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.

67 Comments

  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Nick Bild came up with a script that analyzes your physical breadboard to automatically generate a KiCAD schematic.

    A breadboard is, at its core, a series of connectors. This script’s purpose is to identify every connection and associate it with the corresponding pin on a component. It is able to do that using a special breadboard that has every row of pins connected to an Arduino Due board I/O pin. A Python script running on a connected PC then checks every row for continuity. The user then inputs the component located at connection, and the script will draw a KiCAD schematic with wires between every component’s pins.

    This script does have some serious limitations.

    To overcome that, the user must insert jumpers in place of some components. The user must also enter the component associated with each connection, because the script has no way of identifying components — it only checks for continuity.

    Schematic-o-matic automatically creates KiCAD schematics from your breadboard
    https://blog.arduino.cc/2021/12/03/schematic-o-matic-automatically-creates-kicad-schematics-from-your-breadboard/

    Breadboards are the first tool you break out in any prototyping journey and almost every project will utilize a breadboard at some point. Those breadboards often turn into a rats’ nest of overlapping wires that are difficult to trace, which makes it difficult to create an accurate schematic when it is time to design your PCB. To make your life easier, Nick Bild came up with a script that analyzes your physical breadboard to automatically generate a KiCAD schematic.

    Schematic-o-matic
    Automatically draw a KiCad schematic for a circuit prototyped on a breadboard.
    https://www.hackster.io/nickbild/schematic-o-matic-b6406f

    Reply
  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    KiCad 6.0.0 Brings a New Look, New Features, and a Much Improved 3D Viewer for Your PCB Designs
    https://www.hackster.io/news/kicad-6-0-0-brings-a-new-look-new-features-and-a-much-improved-3d-viewer-for-your-pcb-designs-fa0b1d278a68

    Now celebrating 30 years, the KiCad EDA project makes a move to improve accessibility for newcomers to the software.

    KiCad, the open source electronic design automation package created by Jean-Pierre Charras in 1992, has hit a major milestone: the launch of KiCad 6.0.0, 30 years after the software’s first release.

    “There have been many important changes that make this release a substantial improvement over the 5.x series and a worthwhile upgrade for users on all platforms,” the development team wrote of KiCad 6.0.0, launch on Christmas Day as a present for anyone designing electronic devices. “There are hundreds of new features and improvements, as well as hundreds of bugs that have been fixed.”

    Reply
  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Kicad V6 First Impressions | Voltlog 399
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlUhXlaiFZw

    Timestamps
    1:16 File format changes
    2:14 UI selection behavior
    3:28 Copy & Paste
    4:43 General UI refresh
    5:06 Plugin and content manager
    6:15 3D viewer
    6:32 PCB editor layer visibility
    7:02 Drawing rectangles
    7:50 Rounded corner tracks

    Reply
  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Using an Arduino Due, this setup automatically generates a KiCad schematic for a circuit prototyped on a breadboard.

    Schematic-o-matic
    https://create.arduino.cc/projecthub/nickbild/schematic-o-matic-b6406f

    Automatically draw a KiCad schematic for a circuit prototyped on a breadboard.

    Reply
  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    KiCad 6.0 open-source EDA software for schematic capture and PCB layout adds hundreds of new features, enhancements, and bug fixes.
    Read the full article: http://arw.li/6182KM534
    #EDN #EDA #PCB

    Reply
  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Scripting Coils For PCB Motors
    https://hackaday.com/2022/10/25/scripting-coils-for-pcb-motors/

    PCB inductors are a subject that has appeared here at Hackaday many times, perhaps most notably in the electromagnetic exploits of [Carl Bugeja]. But there is still much to be learned in the creation of the inductors themselves, and [atomic14] has recently been investigating their automatic creation through scripting.

    A simple spiral trace is easy enough to create, but when for example creating a circular array of coils for an electric motor there’s a need for more complex shapes. Drawing a trapezoidal spiral is a surprisingly difficult task for a script, and we’re treated to a variety of algorithms in the path to achieving a usable design.

    Having perfected the algorithm, how to bring it into KiCAD? The PCB CAD package has its own Python environment built-in, but it’s not the most flexible in which to develop. The solution is to write a simple JSON interpreter in KiCAD, and leave the spiral generation to an external script that passes a JSON. This also leaves the possibility of using the same code in other PCB packages.

    https://github.com/atomic14/kicad-coil-plugins

    Reply
  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    KiCanvas Helps Teach And Share KiCad Projects In Browsers
    https://hackaday.com/2023/01/31/kicanvas-helps-teach-and-share-kicad-projects-in-browsers/

    KiCad is undeniably the hacker favourite when it comes to PCB design, and we’ve built a large amount of infrastructure around it – plugins, integrations, exporters, viewers, and much more. Now, [Stargirl Flowers] is working on what we could call a web viewer for KiCad files – though calling the KiCanvas project a “KiCad viewer” would be an understatement, given everything it aims to let you do. It will help you do exciting things like copy-pasting circuits between KiCad and browser windows, embed circuits into your blog and show component properties/part numbers interactively, and of course, it will work as a standalone online viewer for KiCad files!

    KiCanvas
    https://theacodes.notion.site/KiCanvas-3252a399e64a4d78b6c7309ea62457eb

    Hi there! Thanks for dropping by. I’m Thea and I’m creating an open source, interactive web viewer for KiCAD’s files and I’m looking for folks to financially sponsor my work on this. There’s no hard sell here- I’ll tell you what I’m trying to accomplish and what I’ve done so far and you can decide if you’d like to financially contribute so I can spend more time on this.

    Reply
  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Create Your RTL Simulations With KiCAD
    https://hackaday.com/2023/02/06/create-your-rtl-simulations-with-kicad/

    Bob Alexander] is in the process of designing a homebrew discrete TTL CPU, and wanted a way to enter schematics for digital simulations via a Verilog RTL flow. Since KiCAD is pretty good at handling hierarchical schematics, why not use that? [Bob] created a KiCAD plugin, KiCadVerilog allowing one to instantiate and wire up the circuits under consideration, and then throw the resulting Verilog file at your logic simulator of choice.

    KiCadVerilog doesn’t do all the hard work though, as it only provides the structure and the wiring of the circuit.

    https://www.galacticstudios.org/converting-kicad-schematics-to-verilog/

    Reply

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