Autodesk acquires PCB design for Fusion 360

Jun 29, 2016 | Hot Topics

Interesting. I just saw that Autodesk has acquired Cadsoft Computer GmbH, a German company, from Premier Farnell. Premier Farnell distributes electronics components though many different channels, including online markets,and maintains the element14 online community for engineers, that Premier Farnell says has over 320,000 registered users worldwide.

Cadsoft created the electronics design package EAGLE; Premier Farnell says that Autodesk will add EAGLE to its software portfolio while Premier Farnell will continue to distribute EAGLE on behalf of Autodesk.

A little bit of math, since the transaction value wasn’t announced. Premier Farnell, a public company in the UK, said that the “net proceeds of the disposal will have the effect of reducing Premier Farnell’s reported net debt position as at 31 January 2016 by approximately 8%”. “Net proceeds” means the amount Premier Parnell will realize after subtracting all selling costs from the purchase price, so this could be off by a bit, but it appears Autodesk paid about £20 million for Cadsoft.

Cadsoft’s EAGLE is a printed circuit board (PCB) design tool that Cadsoft says is suitable for professionals as well as makers, and has hundreds of thousands of users worldwide. One reason for its success may be the the “openness of EAGLE design resources, such as its extensive and fully-open component libraries” and the software’s customizability, with “hundreds of extensions (ULPs) openly available to all users and its structured XML file format”.

This deal cements a relationship that began as a partnership in December 2015, with Autodesk writing in a blog that connected and intelligent products create

a huge opportunity for us to re-think the way we do design. Engineers and designers working in the isolated silos of the past are becoming less and less productive. To this end, we are excited to announce a new partnership between element14, CadSoft EAGLE and Autodesk Fusion360. Together, we aim to bridge the gap between mechanical and electrical design to enable a more cohesive workflow.

Basically, the partnership had the companies work together to enable EAGLE to publish their PCB designs directly to Fusion 360. The PCB could be handled in Fusion 360 as a black box, a space claim to design around, or could be an integral part of an electro-mechanical design.

It would appear that the partnership was so successful that both parties decided to stop dating and get married. This acquisition makes sense from a number of angles: it’s where customers are going, as they create more complex designs that increasingly include electronics and software. EAGLE adds another building blog to the Fusion 360 platform, which aims to take mechanical designers from concept through simulation to manufacturing and operations. Financially, too, it makes sense: Autodesk has a huge pile of cash offshore, and might as well use it to fund acquisitions like this, to add to its offerings.

I took a quick cruise around element14 and found a video that shows EAGLE, a STEP conversion tool, and Fusion 360 in action, here. Moving a design from EAGLE to Fusion 360 seems simple and straightforward. One very noticeable thing: EAGLE looks old-school; Fusion 360 is a completely different UI. The first thing on the to-do list might just be a UI revamp for EAGLE. Take a look.