community, CircuitMaker facilitates the ability to create project teams. When browsing a project in the Projects area of the community, simply click the Team button to view the active participants for that project.
By default, each newly created project is available for viewing by the whole of the CircuitMaker community - appearing as the Public entry, with Read access rights. In addition, the creator of the project, or Author, is assigned Full access rights.
The project creator can add specific members of the community as contributing participants, simply by granting them editing rights. To do this, use the Add New Member link, search for the desired user, and set their access to Edit. Alternatively, any community member can request to become a contributing participant for another member's project. To do this, use the Add New Team Request link, choose Edit rights, and supply a reason why you want these rights. The requesting member can view requests they've made in their My Requests list. The project creator will receive requests in their Pending Participants list, from where they can consider a request and either grant or reject it accordingly.
Forking (or branching for the software developers out there) is a feature that allows you to take a copy of an existing design project in the CircuitMaker Community. This allows you to effectively stand on the shoulders of others, taking a design to use as the basis for your own design, but without altering the original in any way.
Forking facilitates design reuse at the higher level. While components offer low-level building blocks that are reused throughout designs, the designs themselves become higher-level building blocks. Other makers can simply pick up an existing design and reshape it to fit their needs. In turn, their new cool design is made available to the community.
A Tag is a descriptive label that can be applied to any component in your Favorites library (while browsing through the Libraries panel). By using tags, you can further filter the content of your Favorites - quickly grouping components together that possess the same tag.
To apply tags to a selected component entry, right-click and select Tags from the context menu to open the Tags Editor dialog. Use this dialog to both create tags, and assign specific tags to the component as required.
Yes, absolutely! Simply go to workspace.circuitmaker.com and use the New Project link - located under the My Projects region of the presented Start page.
Controls are available on the detailed page for the project, once created, to open it, edit it (its title and description), and delete it. When you use the Open button, you will be presented with a pop-up window in which to specify the executable to use. Provided you're browsing the website on the same PC on which CircuitMaker itself is installed, you can simply browse to the CircuitMaker executable (\Program Files (x86)\Altium\CM\DXP.exe for a default installation) - your design will be opened automatically in CircuitMaker once it launches.
CircuitMaker facilitates streamlined migration of designs created in other tools, with importers for:
CircuitMaker's EAGLE Importer is able to import EAGLE design files saved with EAGLE version 6.4.0 (or later). These are XML-format in nature – EAGLE binary-format design files cannot be imported directly using the EAGLE Importer. For these older, binary version design files, it is advised to save them in this later (XML) format, through your EAGLE software, before attempting to import into CircuitMaker.
CircuitMaker can open Altium Schematic documents (*.SchDoc). You are therefore able to add existing documents of this kind to your CircuitMaker projects, irrespective of the product in which those schematics have been created (Altium Designer, PCBWorks, or CircuitStudio).
To add one or more existing Altium schematics to your CircuitMaker project, simply right-click on the entry for that project - in the Projects panel - and choose the Add Existing to Project command from the context menu. Browse to, and select, the schematic document(s) to add. You will have the opportunity to change the name of each document involved, as part of the process.
You can also open Schematic library documents (*.SchLib) and PCB library documents (*PcbLib) in CircuitMaker, by dragging them from the Windows File Explorer and dropping them on to CircuitMaker. Symbol or footprint primitives can then be copied/pasted into a open CircuitMaker schematic symbol or PCB footprint editor.
Absolutely! The ability to create variations of the same base design is a real strength of CircuitMaker, and a tremendous productivity booster for designers. Using variants, you can define any number of variations of the base design, configuring each component to be:
Variants that use any of these types of variations are all referred to as Assembly Variants, as they only impact on the assembly process - all variants share the same fabricated bare board. There is also support for variations to component overlay information on the PCB, for example changing a components' comment. This type of variation requires two overlay screens to be produced, resulting in two different bare boards. This type of variant is referred to as a Fabrication Variant.
When you add schematics and a PCB to a new project, the are saved into a temporary cache on your hard drive. You can tell if a file is only being held in the cache because it will have a blue cross next to its name in the Projects panel, as can be seen in the image below.
It is recommended that as well as saving the individual design files, that you also Commit the project. When you Commit a project all of the project documents are saved into the Community Vault. If your project is in your private sandbox those files in the Community Vault will continue to only be available to you, no one else can see them. You, as the owner of the project, can now access the Sandboxed project from any installation of CircuitMaker, from anywhere in the world, once you have logged in.
You can create your own schematic template, with your own logo or graphic on it.
Schematic templates are stored in: C:\Users\Public\Documents\Altium\CM\Templates
To create your own template:
Nets are identified as members of a Net Class by having a Parameter attached, with the Parameter Name = ClassName, and the Value = <NetClassName>. Parameters are attached to nets by placing a Parameter Set directive so that it touches the wire, as detailed below.
The steps to including nets in a net Class are:
If you're adding the Parameter Set objects to a busy schematic, set the Style to Tiny to fit them in between adjacent wires.
CircuitMaker can output Gerber (RS-274X) and ODB++ CAM formats.
In addition, the PCB can be exported in STEP format.
DWG and DXF files can be imported into a mechanical layer on an open PCB document, via the File » Import menu command. If the AutoCAD PCB Files (*.DXF; *.DWG) entry is not available in the supported file types dropdown of the Open dialog, it means that the AutoCAD DWG/DXF Importer is not installed.
AutoCAD PCB Files (*.DXF; *.DWG)
To install the Importer, click on Extensions & Updates in the Home View Tasks list, then click Configure to access the platform extensions, as shown below.
Enable the AutoCAD DXF/DWG option and then click the Apply button to install the extension, the software will need to restart to complete the installation process.
You will now be able to import DWG and DXF format data.
You do this by placing a boundary around the edge of the board on the Keep-Out layer using lines/arcs. These will place with the lines/arcs centreline right on the edge of the board shape (so they are half in the board and half outside). So if you placed a 10mil wide boundary, then 5mil of that would be inside the board. Press Tab as you are placing the first line to set the width, press Shift+Spacebar to change the corner mode and Spacebar to change the corner direction.
You then use a Clearance design rule to specify how close objects can be placed to these boundary objects, keeping in mind that the clearance rule is from object edge to object edge. With 5mil of boundary object width and a clearance rule of 10mil you would get the required 15mil clearance.
If this board edge clearance requirement is different from the default routing clearance you can create it as a separate design rule and name it accordingly. You would then scope it so that it applied between the objects on the Keep-Out layer - against all other objects, as shown in the image below.
Set this rule to have a higher priority than the routing rule to ensure that it is always applied in preference to a routing rule that might allow routing to be closer than the 10mil clearance it requires. In the image you can see that it is listed higher up than the other Clearance rule, indicating that it has a higher priority.
You can easily edit the width of existing routing, using the following approach:
All selected tracks will have their width changed. The animation below shows the process.
A board cutout is defined by placing a closed path made up of straight and curved edges. The Home | Board | Board Cutout command supports placing curved edges that are 45 or 90 degrees.
The easiest way to define a cutout shape is to first define the shape using tracks and arcs on a mechanical layer, and then place the board cutout so that it follows the same path. This technique is straightforward when the path edges are straight, but is more difficult when there are arcs.
One approach to help with this is to place a Center style dimension for each circle (or arc), which is sized/oriented to the circle (arc) size. Keep an eye on the Status bar as you place the dimension to see what step in the placement sequence you are up to. With the dimension present, as you place the board cutout in the 90 degree arc-in-corner mode, it will snap to the ends of the dimension cross, making it easy to get the correct radius and start/stop angle for the arc.
The animation below shows the process, including the keystrokes used to switch corner modes (Shift+Space), and the corner direction (Space).
The animation does not show how to resize the arc-in-corner when it is too small. Hold the , key to make the arc radius smaller or the . key to make it bigger, include the Shift key to speed up resizing.
Plane layers are defined in the negative, so objects you place on a plane layer become copper-free areas.
To split a plane Place so it can be used by multiple nets:
Split regions do not have to touch the edge of the board, they can be islands, and can also be nested.
Each split area takes on the color of the net assigned to it, double-click on a Net name in the PCB panel to assign its color.
When I upload a Zip of the output files from my design to OSH Park, the following message appears:
Error: Board must be larger than 250x250 mils
But my board is larger than this.
PCB fabricators need to know where the outline of the board is. While CircuitMaker uses the board shape during the design process, this shape is not used during output generation, so the OSH Park software might not have a layer available that contains suitable outline data.
CircuitMaker includes a dedicated mechanical layer, called Outline, where the outline of the board shape (as well as any board cutouts) should be defined. Note that the outline can also be defined on the Keep-Out layer, while this is not OSH Park's preferred layer for the board outline it can be used, but it is important that you only include either the Outline layer or the Keep-Out layer in your Gerber file-set, but not both.
If you use the Outline layer then this layer must be enabled as a Gerber layer during output generation, which will result in the Gerber file:
To resolve this error you must place lines/arcs on the Outline layer that define the board outline. CircuitMaker includes a command to create the outline for you, directly from the board shape. To do this:
When generating fabriction output files, always ensure that the Gerber Units and Format settings match the NC Drill Unit and Format settings, and that both use the same Position on Film setting, for example Reference to Relative Origin.