The Resources We’ve Found Helpful
DipTrace – This is the electronics PCB design software I use for all of my designs. I love DipTrace because its powerful, intuitive to use, and very affordable. Most other circuit design programs are overly complex and very awkward to use.
Diptrace is a suite of programs including schematic capture, PCB layout, a component editor, and a package pattern editor. It’s very affordable compared to other PCB design packages which cost several thousand dollars, and it is available in several upgrade levels.
Each Diptrace level has a certain limit on the number of pins and layers allowed. The most basic Starter edition costs only $75 but is limited to 300 pins and 2 levels. Most PCB layouts need at least 4 layers which requires the Standard edition at $345. The Full edition at $895 allows unlimited pins and unlimited layers.
EasyEDA is a free PCB design tool that includes a schematic editor, PCB layout designer, and circuit simulation. Unlike other free PCB design tools, EasyEDA allows you to output the PCB layout in Gerber format so you can have boards made by any vendor.
Seeed Studio offers a wide selection of electronic modules as well as affordable PCB production services (called Seeed Studio Fushion). Whether you need only 5 boards or 8,0000 boards, Seeed Studio Fushion offers excellent prices and quality. They also offer affordable 3D printing prototype services.
Sunstone Circuits is the company I use to produce all of my blank printed circuit boards. Extremely high quality, fast, and helpful.
Screaming Circuits assembles all of my printed circuit boards by soldering all of the components on the board. Nothing but quality from them and great service. Highly recommended.
San Francisco Circuits is another company I’ve used to produce blank printed circuit boards. They’re able to produce boards with a very small pin pitch. Great service and quality.
Elecrow is a Chinese company that offers cost-effective one-stop OEM/ODM solutions from original prototyping to batch manufacturing. Their services include circuit design, PCB prototyping, components sourcing, PCB assembly, testing, and product packaging.
FirstCut produces custom plastic prototype parts using a subtractive process. A subtractive process means they start with a block of plastic and then cut away parts of it (like a sculpture) to create your custom piece. Additive processes (like 3D printers) instead built up your part using layer by layer using molten plastic.
The advantage of a subtractive process like FirstCut is that you can use the same production type of plastic that you will be use once you transition to injection molding. Subtractive processes instead use a less ideal resin that simulates the type of plastic you will use in production. Subtractive processes usually make the most sense if the plastic requirements for your product are critical.
Protomold – When you are finally ready to progress from a few prototypes (<50 units) to real production you will need to use injection molds for any custom plastic pieces. 3D printing is only good for a low number of prototype samples. Protomold is a great option for volumes less than about 10,000 units.
Protomold uses a softer steel to create their molds which drastically lowers the cost. They create molds for both plastic and metal parts, although I’ve only used them for plastic parts. Once you get volumes higher than 10,000 units then you’ll need to step up to a hard steel mold, and probably transition to an Asian supplier. However for medium volumes I found Protomold a fantastic option.
Arduino and Raspberry Pi – The further you can take your product’s development on your own the more you’ll save once you need to hire an engineer to finish it. The are several development kits available now that are designed to be used by tech-savvy people who aren’t necessarily engineers. If you’ve done some computer programming and are open to learning something new that’s moderately complex then you may want to consider trying one out. It will take you some time to learn, but if your budget is limited this can save you some engineering costs.
Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and BeagleBone are the three most popular development kits. I use Arduino and Raspberry Pi for some projects as a proof of concept (I’ve never used a BeagleBone). Arduino is the easiest to learn and is a microcontroller based kit. The Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone are more like a complete computer and are much more powerful.
Open Home Automation – A fantastic website for learning how to create home automation projects. He offers several eBooks and a video course on how to setup home automation systems using an Arduino, Raspberry Pi, ESP8266, or Particle Photon development kit.
Build-Electronic-Circuits.com – A great website for learning basic electronics. Some really nice tutorials.
AllAboutCircuits.com – A fantastic online publisher for those wishing to either learn electronics design or to expand on their current knowledge.
Electrical4U – Dedicated to the teaching of all things related to electrical and electronics engineering. They cover analog and digital communications, control systems, power electronics, transformers, basic electronics – and much more.
Neuronic Works – Develops new electronic products. Offers electronics design, firmware and software development, and industrial design.
HardwarePioneers.com – A community for those developing Internet of Things (IoT) products. They hold monthly meetings for expert talks and networking.
SteveBlank.com – This is probably the most popular blog out there for hardware startups. Steve is a hardware startup master having created several very successful hardware startups. His website is absolutely loaded with tons of great articles.
Upverter – Upverter is a web-based PCB design tool. They also happen to have a great blog for hardware startups.
Bolt – Bolt is a venture capital firm for early-stage hardware startups developing a product at the intersection of hardware and software. Unlike most investors that require a completed product before investing, Bolt invests up to $500K in pre-product startups.
Dragon Innovation – Dragon Innovation helps startups take their product from prototype to manufacturing. Their blog focuses on topics related to hardware manufacturing.
CircuitHub – CircuitHub offers software for helping startups scale manufacturing. Their blog offers lots of articles discussing a wide variety of topics for hardware startups.
Hackster.io – Hackster.io is an online community for hardware startups and hackers to share their open source projects. Their blog includes some great articles including interviews of various people involved in hardware development (including me).
Bald Engineer – If you want to learn some of the basics behind electronics design then definitely check out this blog.
JeremyBlum.com – Website/blog loaded with lots of information on open-source electronic projects.
Dangerous Prototypes – provides a new open-source electronic project every month. They also have a significant archive of projects. Great for those learning electronics.
Ada Fruit develops and sells various electronics products, electronics components, tools, and accessories. Also offers a large library of learning resources, including tutorials, beginner videos, and a live video electronics show.
Contextual Electronics – Offers paid courses that teach electronics in an easy-to-understand way with lots of hands-on interaction.
Motava – Motava is a digital marketing agency that builds websites and can drive people to your website through SEO, PPC and other digital marketing mediums. They specialize in high-tech industries and are headquartered in San Jose, California. If you mention Predictable Designs you’ll get a 10% discount.
Quora – Quora is a question and answer website with thousands of experts. You can pose a question in just about any category you can think of and get multiple experts to answer it. There are countless questions (and experts) about product development, entrepreneurship, etc. I’ve answered lots of questions on Quora. Highly recommended.
Startup Professionals Inc. – Ultimately, your goal needs to be to develop a successful business, and not just a successful product. For this aspect I highly recommend you obtain the services of veteran startup guru Marty Zwilling, founder of Startup Professionals. Whether you plan to bootstrap your startup, or seek outside funding, you need to create a solid business plan. Being a professional startup angel investor, Marty is very knowledgeable about how to create a winning business plan.
I will continue to update this page on a regular basis so be sure and check back often.
Last updated: 11/14/2017