EarningsIf you’re keeping score, Autodesk didn’t make the first PLMish acquisition of 2014 –that was 3D Systems, last week— but the company didn’t wait long to get back in the game. Today, at the Consumer Electronics Show, Autodesk announced that it has acquired Circuits.io, a web app for designing and simulating electronic circuits. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Circuits.io is now part of the Autodesk 123D family and is aimed squarely at makers. Autodesk VP Samir Hanna, responsible for consumer products, said in a statement that products like the Arduino (a programmable microprocessor used by hobbyists to do all sorts of amazing things; Google it), and the easy availability of sensors and other components “are creating new opportunity for gadget makers and inventors. Autodesk works with a large and passionate community of electronics-focused users, with over 2000 Instructables leveraging Arduino and circuitry-based projects on Instructables.com”.

A couple of interesting things about this acquisition: (1) Electronics, which at the circuit level is a new vertical for Autodesk. (2) Community, a continuing focus for Autodesk, which has built a global presence with millions of people who never see themselves, initially, as CAD users but who could, perhaps someday, be convinced that their gizmo will be easier to bring to reality with one of Autodesk’s commercial offerings. 123D Circuits (a joint Autodesk/Circuits.io offering released as a Sandbox in September 2013) has a community of over 30,000 circuit designers who can start ideas, share them and start new projects based on someone else’s idea (no clue if or how the IP is managed). Finally, (3) A complete idea to reality workflow. 123D Circuits lets users order real, physical custom-built circuit boards of their designs. I imagine it’s the electronics version of 3D printing, and will appeal to a significant portion of the circuit hobbyist market.

There are other Arduino simulators on the market and I don’t know enough about them to understand why 123D Circuits is different. But one can surmise that competitors lack that Autodesk “feel”, the sophisticated UI and the close integration with Instructables (another Autodesk brand).

I’m no electronics wiz, so have asked Autodesk for clarification: One of the cool things about 123D Circuits is that it lets users simulate their Arduino designs. When it does, is it simulating on/off/flashing/whatever the circuit is supposed to do, or is it also looking at power consumption, magnetic effects and other EDA-like analyses? If so, there’s a CAE component to the acquisition that needs to be explored in more detail.

UPDATE: Autodesk’s Noah Cole tells me that, yes, the simulation is functional, as in “if I program the circuit like this, will the light go on?”

This video, from Autodesk, explains how 123D Circuits works.

Are you an Arduino geek? Do you know what makes for a good simulator? How is 123D Circuits different from the other offerings out there? Chime in in the comments below.