I’ve been following the development of KiCAD for a number of years now, and using it as my main electronics CAD package daily for a the last six years or thereabouts, so the release of KiCAD 6.0 is quite exciting to an electronics nerd like me. The release date had been pushed out a bit, as this is such a huge update, and has taken a little longer than anticipated. But, it was finally tagged and pushed out to distribution on Christmas day, with some much deserved fanfare in the usual places.
So now is a good time to look at which features are new in KiCAD 6.0 — actually 6.0.1 is the current release at time of writing due to some bugfixes — and which features originally planned for 6.0 are now being postponed to the 7.0 roadmap and beyond.
Congratulations to the KiCad development team on the release of KiCad 6.0.0 and a big thanks to everyone that contributed! 🎉
The KiCad project is proud to announce the release of version 6.0.0. This is the first major version release of KiCad since 5.0.0 was released in July of 2018.
KiCad binaries are available for download for Windows, MacOS, and Linux or will be in the very near future. See the KiCad download page for guidance.
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. There are hundreds of new features and improvements, as well as hundreds of bugs that have been fixed. Below are some of the highlights of the new release.
Thank you to all the developers, packagers, librarians, document writers, translators, and everyone else who helped make this release possible. We hope you enjoy the latest release of KiCad.
Until January 15th, every donation to KiCad will be matched!
A highlight of last year’s Hackaday Remoticon was a soldering competition that had teams from around the world came together online and did the well-known MakersBox SMD Challenge kit in which a series of LED circuits of decreasing size must be soldered. The Hackaday crew acquitted themselves well, and though an 01005 resistor and LED certainly pushes a writer’s soldering skills to the limit it’s very satisfying to see it working. Lest that kit become too easy, [Arthur Benemann] has come up with something even more fiendish; his uSMD is a 555 LED flasher that uses a BGA 555 and a selection of 008004 small components.
The trick with an 01005 is to heat not the tinned and fluxed solder joint, but the trace leading up to it. If components of that size can be mastered then perhaps an 008004 isn’t that much smaller so maybe the same technique might work for them too. In his tip email to us he wrote “Soldering 008004 isn’t much worse than a 0201, you just need magnification“, and while we think he might be trolling us slightly we can see there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be do-able. Sadly he doesn’t seem to have made it available for us to buy and try so if you want to prove yourself with a soldering iron you’ll have to source the PCBs and parts yourself. Still, we suspect that if you are the type of person who can solder an 008004 then that will hardly be an onerous task for you.
From Donald Papp on Hackaday:
Nearly everyone likes nice pinout diagrams, but the more pins and functions are involved, the more cluttered and less useful the diagram becomes. To address this, [Jan Mrázek] created Pinion, a tool to help generate interactive diagrams from KiCad design files.
The result is an interactive diagram that can be viewed in any web browser. Hovering over a pin or pad highlights those signals with a callout for the name, and clicking makes it stay highlighted for easier reference. Further information can be as detailed or as brief as needed.
If you think Pinion looks a bit familiar, you’re probably remembering that we covered [Jan]’s much earlier PcbDraw tool, which turned KiCad board files into SVG renderings but had no ability to add labels or interactivity. Pinion is an evolution of that earlier idea, and its diagrams are able to act as both documentation and interactive reference, with no reliance on any kind of external service.
Interested? Pinion has a full tutorial and demo and a growing library of parts, so check it out.
Jeremy Cook created this tiny PCB for controlling small cooling fans or other motors:
What is it?
PCB originally designed to control cooling fans on Raspberry Pi boards, but can be used with other small motors or DC loads. Includes a flyback diode to safely dissipate inductive voltage spikes.
Can also work with Arduino and other such dev boards.Why did you make it?
Wanted a way to control cooling fans off of a Raspberry Pi. While some fans have PWM inputs, some do not and cannot normally be controlled. This transistor board works well with the GPIO fan control option in Raspberry Pi OS (which turns it fully on and fully off).
Not a full motor driver (i.e. it only drives in one direction) but can be used with other simple DC motors as well. Includes a resistor and flyback diode.
What makes it special?
It’s very, very small, even compared to a prior THT version. It should therefore be able to fit inside nearly any case. The optional 90º headers are even spec’d out to be low profile.
Boards come fully assembled with or without headers depending on the option selected, and appearance of the boards may vary. Options also available for female-female wires as needed, and/or clear heat shrink.
KiCad developer Jon Evans joins the Contextual Electronics podcast hosted by Chris Gammell:
Jon Evans is a longtime developer on the KiCad project and practicing EE at Formlabs. He joins Chris to talk about the future of KiCad, including features that are coming in V6.
From the Hackaday blog:
Physical access to electronics generally means all bets are off when it comes to information security. But in special cases this is just unacceptable and a better solution must be found. Consider the encryption keys used by point of sale machines. To protect them, the devices incorporate anti-tamper mechanisms that will wipe the keys from memory if the device is opened. One such technique is to use a mesh of traces on a circuit board that are monitored for any changes in resistance or capacitance. [Sebastian Götte] has been researching in this area and wrote a KiCad plugin to automatically generate tamper-detection mesh.
New KiCad video from Chris Gammell of Contextual Electronics:
In this video, Chris imports the adafruit Feather M4 Express board Eagle files (which is OSHW) into KiCad 5.1.
Here are some of the pitfalls of importing into KiCad.
- Flags get converted into (tiny!) labels that might not be clear.
- The frame in schematics is gone. Not a big deal, but will look different than other KiCad projects.
- Some silkscreen layers will not map as expected.
- All footprints are imported from Eagle, since KiCad doesn’t know how to map existing footprints. This means that none of the 3D models are included.