Hardware hacking often seems like black magic to the uninitiated, which is why 123D Circuits is so cool: it allows you to learn electronics using a virtual Arduino board and breadboard without blowing up capacitors or burning yourself with solder on your work table.
Created by AutoDesk, 123D Circuits is part of the company’s “sandbox” initiative that offers simple 3D simulators, 3D printing apps, and other tools for beginners and advanced users to take part in the Maker movement.
To be clear I have very little experience in breadboard design and I find Arduino baffling right now (I’m pretty good with my Raspberry Pi, though). However, as an entry-level system for creating circuits as well as electronics design collaboration this thing looks pretty good. You can even print your own PCBs using designs made in the app and it supports Arduino programming using a built-in code editor.
The service is free and upgraded accounts are available for $12 and $25 a month. The lower price point gets you 5% off PCB orders and unlimited public circuits (as well as 5 private circuits.) Twenty-five dollars per month gets you unlimited private circuits.
The app runs in the browser and offers a number of components, pre-made designs, and chips. You drag and drop components from a large library of simulated electronics and then “run” them, simulating the flow of electricity through the designs. In short, it’s like having a RadioShack on your laptop. You can also see other public circuits and play with them on the fly.
Circuits.io isn’t new – it’s been around since 2012 – but these entry-level Arduino tools help improve the product and make it easier for newbs to get into hardware hacking without zapping themselves.