Is KiCAD used in the Industry?


I am new here on the forum and just wanted to share my experiences on this
topic. I have been a long time user of DOS UltiCap and UltiBoard for all our
designs since the mid 1980’s if I remember correctly. Even got it upgraded to
the NI multiim version under that awful windows bloatware.
But since a few years back I have switched to kicad on debian Linux, never
looked back :slight_smile:
Apart from some things in the schematic and circuit board program that can be
done (programming) a LOT better it, more professional if you will, I am very pleased
with it.
Using kicad for reasonable complex designs, nothing high frequency though.


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My company has been using KiCAD since past 4-5 years.

Yeah , people contributing on this forum are great !

Yes, We are using KiCAD. The AutoRouting features(It’s not an ideal but hey it’s there and it works), Greate community, and freeware make it my first choice.

using it full time in industry

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I make several PCB designs a year using KiCAD. I find it better and much easier to use than Eagle and a lot less expensive than Orcad and Altium. I never laid out a PCB in Orcad, we had specialist people to that. I have used Altium and found the learning curve to be very long and steep. I did not like Eagle at all.

KiCAD as well as EAGLE, Orcad and Altium all have their quirks, things that don’t quite work like you might prefer and I am always creating parts and footprints in any program that I use, so, it probably doesn’t mater.


They tried to solve this problem in the 90’s by creating the EDIF standard,(Electronic Data Interchange Format) but it failed. It was an ambiguous in spots so no two vendors implemented it in exactly the same way. Everyone had their own “flavor” of EDIF and no two vendors could exchange data. It’s almost like they didn’t want us to be able to take our data.

John Eaton


I’ve been using KiCAD professionally as a contractor. I am still at 4.0.7 because my workload has not allowed me yet to upgrade to KiCAD5. Yes, KiCAD’s user interface a bit quirky, but KiCAD works. I also want to stress that, because KiCAD is open source, there is extensive third-party support for it.

I use KiCAD in combination with FreeCAD, an open-source mechanical package. Again, since FreeCAD is open source, it enjoys extensive third-party support. People have been able to “marry” these two great pieces of software with scripts like StepUP (in FreeCAD), which makes 3D modeling of a pcb and its components a breeze. (This can be important, for example, when you need to know the pcb will fit in an existing system.) Others have been able to even run in FreeCAD thermal simulations of a populated pcb, which was imported from KiCAD into FreeCAD.

I have done work with recently-released camera chips; that requires handling multi-Gbps data rates but also very precise placement of certain components (the camera chip is the most obvious one, but also connectors, which define the relative position of pcbs) to statisfy the optical requirements of the system. The combination of KiCAD and FreeCAD with the the third-party support like StepUP (hats off to Maui!) have proven a very effective tool. Another script that greatly helps is the KiCost script, which looks at the BOM file from KiCAD, scrapes distributors’ web sites, and compiles a BOM in a spreadsheet, which you can then copy and paste in the ordering page that accepts text entry. (I have done it on the Digikey site; it saved me quite a bit of time vs. entering each component separately in the order.)

I have also used OrCAD, up to version 16.3 I think. I found it to be very buggy and unstable. In fact, I’ve heard people call it “OrCRAP” and I agree with them. At the moment, I think the only thing KiCAD is not good at is library management. It would be nice to have a data base with actual component values so when I need, say, a 10k 0402 resistor, I can just pull it from the database with all fields appropriately filled. There have been efforts to address this.

Here are some pertinent URLs which describe some of the third-party scripts for KiCAD. The information may be a bit dated, but is still very relevant: (KiCost, KiPart) (StepUP) (Extras of KiCAD5, including importing Eagle files)

These days, Digikey, UltraLibrarian, and snapEDA directly support KiCAD among the “big boys.”

NB. Some people confuse “Free” with “Open Source.” These two are not identical. Somebody may write code and post it for free, perhaps with a disclaimer not to be sued for damages. On the other hand, an open-source program can enforce quality standards and obligate the inclusion of the source code, depending on the open-source license. A complex program like KiCAD is not necessarily free because it has a steep learning curve and time is money.


Interesting experience that you shared with us! Hope you start soon using KiCad5 to take more advantage of 3D CAD: STEP import and export, improved 3D viewer with realistic integrated raytracing 3D render. Still StepUP is very useful for KiCadV5.


What does StepUp offer that’s not now built into KiCad v5?

At some point trying to recreate MCAD for use with ECAD ends up being a lot of duplicated effort. StepUp is the bridge between the two.


Short answer, from my understanding

  1. It allows KiCad users to create their own 3D models of parts populated onto their KiCad Pcb.

  2. It allows the entire 3D model of the Pcb to be imported as 3D CAD file.

Don’t forgett its footprint generartion feature.

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I only used StepUp for STEP -> WRL conversion. It allows me to create good looking models by setting proper shade materials.

StepUp does not feature model creation; it is an aid for attaching STEP models to footprints and aligning them, but KiCad v5 has this capability built in - just add your STEP file to any footprint and align in the properties dialog.

Why would you want to import an entire PCB to KiCad? Exporting your entire board as a 3D model is very useful, but again, KiCad v5 now offers this feature.

in kicad you cannot align a model to a footprint in a precise way… you cannot measure any distance between the model and the footprint holes, pads… with StepUp you can do it.
Moreover StepUp tools offer the user some facilities to manipulate and check the 3D model.

if you want to make a complex build up of i.e. a multi board design, this is a useful feature; the model of the assemblies can be managed with StepUp

but when you export your board, to be used as a sub-model, how can you align it to its footprint counterpart? again you need to use StepUp

BTW here a little comparison:
A) STEP board exporting

  1. ksu can handle 3D STEP generation creating a STEP with a hierarchy; kv5 exporter does a one flat level exporting;
  2. ksu can filter drill size, minimum height, minimum volume of what to be exported; kv5 cannot;
  3. ksu can generate a lighter export with simplified bounding boxes of all/some 3D models; kv5 cannot;
  4. ksu can be used with latest Open Cascade version support; kv5 uses an old release of the 3D mechanical kernel.

B) 3D STEP model fit to footprint

  1. ksu can import the footprint in a mechanical environment to check precisely if your 3D model does fit correctly its footprint, you can do measurements in 3D; kv5 cannot do any 3D measurement;
  2. ksu can do precision mechanical collision detect between the 3D model and the 3D footprint counterpart; kv5 cannot;

C) footprint checking

  1. ksu offers a handle way to check all reciprocal measurements among pads, silkscreen, courtyard layers etc.; kv5 has a limited approach to measurements;

D) footprint generation

  1. ksu can create the footprint using the powerful FC sketcher, offering an easy way to build complex footprints and pads; kv5 has a limited approach to complex fp and pads;
  2. ksu can create fps with edge cuts; kv5 cannot handle atm;

E) PCB Edge creation/editing

  1. ksu can handle complex board edge generation, it can handle splines, arcs and edge cuts using the FC sketcher; kv5 has a limited approach to pcb edge, it does not support splines.
  2. ksu can manage a push-pull technique of the pcb edge, offering a powerful constraint based sketcher; kv5 doesn’t have any constraint support;

F) 3D artwork exporting

  1. ksu can generate a 3D VRML models with Materials properties; kv5 exports STEP models only with diffuse property;
  2. ksu can generate 3D models as a VRML format fully compatible with Blender; kv5 did not (not tested on latest release)

In general StepUp tools offer a more precise and friendly ECAD MCAD integration, bridging two powerful sw: KiCAD & FreeCAD. (I may be a bit biased on this comparison :wink: )


Thanks @maui, that answers my question :slight_smile:

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