I have been using (or rather learning to use) KiCad on a processor board project. For most of the design work that I'm involved in KiCad appears to be a capable tool. The library and module (footprint) editors are a little clumsy to use, but once I got used to their quirks they are relatively easy to use. The schematic libraries are somewhat limited so I have been adding new parts as I needed them. I have completed a preliminary schematic and just started on the layout. KiCad is not as polished as some of the commercial software I have used before, but I think it shows a lot of promise as a useful PCB design and layout tool.
MKolb: "The library and module (footprint) editors are a little clumsy to use"
Good point. CERN's H&T group is working in improving this as it's included in some WorkPackages included in CERN's roadmap for KiCad.
MKolb: "The schematic libraries are somewhat limited so I have been adding new parts as I needed them"
Very good point!! I think I'm going to pass CERN guys a note about this issue. It would be fine to have a central repository with lots of parts collections and their associated footprints, spice model, 3D... I don't know if anybody at CERN or at KiCad core developers group has thought in doing this, but I agree with you: they should do that!!
Overall, thanks for your very valuable oppinion!! I'll give feedback to CERN's hardware guys about your experience using standard KiCad.
Javier Serrano from CERN has just told me that Dick Hollenbeck --KiCad main developer-- is giving the final touches to a Github plug-in for KiCad.
This will allow a KiCad user to enter a line in his component library table with a github URL, and automatically all KiCad symbols and footprints in any directory of that Github repository will be available for use.
By this way, the existence of personal online component libraries is going to be enabled in the coming KiCad versions.
@MKolb: Thank you very much for this resource!! I've given a quick look to some of the libraries in Kicadlib and these seem quite complete.
Now, I just wonder if there is some way of applying Quality Assurance techniques to free/open component libraries -- a little error on schematic/footprint could potentially lead to PCB respin and a lot of money losses.
I have experienced footprint problems before and they are a royal pain to clean up. Especially after we shipped several hundred units (military market where a hundred units is a lot). Getting management to approve a clean layout took a long time and at least one wrong turn.
I am not to the point where I completely trust any of KiCad footprint modules, so I check each one that I plan on using. I usually compare them to manufacturer recommended footprints, but not all of those agree on the same pad dimensions for the same land pattern.
I've been a KiCad user for several months now on a couple of home projects. What impresses me most about the whole KiCad tool flow is its ease of use and the short learning curve. The GUIs are simple, unbloated and quite intuitive. After two weeks of evenings, I had taken a four layer PCB design from a pub napkin to Gerber files. The package installed easily on a windows PC and has been totally stable. As a hardware designer since the middle 80's, I have used many CAD packages along the way and I would not hesitate to place KiCAD on the same shelf as any of the best packages that I have used. Obviously, KiCAD is a much more simplistic tool. It does not have the multiple layers of various functionalities or the suite of post processing tools - all costing thousands of dollars each year to maintain in service contracts. The bottom line is that I was able to produce a very good quality, 10 square inch, 4 layer, 200 component design in a very short time. KiCAD speaks volumes to the open source movement that such a high quality product can be written, maintained and evolve under a community effort and freely distributed. Well done!
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