Newby - PCB generation

Hi folks;

Simple question (I’m sure). In the past I designed 3 boards with PCBExpress. This means basically I drew the boards out and then sent them off for production. It’s extremely easy to use but now I need to move one (hence KiKad).

So…quick question, if I draw out a schematic, and it’s complete, does KiCad automagically created a PCB for me?

There are autoplace and autoroute functions afaik, but till you have them setup & running you have done the layout 4 times by hand - if I understand your question correctly.

Or do you want to know about the gerber output (plot) after you’re done with the layout - there shouldn’t be any problems?

Have a read here:

Do you have a link for that PCBexpress software?
Is it that here ?

No, you still need to do the PCB layout. That involves associating the schematic components with the PCB footprint of the components which you will use, placing the components on your design grid, and drawing in the tracks and copper zones. As far as I know there’s no magic software which will create a PCB layout based on the schematics.

You can read the documentation and tutorials about the design process in kicad.

Thanks for the replies people!

So it sounds like I still have to create the board myself. I was thinking (for some reason) that a full-blown CAD package took a schematic and then auto-created a best effort PCB design. I guess that hasn’t been invented yet :slightly_smiling:

I do have a paper .PDF document with the schematics on them. So I’m guessing I can skip creating the schematics and proceed straight to the PCB design?

Joan_Sparky, that is the link. It’s extremely easy software and I’ve made 3 4-layer boards on it that I later sent in to protection. One thing though, the 4-layer proto boards are a bit pricey at $200 USD for 4. The file format that the software uses is not portable - it only goes to them. Once you’ve send in boards, for a norminal fee they will send you back a gerber but only once you’ve bought from them.

I found the software dead-simple, less then a 30 minute learning curve on my first board. Also, their 4-layer proto boards are the best I’ve ever see. Fast turnaround, they are really strong and can be totally trashed and then fixed up like new. Impossible to burn them and they make/ship them pretty darn fast.

My new board design is pretty elaborate so I wanted to try a ‘real’ CAD package.

Thanks much for the nice replies!

You should recreate the schematics in KiCad nonetheless. It is an essential input to the layout stage: KiCad can show you which connections are still missing and where traces need to go.

This s how ExpressPCB is also supposed to be used but With the last 3 boards I just manually made the circuits up on the fly (skipped schematics and went straight into development.

I sat down briefly to try doing a schematic - a straight line with a resistor in the middle. I could not find a resistor image anywhere :frowning:

Do you mean you had problems with KiCad’s schematics, or with another tool?

If you don’t care about creating a document about how the board works to debug / improve it later then OK.
This worklow is also available in KiCad:

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4 layer designs without schematic?
How many devices placed are we talking about and what is the audience for the finished pcb? hobby?

Yes, due to it being my first board I probably did not create it in a conventional manner. The first design took me a month to create and a week to review before I pulled the trigger. One error, I forgot to ground a LDO regulator which later caused extensive damage to other things :frowning:

But, it was a real prototype board and it had to go into real-world use in order to determine whether the design criteria was all correct. It got tested for several months and worked well but was completely re-designed to address all the original shortcomings that only showed in actual use. The second design added numerous circuits & features and with that one I basically nailed it. It’s all SMD with a total component count of probably 100 ?

It was very hard to do in that it really hurt manually checking every trace and determining final approval before going to prototyping. I found the level of extended concentration required to be pretty enormous but I took a holiday this year and I’d like to do a 3rd revision, this time adding about 150 components to it. (each step is a order of magnitude more complex with this last being the real deal).

As far as I’m concerned V2 could easily go production. It’s been in use for a year through all temperature ranges/moisture/conditions etc. Whether it remains hobby or massed produced board remains to be seen.

I have no real background in electronics design but in retrospect I would say ExpressPCB is like cad for kids. It works very, very well but with each revision I have to make a decision whether to stay with it or whether to move on into a more professional tool and of course this means massive learning curve.

So right now I’m at the very beginning with KiCad, as an example, I considered manually creating the schematics for the next board (I have them in .PDF) and entering them into KiCad but when I sat down to draw a line with a resistor in the middle I could not for the life of me find a resistor!

Those are called Beginners Tutorials for a reason, you know?
(main page for all KiCAD modules: )

Ahh…they’re under Devices. That’s why I couldn’t find any of the commonly used items.

Awesome - thank you!