Beginning with 3D models

Hi everyone,

I’ve only just started with KiCAD and impressed by the well stocked library of footprints that comes with the default installation. I notice that many footprints however, particularly connectors, are missing 3D models, which I would like to add myself. What is the best/most efficient way to do this?
KiCAD won’t let me save edits to the default library directly because they are read-only.

And second question: is there a way to search for keywords in libraries? I’m struggling to find footprints like screw terminals in the footprint libraries.

Many thanks in advance!



It’s simple and yet, can be cumbersome - depending upon what you want to do…

If wanting to simply change the 3D-Model on a Placed Footprint, very easy and nothing to do except to select it (screenshot)

If wanting to edit the Footprint, similar process… Can edit the placed Footprint or the Library Footprint.

But, links to the 3D-Model are sometimes ambiguous such that when Footprint is used again, they can loose the link.

Thus, always a good idea to learn where to place your STEP (and wrl) files and how to set the Path’s and Setup the Libraries [in PCB editor and Schematic Editor, Menu-Bar>Preferences>…

There’s too much info to post and plenty of existing posts on doing it and can be specific to your system (Win, Mac, Lin)

As far as searching - you can enter search terms in the enter field…

ADDED: Also, Screw Terminal and Screw_Terminal and what they get named are up to the creator of the model. And, they get listed or, not-listed as the wind blows… Search for Screw_Terminal and see what I mean…

Example - try this… when selected, use the 3D-viewer to see graphic…

I think many footprints even having no 3D they have 3D file specified in footprint definition. So if you place 3D file exactly in the place where footprint looks for it then it can be the simplest way, but I have never tried it.
I copy each footprint I use into my own libraries and there I can edit everything as I want (together with 3D path).
As I have never before used any 3D CAD program it took me some time to learn how to define 3D models using FreeCAD. The main problem I had was with colors that what I colored then after exporting colors were lost. It was around 2018…2019 and I don’t remember details. If I will be doing any model I will start from reading my cheat sheet how to do it.
Only one thing I remember was that I thought that I should define Part or Body. The solution to some my problems was the info from @BlackCoffee that I can define Part containing two bodies. That way I defined my terminal block 3D models - one body is everything metal inside and second is the plastic. Each body has its own color and everything works but without cheat sheet I can’t repeat my procedure. If you do something once per year (or less often) it is hard to remember it.

There are a few ways to organize a FreeCAD effort…

Different Workbenches facilitate whether or not Part/Body is needed.
I prefer to construct my FreeCAD content organization in a similar fashion to the ‘Real’ CAD programs - this makes for a commonality in my way of thinking…

It can be graphically described as shown in screenshot below

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What is the best/most efficient way to do this?

The best way to do this is to use the KiCad Packages3D Generator scripts for common packages like QFN, DIP, etc. See Seth_h’s video
For other packages, usually the manufacturer provide a STEP file (with some licence restriction) that you can use in FreeCad + KiCad StepUp to generate the wrl and step files required for the footprint.

Thank you for the suggestions and thoughts, everyone!

Is there a way to make the default KiCAD libraries editable, or is it required to make a copy of each one that I want to modify e.g. add a STEP model to one of the footprints in that library?

It’s not required to make a copy BUT, any usage of your edited Stock file will be overwritten upon update and can’t be relied upon… Always best to make a Copy and edit the copy. And, place it in a user directory. (And, I don’t trust that it, too, won’t be overwritten so, I make a Copy of the full Dir, then, Update Kicad. If it gets overwritten, then I exchange it with the copied Dir…)

I know only about what Kicad does on a Mac - it creates a parroted directory in the Documents Dir and inside that, there are folders for Footprints, Models, Plugins…etc.

Depending on what you do and how you do it, you may want-to/need-to add it to the Path and Footprint, Symbols… panels… Plenty of posts on doing this…

Excellent advice, thank you, that’s the information I was looking for!