KiCad PCB EDA Suite

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Wayne Stambaugh saying KiCad.

KiCad EDA is an unresticted, free and open source electronic design automation software for editing circuit schematics, PCB layouts and component libraries, with Gerber and drill output.[1]

Features

First released in 1992, KiCad is considered mature and is used for the successful development and maintenance of complex electronic boards.[2] It doesn't impose limitations such as board size or number of pins, etc. and can handle multiple layers. Being open source it's an ideal tool for Open-source hardware projects. KiCad is available for Linux, Windows and Apple OS X (experimental, but working).[1][3]

Quick start hints

  • To help get quickly familiar with KiCad's user interface (UI). Enter ? for a pop up a list of hot keys. Using these is more efficient than mousing.
  • Open-source software might not be as polished as proprietary. If the program behaves strangely, check for known bugs.
  • Save components to a library specific to your project. Otherwise when KiCad's libraries change your project's components will be affected.
  • Read Getting Started in KiCad
  • ...

KiCad project manager

KiCad is the project manager window. This gives access to eight stand-alone software tools: Eeschema, Schematic Library Editor, Pcbnew, PCB Footprint Editor, GerbView, Bitmap2Component, PCB Calculator and Pl Editor.[3]

Eeschema

Eeschema is the schematic editor and component editor window.[3]

CvPcb

CvPcb the footprint selector helper is always run from Eeschema.[3] Check every component and footprint before use, to ensure that they match the features required.[4]

Pcbnew

Pcbnew is the circuit board layout editor and footprint editor.[3]

Other tools

Other tools in KiCad include GerbView a Gerber and drill viewer, Bitmap2Component, PCB Calculator and Pl Editor.[3]

Libraries

When you draw a schematic save a copy of your library or copy the file whatever-cache.lib to whatever.lib in the project folder. Then add this folder in preferences, component libraries, (click the add button at the top of the pop up window not the one below). Select the library and move it to the top of the list. KiCad searches these in sequence and will use whichever component it finds first. From now on ensure that every symbol you use gets added to and used only from this library. Any changes to the default libraries won't affect your project and it can be shared without library conflicts.[5]

Version control

KiCAD files are plain text and all version control systems (VCS), such as Git can handle text and binary files but binary ones cannot be merged.[6]

Basic workflow

The basic workflow in KiCad is:

  • Create a project in the project manager window.
  • Create a schematic with eeschema.
  • Assign footprints to symbols with cvpcb, generate the netlist.
  • Create a board with pcbnew, importing the netlist.
  • Test the board using the Design Rule Check.
  • Generate production files.[7]

References

  1. ^ a b About KiCad
  2. ^ Made With KiCad
  3. ^ a b c d e f Getting started, KiCad documentation]
  4. ^ Re: [kicad-users Kicad symbol "Pin Number" "Pin Name"], kicad-users mailing list, Jun 2011
  5. ^ KiCad best practices: library management by Anool Mahidharia, Hackaday, 18 May 2017
  6. ^ Version control systems for hardware projects?
  7. ^ Getting Started, KiCad EDA

External links

Video tutorials

Further libraries

Check component pin-outs, silk screens, etc. are correct before sending for manufacture.

Utilities

KiCad format SDIY files

Some useful examples, not a comprehensive list.

GitHub

Gerber file viewers