How to design for perforated boards in KiCad?

Is there a way you can design perforated circuit boards in kicad?

In traditional printed (or manufactured) circuit boards, I see that the tracks sometimes can afford to go between a module’s (for e.g. arduino nano) pins (or pads) and join some component. This cannot be done on the perforated circuit boards.

Further, for hobbyists like me, I find a printed circuit board (option) very costly. The kind of projects I do don’t justify the cost, quantity, or, standard wait-times most manufacturers provide.

So what can we do in kicad for designing for perforated circuit boards?

PS: linking to an image to show what I mean by a perforated circuit board

I think the fact is that KiCad just isn’t meant for that. Maybe it’s possible to find some creative ways to use KiCad’s feature to help with it. Sounds like a nice challenge.

I don’t find $2 “very costly”. Nowadays people usually say that it doesn’t make sense to do anything else, even for a hobbyist, than order cheap manufactured boards because they are so cheap.

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KiCad is not what you want then.

Try something like veecad.

If you are willing to wait a few weeks and to commit to a minimum of 5 boards, you can get manufactured PCBs from Chinese fabs for around $2 each, including slow shipping.

Perfboards can be very frustrating as there is no solder mask to ward off solder bridges. You might easily spend as much time populating one as waiting for a PCB.

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Maybe Fritzing could help you?

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On a perf board, you can have point to point wiring. I guess to simulate that, you could use up to 32 copper layers. Turn on free angle mode, so you can draw point to point tracks.

Otherwise everything is the same, you lay out your footprints in a grid of 2.54mm, and wire them according to the net list.

KiCad now has a reverse board view, so you can flip the display and see what connections you should have on the perf board.

Fritzing is possibly the worst thing ever!

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Maybe it has to be decided case by case basis :slight_smile:

KiCad can do that quite easily.

As you can see it’s a smaller board. Only 46mm x 46mm in this case.

  • draw a board outline as needed
  • place any mounting holes in their respective places
  • arrange a faint background grid on e.g. Dwgs.User
  • draw a small circle to represent a ‘pad’, or stripes etc.
  • for grid ‘pads’ 0.762 mm diameter with 0.508 line thickness work well
    you only need one cirlce and Create Array… (Ctrl+T) the rest
  • match it to your board (or section thereof)
  • set colour and opacity

With that in place you can now draw just a normal schematic with all the components and footprints. Transfer your design with F8 to the board. Arrange things. Once you’r happy just place components on the actual board. Wire it. done.


fritzing sucks big time. Checked it out and deployed KiCad :sunglasses:

If so, it can’t be jlcpcb.

What do you consider slow? My times for the cheapest method vary from 10 to 21 days, which is actually fine for me as I interleave projects. All the fabs are similar, I’ve used a few of the usual suspects, it’s the shipping that’s the limiting factor.

As per, at least, jlcpcb’s site there is no such thing as ‘slow shipping’ included.
They always have shipping costs attached.

Ok a grammar joke. Slow clap. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Edit: I think I see the source of your confusion. You either interpreted “each” in my sentence to mean each order or interpreted “include” to mean included by the fab, when I mean included in my figure. But my $2 figure is per board, amortising the shipping. You probably thought of JLCPCB upon seeing $2, but they are not the only game in town, perhaps just the best known. If you do a search on you will find offers from other fabs that work out around the $2-3/board mark. Ordering 10 instead of 5 can also reduce the per board price. Sometimes there are seasonal offers from fabs that are normally more expensive. There are other ways to reduce the cost. Some fabs have official stores on Aliexpress where they post offers, perhaps using even slower Aliexpress type shipping.

There are definitely differences of opinion about Fritzing. Some people swear by it; others swear at it.

The Future of Fritzing is Murky At Best
Creating a PCB In Everything: Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Fritzing


I’ll just add to Dale’s links here that Kjell (the new Fritzing maintainer) will be giving a talk at FOSDEM this year. It’s a brand new world for them and should be very good for the whole FOSS PCB community.

Not sure if drawing on the dwgs.user layer is convenient. But I appreciate the idea. I haven’t used the dwgs.user layer or the comments layer…hence I have some concerns and doubts.

Off the top of my head, consider a 5-pin cube relay. Their pins aren’t evenly pitch-spaced. In practice, I drill 2mm holes and somehow fit them onto the board. I am not sure how to model this with your approach.

Further, the tracks. I’d mostly be using copper wires. If they are to be properly represented, then the tracks must only bend at right angles. Most of the time.(I mean those bends on the top right, and left).

And the wires can go underneath or over the board sometimes - just like vias in kicad. (But, are we supposed to be borrowing that term for perforated boards)?

Can the tracks follow the circles? In practise, we’d most probably follow the pitch…

And finally, autorouting. Yes, even the perforated board people eventually would want that…

It does not matter which layer. They can be turned on and off. It is meant to be a guide as to the boards physicals. No more no less.

In such cases just arrange some ‘pads’ according to the part you are going to place. Keep in mind this is not going to be a manufactured board. It’s an aid.

Again, it is meant to be a guide to help place parts in a way to wire them most directly with preferably no, or as few, wire bridges on top of the board.

Just treat it as a ‘normal’ two layer design. If you need a wire on top then it’s going to be a wire bridge on top of the board.

Of course you follow the pitch. Mostly at least. Those ‘pads’ are only thought of as a guide representing the actual board being used. ‘Pads’ can be depicted as stripes, or anything. Whatever is on the board, or whatever you want it to be.

They can have that by using e.g. KiCad.

The main train of thought is to ensure parts are in the most effective place right from start. It’s kind of a pain to desolder a part just to move it one notch over.

Yes, you can put components in the board loosly and check how they might connect best. Still, this approach fails frequently hence a real world mock up in KiCad turns out to be very effective.

Best is to be clear on the actual schematic design before any placement!

The markings on the helper layer are only a guide. Your footprints will still have their own pads aligned (if possible) to the correct grid. You can then place the footprints as you wish with the helper layer just being there to well help you.

You can turn off the 45 degree feature of the kicad router.

Yes by setting the grid correctly (traces primarily follow the grid)

If kicad gets an autorouter then it will be optimiced for fully fletched pcb manufacturing. The requirements here are vastly different to your usecase so it will most likely not work for perforated boards.

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@Seth_h ´s CAD room there was also a presentation of LibrePCB (what is a QT5 project) somewhat later in the afternoon than Fritzing. The first question of the audience was: “Why not contributing to Kicad?” Answer: Oh, thats a good question …

We all know about the end of East Germany where the only available car in production was “Trabant” and the door handle for the luggage space was also used in the only available fridge. Beside competition there are totally diffrent demands by users experience level and projects. Unfortunately, when I examined Fritzing years ago I put Kicad in the same Foss drawer without trying myself. That was definitely a mistake and visiting the Fossdem opens your eyes what is happening today. If you need a server you simply take Linux while you had to decide for Solaris license or others in the past. So I believe will be the future if your project needs EDA …

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Just a follow up on my suggestion of Veecad for such boards.

Veecad runs under Wine and is in fact tested to do so: I have just verified this. Might be useful if you don’t wish to run it on Windows.

But I don’t have any projects for perfboard at the moment let alone projects so I can’t offer any stories. I may try it someday on a small project with one of the few perfboards I have.