The last two years has been a particularly exciting time for KiCad, for users, casual contributors, and for the core developers too. Even so, there are many cool new features that are still in process. One bottleneck with open-source development of complex tools like KiCad is the limited amount of time that developers can devote for the project. Action plugins stand to both reduce developer load and increase the pace of development by making it easier to add your own functionality to the already extensible tool.
Sometime around version 4.0.7 (correct us if we’re wrong), it was decided to introduce “action plugins” for KiCad, with the intention that the larger community of contributors can add features that were not on the immediate road map or the core developers were not working on. The plugin system is a framework for extending the capabilities of KiCad using shared libraries. If you’re interested in creating action plugins, check out documentation at KiCad Plugin System and Python Plugin Development for Pcbnew. Then head over to this forum post for a roundup of Tutorials on python scripting in pcbnew, and figure out how to Register a python plugin inside pcbnew Tools menu.
Since version 5.0, we’ve seen an explosion of extremely useful action plugins for KiCad that have added some very useful bells and whistles. The KiCad website lists a couple of external tools, but there’s a lot of action happening out there, so we decided to round up some of the more useful ones.
via KiCad Action Plugins — Hackaday
Also, the Teardrop plugin could be useful for those using our 2 layer Flex service:
In the early days, PCB fabs often had yield issues due to offset drill holes, particularly on vias and micro-vias. One trick that PCB designers used to mitigate this problem was to use “teardrops”. The area around the pad or via that connected to the track was made into a teardrop shape, ostensibly in the hope that it would improve matters. Fabs nowadays do a pretty good job due to improved processes and accurate machines, so the jury is still out on the use of teardrops, but KiCad does have a Teardrop plugin, in case anyone wants to use it. Combined with smooth, rounded tracks, we’re guessing teardrops would be pretty helpful in the artistic PCBs department.
Exciting times for people in Chicago that like hardware!
Tonight, Thursday, April 25th is Hardware Happy Hour (3H) Chicago at Ballast Point! It’s an informal hardware show ‘n tell that is a lot of fun:
And KiCon 2019 begins tomorrow! Come learn more about designing circuit boards with KiCad.
There is also a party at Chicago hackerspace Pumping Station: One on Friday night and then a Bring-A-Hack party with Hackaday on Saturday night.
Look for our Drew Fustini (@pdp7) in purple at all the above events!
The KiCad project has released a new version:
The KiCad project is proud to announce the release of version 5.1.0. This is the first ever minor version release of KiCad and was developed primarily to resolve compatibility issues with Linux GTK3 and long awaited support for python3.
In addition to the primary focus, there have been many important changes that make this release a substantial improvement over the 5.0 series and a worthwhile upgrade for users on all platforms. Included in the improvements are:
- Improved 3D model library path configuration.
- Cairo canvas is now used for printing support on all platforms.
- Schematic and symbol library editors now use the modern canvases for rendering.
- Symbol pin table is now editable.
- Pcbnew scripting support for Python 3 has been added.
- Snapping for graphical object drawing in board and footprint editors.
- Significant user interface improvements.
- Major dialog box improvements.
- Both the footprint and symbol library editors now share the same user interface paradigm with a library tree view pane.
- Symbol, footprint, and 3D model library improvements.
- Documentation and translation improvements.
- Less pain for Linux package maintainers, now all features should be easy to support.
Chris Gammell at Hackaday Supercon:
Simple designs will save your next product if you know which circuits to piece together. Utility circuits practical for everyday electronics. Hackaday Superconference: The greatest gathering of hardware hackers, builders, engineers and enthusiasts on the planet returns. Streaming Live talks from our ‘Main Stage’ in Pasadena, CA. Visit for full list of talks and workshops : https://hackaday.io/superconference/
For anyone out there who has ever struggled finding a part for Eagle or KiCad, there are some who would say you’re doing it wrong. You’re supposed to make your own parts if you can’t find them in the libraries you already have. This is really the only way; PCB design tools are tools, and so the story goes you’ll never be a master unless you can make your own parts.
That said, making schematic parts and footprints is a pain, and if there’s a tool to automate the process, we’d be happy to use it. That’s exactly what uConfig does. It automatically extracts pinout information from a PDF datasheet and turns it into a schematic symbol.
via Creating KiCad Parts From A PDF Automagically — Hackaday
When writing software a key part of the development workflow is looking at changes between files. With version control systems this process can get pretty advanced, letting you see changes between arbitrary files and slices in time. Tooling exists to do this visually in the world of EDA tools but it hasn’t really trickled all the way down to the free hobbyist level yet. But thanks to open and well understood file formats [jean-noël] has written plotgitsch to do it for KiCAD.
via Visual Schematic Diffs in KiCAD Help Find Changes — Hackaday
For most developers “distributed version control” probably means git. But by itself git doesn’t work very well with binary files such as images, zip files and the like because git doesn’t know how to make sense of the structure of an arbitrary blobs of bytes. So when trying to figure out how to track changes in design files created by most EDA tools git doesn’t get the nod and designers can be trapped in SVN hell. It turns out though KiCAD’s design files may not have obvious extensions like .txt, they are fundamentally text files (you might know that if you’ve ever tried to work around some of KiCAD’s limitations). And with a few tweaks from [jean-noël]’s guideyou’ll be diffing and merging your .pro’s and .sch’s with aplomb.
via Advanced Techniques For Using Git With KiCAD — Hackaday