Around these parts we tend to be exponents of the KiCad lifestyle; what better way to design a PCBA than with free and open source tools that run anywhere? But there are still capabilities in commercial EDA packages that haven’t found their way into KiCad yet, so it may not always be the best tool for the job. Altium Designer is a popular non-libre option, but at up to tens of thousands of USD per seat it’s not always a good fit for users and businesses without a serious need.
What do you do as a KiCad user who encounters a design in Altium you’d like to work with? Well as of April 3rd 2020, [Thomas Pointhuber] has merged the beginnings of a native Altium importer into KiCad which looks to be slated for the 6.0 release. As [Thomas] himself points out in the patch submission, this is hardly the first time a 3rd party Altium importer has been published. His new work is a translation of the Perl plugin altium2kicad by [thesourcerer8]. And back in January another user left a comment with links to four other (non-KiCad) tools to handle Altium files.
If you’d like to try out this nifty new feature for yourself, CNX has a great walkthrough starting at building KiCad from source. As for documents to test against the classic BeagleBone Black sources seen above can be found at on GitHub. Head past the break to check out the very boring, but very exciting video of the importer at work, courtesy of [Thomas] himself. We can’t wait to give this a shot!
- 8:30 US PDT
- 11:30 US EDT
- 17:30 CEST
- 21:00 IST (India)
This is the foundation to add support for native Altium import. Contributions are very welcome, because this is a quite some amount of work.
The work is mainly based on https://github.com/thesourcerer8/altium2kicad, which is an existing Altium Designer -> KiCad converter written in Perl. Because Altium Circuit Studio and Altium Circuit Maker uses quite similar file formats, I try to support them as well in one go.
My current workflow is to try to understand the existing code, and build a binary documentation of the Altium format using Kaitai Struct. This allows fast iterations, and tells me if something is parsed incorrect.
CNX Software has a nice blog post on how to build the development version of KiCad:
KiCad open-source EDA (Electronics Design Automation) suite software is now very popular, and many new projects are designed with the utility. AFAIK, some companies like Olimex switched all their new designs to KiCAD. But since many schematics and PCB layouts have been designed with other tools like EAGLE, Orcad Allegro, or Altium PCB design tools, it would be nice to be able to import those designs into KiCad.
Last week’s meetup was nice to see and talk with other KiCad users. Let’s do it again this week.
This week, I’m happy to answer questions and I’ll be working through designing a KiCad version of the Medtronic OpenVentilator project (http://www.medtronic.com/openventilator 5). You may have heard that Medtronic (a multi-billion $ company) bought the company that cancelled the original gov’t contract 2 for low-cost ventilators in 2015 and then this week released a “kind of” open source version 3 of their current (not low-cost) ventilator.
In reality, they released scans of the schematics and some word documents for bring-up procedures. I’m going to see if we can turn the scans into a set of useful KiCad schematics + board files. This still doesn’t get to what’s needed to actually recreate more of these ventilators but it is a needed first step.
If you are curious about recreating designs from incomplete schematics, reverse engineering in KiCad or just want to hang out and chat, please stop by.
Then at 12:00 PM US PDT, Piotr Esden will livestream KiCad board layout:
Here is the record live stream:
Jump to around 48:00 to see this technique demonstrated:
- 5:00am US Pacific
- 8:00am US Eastern
- 5:30pm India
- 1:00pm CET
- 8:00pm China
- 11:00pm Australia
- This week, I’ll talk about Schematic Library management and @hemalchevli
will show how to convert STEP model to PCB footprint
- We’re trying out Jitsi . It works in a Browser without any extensions. On Android Phones (and maybe iPhones), they’ve got an App.
- VIDEO LINK
- If you’d wish to just watch the livestream, here’s the URL:
- Want to dial in on phone?
- Australia: +61.8.7150.1136
- Dial meeting ID: ‘3947374070’ to connect!
- Australia: +61.8.7150.1136
The Open Hardware Summit is next week, March 13th!
Here’s a sneak peak at one of the items that everyone will receive in their conference goodie bags:
Thanks so much to Kevin Walseth at Digi-Key for making it happen! ⚡️
Beautiful project from Frank Milburn on element14:
I decided to give PCB art a try and will be basing my attempt on methods described by Andrew Sowa. Andrew uses Adobe Illustrator for the art work and KiCad for the PCB design. I will also use KiCad but will use my trusty pre-subscription version of Photoshop for the artwork. Inkscape is another possibility. Andrew’s process is described in this video from which my work is derived. The detail behind many of the steps won’t be described in this post – watch the video for that.
The goal is to take a photograph, painting, etc. and place it on a PCB using the FR4, copper layer, solder mask, and silk screen to make the palette. My PCB will feature the famous work by Edvard Munch, The Scream which has always fascinated me. So, how to turn a masterpiece into a PCB facsimile?
The limited palette is a challenge. For this exercise the focus will be on the central figure in order to reduce board size (and thus cost) of the experiment. The OSHPark purple solder mask will hopefully give the dark colors desired. Andrew also used OSHPark in his example, and helpfully provided a palette which has been modified here to help describe how the layers translate to color and are stacked for conversion in KiCad.
There is a shared project for the board:
And watch it on YouTube: