Suggestion Box - Complete IDFv3 export

If there is a place to throw suggestions for future development … here is one.

3D models of the PCB and all placed 3D components is the norm now in product design.
KiCad does a wonderful job of displaying the 3D PCB with 3D components.
However, the incomplete IDFv3 export provides no real value, other than a pleasing display of a completed project.

The real value in 3D models is for use in product design with the Mechanical CAD designers.
Collaboration with the ME using the 3D models saves tremendous time,and quickly ID’s a good or bad fit.

STEP files are not easy received or used by Solidworks … the IDFv3 files are ideal.

So … yes … I highly encourage KiCad to add “complete IDFv3 export” to the TODO list … if there is any room left on the list.

Until this capability is added … most true EE product designers will simply have to choose other software that allows for the easy collaboration with the ME. When “complete IDFv3 exports” are possible … expect the KiCad user-base to grow exponentially!!!


I don’t think step is a problem for solidworks

In fact step is the defacto standard in MCAD. (supported by all major MCAD tools like solidworks, catia, creo, siemens nx, freecad, …)

But if i remember correctly from your last post you exported vrml not step. (And never responded after we told you that you attacked the developer of kicad stepup.) So…

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IDF import into SW requires CircuitWorks Lite:

STEP can be imported directly, and with more import options:

Truly appreciate help with resolving this issue.

I do not use Solidworks … most all of my product design partners do … they tell me that STEP files are not ideal.
Apparently, the STEP files are readable, but require so much manipulation, that it is simply not practical.
They tell me that they prefer the EMN (board file) and EMP (library file) files that are generated as a part of a “complete IDFv3 export”.

I would love to see the KiCad userbase grow, KiCad is a very useful piece of well documented software.
Solving major obstacles like this will only enhance the KiCad capabilities and user-base.

I am presently working with a Solidworks expert, they are attempting to use the data … no luck just yet.

that’s not true… STEP is the de-facto mechanical standard interchange format…
please have a look at the most commercial ECAD brands and you will see that STEP is the adopted standard for ECAD/MCAD collaboration.

Anyway KiCad supports both STEP and IDF… the only problem is that no one of the on-line resources are deploying an IDF library and the same for KiCad… IDF was supported since a while ago,before STEP came in with StepUp…
But very little were using this because of the lack in 3D library parts…

Please send these files
demo.step (947.3 KB)
to your SW experts and see if those are fine for them…

Both are exported from KiCad…

And here a board exportable in IDF with KiCad

You may do your considerations

PS in two and half years from the first StepUp exporter for KiCad this is the first request I knew for IDF format at this forum…


Not too surprised that I am first to request IDFv3 here.
Most all product designers are at large companies that easily afford Altium for schematics and PCBs.
Same companies primarily use Solidworks.

KiCad is primarily used by the budget stretching folks like me that are not too excited about the $10k Altium & Solidworks.
These software packages also require ~ $1500 per year in maintenance.

So the KiCad exports may do everything that this group needs … assuming they use FreeCad or equivalent.
While I do not use Solidworks, my clients do … so I simply prefer to use KiCad than pour money into Altium.
However, I will have to purchase the Altium if KiCad cannot export all of the 3D data in an easily usable format.

Still waiting on detailed feedback from my Solidworks expert … happy to share it with you when they reply.

Maui … so I sent the demo.step file to the local Solidworks expert … and yes … they were able to open it, and they said that the file would enable a designer to verify form-fit-function of the 3D model into their housing design.

That differs from the feedback that I got from some of my clients … but per this expert … your step file format is perfectly acceptable.

However, the step files that I was sending my clients … came straight out of KiCad … and did not provide my clients with any of the 3D components.

So the BIG question is how did you export this step file from KiCad … and is it possible for users like me that utilize an iMac?

This is a wrong assumption IMO, using an open source sw will need more skills than using a commercial sw, but can drive you to highest result… First of all… you need a feature… if you are dare you can do it yourself…

Anyway often opens source packages are not well documented (which is not the case of KiCad IMO) and have some restrictions … but if you have bought a commercial package you would know that is the same …


If you use kicad stable your only option is to use the freecad extension kicad-stepup to import your board directly into freecad. (from there you can then export it as step.)
Stepup can also generate simplified models. (bounding box only) and you can set it up in such a way as that it ignores models of parts with a small volume or a small height.
(Similar to what you would get with an IDF export)

If you use nightly builds. Then you can export directly from kicad.

Nightly builds are unstable development builds that are compiled every night. Hence the name nightly. Nightly builds are dangerous to use because they might produce files that can not be opened by older versions of kicad and they might have more bugs than the stable version.

In any case you will need valid step models of your footprints. (If only one footprint has an invalid 3d model the complete exported file might not work.)


Rene … that is very helpful information … thank you kindly … I tried the stable version of KiCad first (I was never able to load the KiCad-stepup on my iMac) …

… then moved to the nightly build … was not able to get usable step files with either.

Moving back to stable KiCad version … but I did not not think that the KiCad-stepup was iMac compatible??

We already told you that stepup is available for every operating system where freecad is available. (It is just a python script. Python is cross platform because it is a script language not a compiled language)

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Rene … that is GREAT news … I do not know why I thought otherwise … but I am old, bald, a bit over weight and perhaps even a bit slow … apologies … I see that you appear to be in Austria … I sure hope that you have had a chance to see your wonderful philharmonic … I would hazard to say the best in the world IMO … GF and I hoping to see them in the coming year … cheers

You can add Autodesk Inventor to the list of tools able to open those STEP files just fine:


@combover: i can assure you that stepup and freecad work well on the mac. Secondly, i use Fusion360 on the mac which has no issue with the step files produced by the kicad-stepup-freecad tool chain. Additionally, all contract manufacturing i have used who use Solidworks have no issue with same step files.

I’d say, give stepup and freecad another swing, if you can get it working you will like it.


Joost … thank you for the assuring note … yes, I stayed up until I got it all working as instructed … it appears to be fine … emailed off to my Solidworks client … awaiting their confirmation … so happy that I may continue using KiCad … big improvement over previous schematic and PCB package that I utilized )

Andy … thank you … yes I just received confirmation that the FreeCAD/KiCad-Stepup STEP file opened just fine in client Solidworks … and they are confident that it will allow us to verify form-fit-function of the PCB assembly in their housing designs … kind of embarrassing that I am the last designer on the planet to add this capability … yikes.