Who uses KiCAD?


#1

Who uses KiCAD?

Are you an individual, a hobbyist? A freelancer? A small contracting firm? A big company?

In general, who is the user?

Why do you use it?

Just a curiosity


#2

I think serious answer here is “Yes, we are all those things.”


#3

Certainly, but I am just trying to get a feel for who uses it MORE.

I use it exclusively as a hobby for years, because in industry I used whatever my company had.

Now I’m a contract designer and I’m finding that my clients don’t know what it is. I don’t see jobs posted asking about it, and I’m not sure, once I begin to expand and work with other contractors, if I will be the ugly duckling for using KiCAD.

I’m just trying to open up some conversation about who uses KiCAD, and why. Like AA but for KiCAD.

Thanks for your reply Greg


#4

I second @HiGreg
Thoundsands of boards produced with kicad. A hundred designs/revs at least. Dozens of projects.
Its not a popular software amongst pro EE, but gets the job done and saves customer from license headaches.


#5

I use KiCAD for designing boards for a very small (and very cheap) company - about 20 employees in total. I have done about a dozen boards over the last two years, and typically two revs of each board.

I also use KiCAD for personal hobby projects.

Dale


#6

I appreciate your position but expecting the people who post here to representative of the user group as a whole is misguided from the start. If you look at some of the stats you will soon see that many join to sort out a problem and won’t be back until they have another. Those learning the software like myself are more bound to stick around until we feel that we see too many repeated topics.

I will say this however. There is an industry saying, “No one ever gets fired for buying Microsoft and Cisco products.” My tongue in cheek answer is, “They should.” But the principle is transferable. The larger the firm the more likely they will pay for the biggest name as ‘butt cover’.


#7

Here’s my perspective:
For consulting, some companies/clients definitely will think of you as sub-standard or hobby-grade (read: ugly duckling) if you don’t use big name CAD software, especially the larger companies or those familiar with the industry. One way to approach this is something like:

“CAD can be done in a number of formats, Altium, PADS, or KiCad. For Altium or PADS just provide a roaming license for me to use, or if you prefer a lower-cost/open-source solution then the KiCad CAD suite is entirely adequate for this job without the licensing fees.”

This establishes your credibility to the clients who need the name brand recognition, but allows for still inserting the plug for KiCad. Of course, only mention the packages you actually know how to use or else you might find yourself with a steep learning curve!

Source: Experience.


#8

The only other one i have experience with is CADSTAR and I’m pretty sure i prefer KiCAD :slight_smile:

Maybe i’ll upgrade to the “pro” stuff one day. If i stopped donating to KiCAD it would work out. I just really enjoy it for whatever reason. I like the improvements that they keep making and i can’t wait to see version 5.

When’s that coming out anyways?

All,
thanks for the insightful discussion.


#9

KiCad is already looking respectable next to lesser commercial players like Eagle and CADSTAR. Realistically the Altiums are at a other level, but also at a painful price


#10

Greg,

I know exactly what you mean. When that is important to you, then use for example Altium as all my customer are asking for it. I have been using Eagle from Cadsoft for the last 20 years in my own small engineering company. Some of my customer in the past always had a strange feeling about this ‘hobbiest’ like tool Eagle may was at the beginning.

I have the feeling KiCAD is gaining mumentum even for professional designs. At the end you want standard PCB and not a plane or a house or a ship.

I am in the process of finding out if I shall use KiCAD for my next project. PCI express Gen 2 4…8 lanes and SFP+ optical interface + Polarfire Midrange FPGA + fast memory etc. Some people may think I am crazy. However at the end I want just a PCB ready for assembly.

Markus


#11

I would say all of the above, with most of it being some sort of professional work. The big drawback is potentially when the project gets handed off to someone else, but at the same time, that means that they can have the full editing available without needing to get a paid license if they didn’t have it.

I’ve found that most factories at least know about KiCAD, but they see it as something that is coming up and not with enough projects they see to warrant directly supporting it. I think this is steadily changing but may take years to really hit the point where it is more common than Eagle. For me, it works out well with bringing in people onto a project because I’ve sorted out how to set up everything to be self-contained, so they only need the most current version and they are ready to roll.


#12

Can you share your recipe?


#13

It is mostly just setting up folders on relative paths for the components and footprints. This is my fp_lib_table file that defines shared folders both above the project directory and one in the project directory. I’m not sure if you can get the same results via the GUI configuration.

(fp_lib_table
(lib (name proj_footprints)(type KiCad)(uri “$(KIPRJMOD)\…\proj_footprints.pretty”)(options “”)(descr “”))
(lib (name proj_silk)(type KiCad)(uri “$(KIPRJMOD)\proj_silk.pretty”)(options “”)(descr “”))
)

Footprints folders in similar locations need to be set up in the project file using relative locations.

What I would tend to advocate is saving all components and footprints used from common libraries into your project or board folders after you get the component selection finished. You never know what version of the common libraries someone will have or if someone has used something that another person has not installed. This also allows you to make some updates to footprint markings that you prefer and to build up a common library for future projects. In concept, you could just have a copy of all common components and footprints that are shared at that level and maintain that carefully instead of migrating them to your libraries.

Aside from that, really KiCAD works pretty well for collaboration unless you both try to edit and save the same file at the same time. It even allows for one person editing the schematic while another is doing layout work. Being text based, it is possible to use a versioned repository, and that works reasonably well.

One thing I do for MCU muxing and other complex pin mapping is to put everything in a spreadsheet with checks for usage and other rules and then use that to generate the components, nets, and wires. This gets a little reformatting and then inserted into the files as text. In concept, it could all be scripted, but I haven’t hit that point. Of course, this is overkill for simple designs, but if you have medium or large sized controllers with overlapping muxing options I found this to be the easiest way to keep everything straight and to maintain a backup of what was intended with notes on why something was done in a specific way.


#14

We are a small startup in Turkey. We use KiCad because it runs on linux. It’s free. (*) It’s good enough for us. We usually design microcontroller based sensor boards. No high frequency lines etc. But recently we designed some very compact high voltage PCBs and we needed advanced DRC features which kicad lacks.

I also personally prefer KiCad over any proprietary solution because it’s Open Source, has Python scripting and a text based file format. I like to be in control of my design files.

(*) Around here, all software is free (!). Almost everybody uses Altium because it’s the best. Some use Pads. After all cracks are free.


#15

Eagle was bought out by Autodesk who is certainly no small “hobbiest” company. So might be useful to know Eagle if your PCB design also integrates with a mechanical housing of some sort which is done in Fusion360. Otherwise I use Kicad, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future :wink:


#16

Can you elaborate a little on what sort of advanced DRC features you needed?


#17

Clearance between specific net classes and clearance settings for a region, would be nice.


#18

Do you mean clearance between two different net classes? There is already a clearance setting for net classes themselves, although I haven’t dived down to see exactly what a clearance number for the net class is checking (perhaps “Clearance between nets of this net class and any other net”?). If so, you can almost implement what you need, but you’ll have too much clearance in some (a lot of?) places.


#19

I agree with hyOzd, that’s the feature I’ve been missing too. Yes, it’s possible to set clearance for specific net class - it’s the clearance between all nets in it and all other nets. However, it’s quite a common situation when you have a device with several galvanically isolated regions (e.g. isolated power supply). Every region can has quite a small clearance inside it, but should mantain distance to nets from another regions. Unfortunately, I don’t know a way to do it in KiCAD for now.


#20

Hobbyist.

(Please.)
(Pretty please.)