Is KiCAD used in the Industry?


#1

I work at a small company and we create/edit about 2 PCB boards per year. We currently use Orcad 16.0 but need to upgrade and we are looking for cheaper options. I am wondering if any other companies are using KiCAD to create PCB board designs and if it is stable enough to rely on?

Note: It has to be worth it and reliable, once we switch it will take us a lot of time to transfer over the designs from Orcad to KiCAD. We also don’t want to be switching from it in the future.


#2

Why transfer over all old (retired) designs? No gerber files?


#3

They are not “Retired” they sometimes need to be slightly modified so keeping 95% of the design the same is a lot easier then starting a whole new design from nothing


#4

take a look at the olimex blog

I think he is giving a talk this weekend at FOSDEM (will probably be live-streamed and recorded for later) about his experiences with KiCAD and their latest A64 board. They are apparently switching from Eagle (?).


#5

Or you could do the cool thing and help out the project by contributing the ability to import and export Orcad files. :wink:

I know nothing of there file formats so, yeah lol


#6

I think it isn’t used as widely as OrCAD or Altium Designer. But if your designs are not complex, I think KiCAD is what you want. It’s free and stable.


#7

I’m in a similar situation, working for a very small company. Over the 6 months or so that I’ve been learning KiCAD, I laid out 3 boards that are going into commercial products. One is a fairly dense mix of about 60 SMT and THD components. The other two are pretty simple boards - I probably could have completed them almost as fast using black tape on mylar (though creating Gerbers would have been problematical).

I don’t consider myself a PCB designer. Board layout has been a necessary, but ancillary, task to my other engineering responsibilities. I’ve created about 25 - 30 boards over the last 15 years, and made changes to at least that many existing layouts, using half a dozen commercial layout programs. KiCAD seems to have all the functions and features I’ve ever used, as well as some advanced features I’ll probably never have a need for. I’ve struggled more with the transition to KiCAD than I recall struggling with other programs. (Some of that may be a symptom of the “old dogs and new tricks” effect.) Compared to Altium’s P-CAD - the last program I used extensively - KiCAD seems able to produce comparable results with about the same, or slightly more, effort. KiCAD seems less intuitive, much poorer documented, and the library system is less comprehensible and more unwieldy. But every month or so I discover something that KiCAD can do with less effort than the procedures I’ve been using. Now, if I could only remember all those tricks and shortcuts the next time I need them!

Transitioning an existing layout from one EDA program to another has been a problem since the inception of the industry back in the early 1980’s. (Every company not only has its own proprietary file formats, but there doesn’t even seem to be agreement on what information is saved in the files.) There are companies that will perform the conversions between the most popular packages . . . for a fee, of course. I have redrawn the board on the few occasions when a design had to be moved to another program. With printouts of the Gerber layers, and a listing of the component placement locations, it’s not as tedious as you fear.

Dale


#8

I’m an escapee from altium designer. As a early user of the original Autotrax, I have not enjoyed the increasing complexity of the Protel/Altium product.
Kicad is a little quirky, but quite lean. Persevere, I find it produces good circuit boards.
The forum is very helpful.


#9

I too have got tired of how complex Altium has become for the level we use. I tried Eagle, and for some reason I just can’t get the work flow right. I downloaded Kicad, and I gotta say I am very impressed. First night on the computer and I popped out an Arduino shield PCB. OK nothing complex, just something to cut my teeth on which had 2 max232’s and a 3A 5V PSU switchmode. I produce about 20-30 designs a year. I only had a couple of crashes over the past month. Overall the result has been very good on the up take. The help is a little raw, but I found it plentiful enough to figure out, and google has answered all else. I rate Kicad up there, and I am very impressed with its capabilities especially for a free package. Looking forward to getting the 3D stuff running to.

Colin


#10

Our company uses EasyPC because the senior engineer likes it. It works fine, but several of us have been using Kicad and want to at least make it an option for those of us who want to use it. We were fighting a losing battle until recently when we had 3 designs come to us for modifications/additions, and the source files were all from Kicad. The senior engineer’s proposal was to redraw them all and charge the customer for that effort. Instead, our Kicad users made the mods and were done in a matter of a few hours. Believe me - that got noticed - not only by our managers, but also by the client - who was happy to have had the changes made inexpensively. Kicad is gaining traction here. The biggest hurdles to its adoption are the amount of existing projects that are in other formats, and the huge amount of library components that we have custom made for EasyPC. I understand the effort that would have to be made to convert all of that, but why does it all have to be done at once? Converting only what you need as you need it would get us there over time, and that’s pretty much how it worked to get us where we are on EasyPC too.


#11

Just so you know guys, been reading all of this and those stories are pretty cool. Keep em coming!


#12

Thanks for all the great and helpful advice. We are going to move forward with KiCAD and slowly transfer over the OrCAD files when their time comes. This was a very reassuring thread


#13

Well, after using 10+ CAD tool in the last 15 years I can say that KiCad is already good enough to replace the lower and lower-middle level commercial tools (e.g. CADSTAR, Eagle, P-CAD) and I believe that with the new schematic format overhaul it will be able to compete with OrCAD and PADS.

Personally I used KiCad to develop a PCIe card with more that ten 5 Gbps differential lanes.


#14

After 1 CAD tool in the past 1 year I know KiCAD is good enough for me. I have no idea why anyone would want to start with proprietary software. KiCAD or its decendants will be here for a loooooong time.


#15

I went through a similar process last year. We are a small company with some legacy PCB designs kicking off a new project. I received quotes in the $5k - $10k range from the usual commercial packages, plus maintenance fees. Things I was looking for:

  • +10 layer support
  • No size restrictions
  • Matched length differential pair routing (600 Mbps to 5 Gbps)
  • 3D export to MCAD

In the end, I went with KiCAD due to the major jump in cost to get those last two features in a commercial package. Plus, the ability to not be beholden to a vendor and easily hand parts of the project others (now and in the future) without incurring extra cost. Honestly, it was the fact that CERN had just added matched differential pair routing that put KiCAD over the edge. I took a risk on the 3D MCAD support, but @maui released StepUp filling that gap.


Who uses KiCAD?
#16

There are quite a few companies (medium and small) using kicad, including SoftPLC who contributed a lot to the development of kicad for a number of years. I hear (third hand) that many CERN contractors also use it, but I forgot to ask for a first-hand account when I met the guys from CERN. The short story is, you need to look at the features you require and spend some time working with KiCad to evaluate it for your specific use. No doubt there will be some adjustments to make even if you do use KiCad for future projects; parts management / BOM for example.


#17

My comrades are still using OrCad Layout. Not wanting to learn a legacy software I started on OrCad PCB Editor. It is a fantastic, complicated, industrial tool. My biggest issue with PCB Editor is the assumption you are part a of team 100+ engineers and have a team just to right Skil scripts to customize the editor. KiCad can do 90% of what PCB Editor can do but is much more stream lined. If your not designing a 12+ layer MOBO then KiCad is an easier user experience IMHO. I have personally made several commercial boards successfully in KiCad.


#18

I too am an Eagle user. Last update was to vsn 7. After hearing that Altium was preparing a $$$ Noose for me I am beginning to study KiCad. Eagle support was always good and prices weren’t bad. I’m sorry for Ed Robledo and the guys at Eagle.


#19

We started using Kicad for prototypes in late 2004. My first board got to market in 2006. Since then many boards for different clients.

The decision was quite easy: working under Linux was a must, not negotiable. And we quickly discarded the other option.
Now, quite a lot small and medium companies are using Kicad for professional work.


#20

I have been using KiCad commercially for a number of years now.

Key driver for me was the ascii text based file formats where I felt much more in control of my destiny so to speak.

Particularly when I was investing time and effort in library symbols and footprints I wanted to be sure that I could access and control that data (now and in the future) and not be locked in to having to use some vendor proprietary DB format.

On that note I really like the ability to version control my libraries and designs with standard tools like Git and being able to see the changes with standard text diff tools.