KiCad video series: from concept to manufacture

Many electronics hackers have habit of using Eagle to design their PCBs. You’ll find plenty of support for this software as well as a lot of parts libraries, the free version of Eagle software comes with limitations (board area is limited to 4×3.2 inches, only two signal layers and the schematics editor can only create one sheet). You might want to check out if there are any good open source alternatives without restrictions?

KiCad is an intereresting open source EDA software for Windows, OSX and Linux. Create PCB circuits for free with the most advanced features. With the schematic editor you can create your design without limit; there are no paywalls to unlock features. An official library for schematic symbols and a built-in schematic symbol editor help you get started quickly with your designs. It can make professional PCB layouts with up to 32 copper layers. KiCad also includes a 3D viewer which you can use to inspect your design in an interactive canvas. You can rotate and pan around to inspect details that are difficult to inspect on a 2D view.

EEVblog #253 – KiCAD Install & Schematic – First Impressions video is a continuous 45min screen cast of Dave installing and running KiCAD for the first time, along with his first impressions and rants about things he finds along the way, mainly with the schematic editor portion of the program. How easy and intuitive is it to use the schematic editor for the first time?

For more advanced introduction check out  KiCad video series: from concept to manufacture. It shows people how to design and build their very first PCB using this software

Here is some more information links related to KiCad:

CERN Shows Off New KiCad Module Editor CERN, the people that run a rather large particle collider, have just announced their most recent contributions to the KiCad project. This work focused on adding new features to the module editor, which is used to create footprints for parts. The update includes support for DXF files, which will make it easy to import part drawings, or use external tools for more complex designs. CERN has already implemented a new graphics engine for KiCad, and demonstrated a new push and shove routing tool. Check out the CERN KiCad Developers Team on Launchpad.

A Simple (and Dirty) Bill of Materials and Stock Management Utility introduces you to a simple bill of materials generation too “For a better BOM in Excel“, which can also do simple stock management.

If you need to export to other tools, check out KiCad Script Hack for Better Mechanical CAD Export article for ideas.

19 Comments

  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Half of building a PCB is getting parts and pinouts right. [Josef] is working on a tool to at least semi-automate the importing of pinout tables from datasheets into KiCad. This is a very, very hard problem, and if it’s half right half the time, that’s a tremendous accomplishment.

    Importing pinouts from datasheet tables to KiCad
    http://blog.atx.name/kicad-import-pdf-pinouts/

    Reply
  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    KiCad 4.0 is Released
    http://hackaday.com/2015/11/30/kicad-4-0-is-released/

    If you’re a KiCad user, as many of us here at Hackaday are, you’ll be elated to hear that KiCad 4.0 has just been released! If you’re not yet a KiCad user, or if you’ve given it a shot in the past, now’s probably a good time to give it a try.

    The official part footprint libraries changed their format sometime in 2014, and are all now hosted on GitHub in separate “.pretty” folders for modularity and ease of updating.

    The most interesting change, from a basic PCB-layout perspective, is the push-and-shove router.

    If you’re doing a board where timing is critical, KiCad 4.0 has a bunch of differential trace and trace-length tuning options that are something far beyond the last release. The 3D board rendering has also greatly improved.

    KiCad 4.0.0 Is Out!
    http://kicad-pcb.org/post/release-4.0.0/

    Reply
  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    KiCad Utilities Generate Parts; Track Costs
    http://hackaday.com/2015/12/05/kicad-utilities-generate-parts-track-costs/

    The popularity of KiCad keeps increasing, and not only are more people converting to it and using it for their projects, but there’s also a growing number of folks actively contributing to the project in the form of libraries, scripts and utilities to improve the work flow.

    Reply
  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Eagle to KiCad made easy
    http://hackaday.com/2015/12/27/eagle-to-kicad-made-easy/

    One barrier for those wanting to switch over from Eagle to KiCad has been the lack of a way to convert existing projects from one to the other. An Eagle to KiCad ULP exists, but it only converts the schematic, albeit with errors and hence not too helpful. And for quite some time, KiCad has been able to open Eagle .brd layout files. But without a netlist to read and check for errors, that’s not too useful either. [Lachlan] has written a comprehensive set of Eagle to KiCad ULP scripts to convert schematics, symbols and footprints. Board conversion is still done using KiCad’s built in converter, since it works quite well.

    Overall, the process works pretty well, and we were able to successfully convert two projects from Eagle. The entire process took only about 10 to 15 minutes of clean up after running the scripts.

    Eagle SCH/LIB to KiCad SCH/LIB ULP conversion script
    https://github.com/lachlanA/eagle-to-kicad

    Reply
  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    StickerBOM for KiCad
    http://hackaday.com/2016/02/09/stickerbom-for-kicad/

    When boards were larger and components mostly through hole, designers could put a lot of information on the silk legend – reference designator, values, additional text and so on. But with surface mount components becoming smaller and board real estate at a premium, modern boards do not have a lot of information marked on the silk layer. If you are building and distributing a short run of kits, perhaps for a round of beta testing, then [Adam Greig]’s StickerBOM python script for KiCad can be really handy. StickerBOM is a KiCad BOM exporter designed for people stuffing boards by hand. It generates a PDF for printable sticky labels, where each label reflects one BOM line from a supplier. You then stick these labels on the bags from your supplier, and they show you where the parts go.

    StickerBOM
    https://github.com/adamgreig/agg-kicad/wiki/StickerBOM

    StickerBOM is a KiCAD BOM exporter designed for people stuffing boards by hand. It generates a PDF for printable sticky labels, where each label reflects one BOM line from a supplier. You then stick these labels on the bags from your supplier, and they show you where things go.

    Reply
  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    It’s Time to Finally Figure Out How to Use KiCAD
    http://hackaday.com/2016/06/04/its-time-to-finally-figure-out-how-to-use-kicad/

    KiCAD has been making leaps and bounds recently, especially since CERN is using it almost exclusively. However, while many things are the same, just enough of them are different from our regular CAD packages that it’s hard to get started in the new suite.

    10 Part Tutorial On Designing/Building A PCB (Using FOSS)
    https://contextualelectronics.com/gtb-kicad-4-0/

    Reply
  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Scanning Parts Into KiCad
    http://hackaday.com/2016/10/03/scanning-parts-into-kicad/

    You do not know how to make a PCB unless you can make your own parts. [Jan] knows this, but like everyone else he checked out the usual online sources for a footprint for an SD card socket before making his own. It turns out, this SD card socket bought from an online marketplace was completely undocumented. Not only was an Eagle or KiCad footprint unavailable, but CAD files showing the dimensions of the part were non-existent. A solution had to be devised.

    Instead of taking calipers and finely measuring all the pads on this SD card socket – a process that would surely fail – [Jan] decided to use a flatbed scanner to trace out the part. The part was placed on the glass and scanned at 300 dpi with a convenient reference object (a public transport card) in the same picture. This picture was imported into a CAD package, scaled to the correct ratio, and exported as a DXF. Since KiCad readily accepts importing DXFs, the CAD file was easily accessed, traced over, and a new part created.

    Creating footprints from actual parts in KiCad
    http://jasiek.me/2016/09/29/creating-footprints-from-actual-parts-in-kicad.html

    Some time ago I sourced a number of very cheap SD card sockets from China for a hobby project I was working on. Sadly, when it came to PCB design, I couldn’t find the footprints for this particular socket anywhere

    Turns out, this is a problem with many, many parts – there are no CAD drawings to be found anywhere, and the only way to really fit the part onto a board is to measure the part and draw everything yourself – a tedious manual process, but with a few tools, any part can be precisely drawn and transferred onto the board.

    In the absence of other tools, one can use any flatbed scanner to reproduce the measurements required to draw a part.

    Reply
  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Creating A PCB In Everything: KiCad, Part 1
    http://hackaday.com/2016/11/17/creating-a-pcb-in-everything-kicad-part-1/

    This is the continuation of a series of articles demonstrating how to Create A PCB In Everything. In this series, we take a standard reference circuit and PCB layout — a simple ATtiny85 board — and build it with different PCB design tools. Already, we’ve taken a look at the pre-history of PCB design with Protel Autotrax, we learned Fritzing is a joke for PCB design, and we’ve done a deep dive into Eagle. Each of these tutorials serves two purposes. First, it is a very quick introduction to each PCB design tool. Second, this series provides an overall comparison between different PCB design tools.

    Now, finally, and after many complaints, it’s time for the tutorial everyone has been waiting for. It’s time for KiCad.

    Reply
  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The KiCAD Central
    https://hackaday.io/project/7431-the-kicad-central

    All you want to know about KiCAD. Whether you’re a starter or a power user, there should be something for everyone here shortly.

    This aims to be a one-stop community resource for KiCAD from helpful pro tips to beginner tutorials to useful links

    Reply
  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Creating A PCB In Everything: KiCad, Part 3
    December 23, 2016 by Brian Benchoff
    http://hackaday.com/2016/12/23/creating-a-pcb-in-everything-kicad-part-3/

    In part three of this KiCad tutorial, we’re going to take a look at turning our board into Gerbers. This will allow us to send the board off to any fab house. We’re going to take a look at DRC, so we can make sure the board will work once we receive it from the fab. We’re also going to take a look at some of the cooler features KiCad has to offer, including push and shove routing (as best as we can with our very minimalist board) and 3D rendering.

    Reply
  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Friday Hack Chat: KiCad EDA Suite with Wayne Stambaugh
    http://hackaday.com/2017/01/18/friday-hack-chat-kicad-eda-suite-with-wayne-stambaugh/

    KiCad is the premiere open source electronics design automation suite. It’s used by professionals and amateurs alike to design circuits and layout out printed circuit boards. In recent years we’ve seen some incredible features added to KiCad like an improved 3D viewer and push-and-shove routing. This Friday at 10 am PST, join in a Hack Chat with KiCad lead developer [Wayne Stambaugh] to talk about recent improvements and what the team has planned for KiCad in the future.

    Kicad HackChat
    Wayne Stambaugh, Project Leader at Kicad will be discussing the road map and status of the Kicad Project
    https://hackaday.io/event/19417-kicad-hackchat

    Reply
  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A Tool For KiCad Board Renderings
    http://hackaday.com/2017/04/17/a-tool-for-kicad-board-renderings/

    If you’re producing documentation for a PCB project, you might as well make the board renders look good. But then, that’s a lot of work and you’re not an artist. Enter [Jan]’s new tool that takes KiCad board files, replaces each footprint with (custom) graphics, and provides a nice SVG representation, ready for labelling. If you like the output of a Fritzing layout, but have higher expectations of the PCB tool, this is just the ticket.

    PcbDraw – Awesome Looking Drawings

    http://blog.honzamrazek.cz/2017/04/do-you-like-nice-pinout-diagrams/

    To draw boards I use KiCAD Python API to exctract board layers as SVG and to get a list of components. Then I supply module library – SVG drawings of footprints and glue everything together using a Python script

    Reply
  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    An Even Smaller BeagleBone
    http://hackaday.com/2017/04/15/an-even-smaller-beaglebone/

    The BeagleBone famously fits in an Altoids tin. Even though we now have BeagleBone Blacks, Blues, and Greens, the form factor for this curiously strong Linux board has remained unchanged, and able to fit inside a project box available at every cash register on the planet. There is another Altoids tin, though. The Altoid mini tin is just over 60×40 mm, and much too small to fit a normal size BeagleBone. [Michael Welling] has designed a new BeagleBone to fit this miniature project box. He’s calling it the Pocketbone, and it’s as small as the mints are strong.

    The Pocketbone is based on the Octavo Systems OSD355x family, better known as the ‘BeagleBone on a chip’. This chip features a TI AM355x ARM Cortex A8, up to 1GB of DDR3 RAM, 114 GPIOs, 6 UARTs, 2 SPIs, 2x Gigabit Ethernet, and USB. It’s housed in a relatively large BGA package that makes routing easy,

    Pocketbone KiCAD
    Smalls mint tin sized BeagleBone (KiCAD version)
    https://hackaday.io/project/19495-pocketbone-kicad

    Reply
  14. Call Florida Plumber says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing such a nice website with the readers. I think you are doing a great effort to make this website useful.

    Reply
  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Bogdan says:
    May 9, 2017 at 6:10 am

    For this reason I would support KiCad. It is good enough to work with, but in my opinion it takes a lot more effort before you learn how to make the same things that seem to come more natural in others. It’s part because of the missing features (and workarounds), part because of poor quality documentation and part because some things are simply awkward. Once you learn it, it is powerful enough for even advanced work and plus, they are really working on improving it.

    Source: http://hackaday.com/2017/05/09/learn-advanced-pcb-design-for-200-worth-it/

    Reply
  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    KiCAD Best Practices: Library Management
    http://hackaday.com/2017/05/18/kicad-best-practises-library-management/

    One common complaint we hear from most new KiCAD users relates to schematic and footprint libraries. The trick is to use just one schematic symbol and footprint library each with your project. This way any changes to the default schematic libraries will not affect your project and it will be easy to share your project with others without breaking it. I’ve spent some time refining this technique and I’ll walk you through the process in this article.

    Reply
  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Perf++ shields
    We are experimenting with making Perf+ 2 like perf shields
    https://hackaday.io/project/22000-perf-shields

    We designed the initial perf shield using KiCAD’s recently dropped create array option. It is quite useful for designing perf regular footprint board layouts. Hopefully they re-add the capability. Until then, 4.0.2 is the version we recommend with these footprints.

    Perf++ is a similar design to Ben Wang’s Perf+ 2 that he successfully funded through Crowd Supply. Hackaday did a story on it compared to other current perf board concepts -

    Hackaday link. Our version is similar, but we have open sourced the footprints and plan to integrate them into shields, capes, etc.

    http://hackaday.com/2015/04/05/ask-hackaday-the-latest-advances-in-perfboard/

    Reply

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