Some of you might have already noticed this but for those that haven’t, I thought I’d post in the forum to highlight some work I’ve been doing on the KiCad codebase: a native Zuken CADSTAR importer for KiCad.
My motivation for doing so is that in my company we have been looking to change EDA tools (since CADSTAR is really quite dated and clunky to use). The main hurdle with switching design tools is that most of the designs in my company have been done in CADSTAR so the new tool would need to be able to import our existing designs. I spent time looking at Altium, since their literature claims they are able to convert CADSTAR designs, however this proved to not be quite true. To summarise: I spent 18 months back and forth with the Altium representative trying different versions of Altium to find a significant number of import errors that required a lot of manual rework. They fixed some of the errors but left the most time consuming ones with the excuse that the CADSTAR importer is a low priority development for them since not many users request it. The current state of the Altium importer meant we had to spend 2-3 hours of manual effort after the automatic import, which was not acceptable (given we have hundreds of designs).
So that left me in a difficult position: basically I was stuck with using CADSTAR forever (nightmare!). I really like KiCad and used it several times for personal projects with the latest version being in many ways superior to CADSTAR. I came to the conclusion to move away from CADSTAR at work I would have to spend my free time developing an importer for KiCad
I have spent the last two months working on this and have now finalised a CADSTAR PCB Archive importer (see https://gitlab.com/kicad/code/kicad/-/merge_requests/279 ). This is waiting for code review before the code gets merged in to master. In parallel to this am working offline on a schematic importer which I hope to also finish before v6 feature freeze (this will be a stretch but luckily most of the elements in the schematic file format are exact copies of those in the PCB, so half the work is done).
I think the PCB importer works reasonably well but it does need more extensive testing and it is very possible that it will fail with some designs. However I have tried it with several complex designs from my company (with 6 layers and FPGAs) and in all of them the import was excellent.
Unfortunately I can’t share designs boards from my company, but just to give you an idea, I imported below a design from the CADSTAR “self teach” tutorial (Chapter_11_-2019.0-_rev21.cpa|attachment (169.3 KB) ).
I exported this design to a “.cpa” file inside CADSTAR (File -> Export…) and imported into KiCad using the CADSTAR importer in pcbnew (File -> Import -> Non-KiCad Board File -> CADSTAR PCB Archive Files). The result is below:
Does anyone else also use CADSTAR?