Reusable board models: best practices?

What is the best way to draw/store/use board models? Is there something better than drawing the boards as footprints?

I have designed a PCB board that fits a certain enclosure. In this moment the design is just a bunch of measurements, drawings and carefully cut cardboards. Now I would like to use this model as the base for various PCBs in Kicad.

Using the EuroBoard library as an inspiration, I wrote some footprints with the right edge dimensions, mounting holes, cut out sections and so on. (BTW, I wrote the footprint files by hand, a nice way to learn about Kicad’s weltansicht. It is also the only way I have found to draw on the edge layer, given that the footprint editor refuses to touch it.)

However, using these board footprints is extremely cumbersome. Because the board footprint overlaps with the other footprints, I am constantly requested to clarify my selection, disambiguating between the component I clicked on and the underlying PCB footprint. Laying out the board becomes a tiring task very quickly.

Are there better ways to deal with PCB models?

A very simple method is to start your design with the desired board model PCB and then import the netlist and parts in this PCB.
Just copy the board model to a file named as your project inside your project before start the PCB routing.
It could be improved with kicad templates I think…
Edit: this is valid if you don’t have already converted the PCB to a footprint.

I have a couple of assemblies that “Overlap” and need to be there for a 3D reference of what can go where.

What I did was drop a few targets in key locations, then moved the offending assembly way off of the “working area”.

To finish, all I had to do was move the assembly back to the grid the targets were on; and then delete the targets.

Not saying that this is recommended, it is just how I dealt with the issue.

Take a look at templates. These are very useful to reduce the amount of work in similar projects.

They can include parts of a schematic and pcb modules that are already pre routed.
You can use them to setup your drc settings.

Try to grab the device (footprint) by it’s center mark or one of the lines on Silk/Fab/CrtYd.
If that is not overlapping something else you won’t be asked to clarify the selection.

Locking the pcb outline footprint unfortunately doesn’t help.
PCBnew is missing some sort of ‘set this footprint to non-interactive’ feature for this.

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Thank you all for your suggestions.

Basically one has two possibilities:

  • drawing the board as a footprint (like I did) and move it away while editing the PCB,
  • drawing the board in a PCB file that then gets copied when starting a new design with this board (the copying can be done manually or via templates).

In the first case, board design as footprint, editing is cumbersome but one retains the ability to modify the board footprint in one place only and have it updated in the other projects simultaneously.

In the second case, board design in a base PCB file that is copied, editing is much simpler, but one loses the ability to update the board design in an easy way.

In my case I still routinely update my board design so I will have to resort to the first case and use the work around suggested by @Sprig. As @Joan_Sparky said it would be nice to have some sort of level beyond “Locked” that says “Locked and non-interactive”. I’ll take care or filing a bug/feature request for first-class support of board designs.

For posterity, here is the bug report: First-class support for board outlines: