Porting OrCAD design to KiCad

Raising this old chestnut again, as I am doing a bunch of ports at the moment. I’m not sure how common my experience is, but I do see companies engaging long time OrCAD designers, then realising the result is not very accessible to a wider audience and converting them to KiCad. Whether that justifies the effort necessary to make a converter work, I don’t know…

My guiding goal is to make a maintainable KiCad project that produces effectively-exact gerbers to the original. So I was comfortable redrawing the schematic by hand, since that’s pretty quick, and provides a quality starting point to an enduring KiCad schematic.

I’m now refining my PCB porting method and thought it would be worth sharing where I’ve ended up.

  1. All footprints have been redrawn to match the originals. Swapping to KiCad footprints would have resulted in too many differences. I was going to have to redraw the less common footprints anyway, so doing all the jellybeans as well was just an extension of that work, rather than something fundamentally new.
  2. Then for the layout, I make key layers visible one-by-one in OrCAD. Eg. TOP ETCH, then TOP VIA, then TOP SILKSCREEN, etc.
  3. Export to DXF v12, auto-generating layer names, possibly including the outline if it helps with alignment, but not bothering with polyline or fill options since I’ve not found a combination which actually results in directly useable polygons (probably even worse then those that would come from importing the gerbers).
  4. Import graphics in KiCad putting each DXF on a separate User layer, placing them all at the same spot, with 0.1mm line width and millimeter units.
  5. Trace over them using native KiCad tools (potentially using the wonderful “Create from Selection” feature recently described here for complex traces) to generate a high quality digital design that is physical equivalent to the original.

Any stories of similar experiences or suggestions on a superior workflow gladly received.

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