from the open-data dept.
The computer-aided design software packages (ECADs) available to electronics folks for creating schematics and printed circuit board layouts have long been an aggravation when trying to share data with someone who uses a package produced by a different vendor--due to proprietary file formats that are (apparently, purposely) incompatible.
Many years ago, Cadsoft's EAGLE was available as a demo that would do very limited PCB creation but which had unlimited ability to view/print already-created files. It was also cross-platform. For a short time, EAGLE-compatible files became a quasi-standard for amateurs and pros on a budget.
In 2006, however, Cadsoft got greedy and DRM'd their stuff so that it would lock you out of your work product under certain circumstances, as described by Markus Zingg on October 24. Cadsoft quickly lost what little luster it had in the community. CERN engineers are hoping to produce a package that will do the same job - but better.
More down the page...
Now, Cian O'Luanaigh at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, reports
[...]so far, the engineers who design [printed circuit] boards often have had no option but to use proprietary tools. That's about to change: CERN experts are adapting the open-source software KiCad to make it an efficient tool for designing open-source hardware. This Free Software makes it easier for electronics engineers to share their designs.
KiCad development began in 1992. The software--which runs on the computer-operating systems GNU/Linux, Windows, and Apple OS X--creates schematics for printed circuit boards with up to 32 copper layers with additional technical layers. Since 2013, experts in the CERN Beams department have made important contributions to KiCad as part of the Open Hardware Initiative (OHI), which provides a framework to facilitate knowledge exchange across the electronic design community.
"Our vision is to allow the hardware developers to share as easily as their software colleagues," says Javier Serrano, head of the BE-CO-HT section and OHI initiator. "Software sources are easily shared online because they are text files and everyone has access to editors and compilers that turn the sources into a program. On the other hand, in the case of hardware design, most of the time this is done using proprietary tools. Therefore, in order for people to modify the sources, they need to use those proprietary tools."
When [development on] the KiCAD project started at CERN, many free tools were already available to hardware designers but none was easy enough to use when designing a complex circuit. Among them, KiCad showed the best potential.
"We started by cleaning the basic code and introducing a new graphical engine," says Tomasz Wlostowski, a member of the BE-CO-HT section who, among other things, is in charge of supervising the development of new features for KiCad. "With our contribution, we aim to develop KiCad up to a point where it becomes the de facto standard for sharing, and more and more users, including corporate ones, start working with it."
Next week, the team is going to release two new features that many in the free/Open Source EDA community have been asking for: differential pair routing and trace-length matching.
"Thanks to the new differential pair routing, you can more easily design PCBs that support fast signals over a long distance and with less noise. This is particularly important for devices that deal with great amounts of data," says Wlostowski.
"The second tool--length matching--automatically ensures that two signals take exactly the same time to cross the PCB. When the feature is selected, the tool automatically adds meanders to adjust the delay. This is very useful when timing and synchronisation become important parameters to take into account."
[...]Raspberry Pi and Arduino have already donated to the CERN KiCad initiative. You can join the effort to enhance KiCad and make it an efficient tool for PCB design by making a donation via the CERN and Society website.
 This guy has a list of what he perceives as the shortcomings of the current KiCad package.
EAGLE, The Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor is an ECAD (electronic computer-aided design), proprietary software for creating printed circuit boards. Cadsoft, the company that created it, sold EAGLE to Autodesk in June.
Autodesk has announced that EAGLE is now only available for purchase as a subscription. [Previously], users purchased EAGLE once and [could use] the software indefinitely (often for years) before deciding to move to a new version with another one-time purchase. Now, they'll be paying Autodesk on a monthly or yearly basis.
Before Autodesk purchased EAGLE from Cadsoft, a Standard license would run you $69, paid once. [...] Standard will [now] cost $15/month or $100/year and gives similar functionality to the old Premium level, but with only 2 signal layers.
[...] The next level up was Premium, at $820, paid once. [...] If you [now] need more [than 2] layers or more than 160 [sq.cm] of board space, you'll need the new Premium level, at $65/month or $500/year.
New Subscription Pricing Table for Eagle
[...] The [freeware] version still exists, but, for anyone using Eagle for commercial purposes (from Tindie sellers to engineering firms), this is a big change. Even if you agree with the new pricing, a subscription model means you never actually own the software. This model will require licensing software that needs to phone home periodically and can be killed remotely. If you need to look back at a design a few years from now, you better hope that your subscription is valid, that Autodesk is still running the license server, and that you have an active internet connection.
The page has well over 100 comments, with many saying the equivalent of "Goodbye, EAGLE; Hello, KiCAD".
KiCAD is gratis and libre, cross-platform, has been adopted as a software development project by nerds at CERN, and has seen marked improvement in recent years.
Some time back, anubi and I conversed about how EAGLE has been DRM'd for quite a long while.
KiCAD is a GPL'd Electronics Design Automation (EDA) suite with schematic capture and printed circuit board layout abilities. Its capabilities continue to expand.
[...] five years ago, if you wanted to design a printed circuit board, your best option was [Cadsoft's Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor (EAGLE)]. [These days], EAGLE is an Autodesk property, the licensing model has changed, [...] and the Open Source EDA suite KiCAD is getting better and better. New developers are contributing to the project and, by some measures, KiCAD is now the most popular tool to develop Open [Design] hardware.
At FOSDEM last week, Wayne Stambaugh, project lead of KiCAD laid out what features are due in the upcoming release of version 5 [Video]. KiCAD just keeps improving, and these new features are really killer features that will make everyone [who is] annoyed with EAGLE's new licensing very happy.
Although recent versions of KiCAD have made improvements to the way part and footprint libraries are handled, the big upcoming change is that footprint libraries will be installed locally. The Github plugin for library management--a good idea in theory--is no longer the default.
SPICE [Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis] is also coming to KiCAD. The best demo of the upcoming SPICE integration is this relatively old video demonstrating how KiCAD turns a schematic into graphs of voltage and current.
The biggest news, however, is the new ability to import EAGLE projects. Wayne demoed this live on stage, importing an EAGLE board and schematic of an Arduino Mega and turning it into a KiCAD board and schematic in a matter of seconds. It's not -quite- perfect yet, but it's close and very, very good.
There are, of course, other fancy features that make designing schematics and PCBs easier. Eeschema is getting a better configuration dialog, improved bus and wire dragging, and improved junction handling. Pcbnew is getting rounded rectangle and complex pad shape support, direct export to STEP files, and you'll soon be able to update the board from the schematic without updating the netlist file. Read that last feature again, slowly. It's the best news we've ever heard.
The author is tolerant of subtractive changes to proprietary licenses; other hardware hackers/tool users, in the comments there, not so much.
Previous: A Tool to Export EAGLE Projects for Use With FOSS ECADs
Cadsoft EAGLE is Now Subscription-Only
Scripts Make the (Proprietary) Cadsoft EAGLE-to-(FOSS) KiCAD Transition Easier
FOSS Printed Circuit Software KiCAD 4.0 Released
CERN is Getting Serious About Development of the KiCAD App for Designing Printed Circuits
[...] If you've been using the old "stable" version of KiCad (from May 2013!), you've got a lot of catching-up to do.
The official part footprint libraries changed their format sometime in 2014, and are all now hosted on GitHub in separate ".pretty" folders for modularity and ease of updating. Unfortunately, this means that you'll need to be a little careful with your projects until you've switched all the parts over. The blow is softened by a "component rescue helper" but you're still going to need to be careful if you're still using old schematics with the new version.
The most interesting change, from a basic PCB-layout perspective, is the push-and-shove router. We're looking for a new demo video online, but this one from earlier this year will have to do for now. We've been using various "unstable" builds of KiCad for the last two years just because of this feature, so it's awesome to see it out in an actual release. The push-and-shove router still has some quirks and doesn't have all the functionality of the original routers, though, so we often find ourselves switching back and forth. But when you need the push-and-shove feature, it's awesome.
If you're doing a board where timing is critical, KiCad 4.0 has a bunch of differential trace and trace-length tuning options that are something far beyond the last release. The 3D board rendering has also greatly improved.
Indeed, there are so many improvements that have been made over the last two and a half years, that everybody we know has been using the nightly development builds of KiCad instead of the old stable version. If you've been doing the same, version 4.0 may not have all that much new for you. But if you're new to KiCad, now's a great time to jump in.
Cadsoft's Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor (EAGLE) is an ECAD (Electronic Computer-aided design), a software product for designing printed circuit boards. As that product has a demo/freeware version which is adequate for many users, as well as having a reasonable price structure for more-capable versions, and being cross-platform, it had considerable popularity.
A year ago, Autodesk acquired Cadsoft Computer GmbH and changed the licensing of the product to a subscription model. Since then, many users of EAGLE have been seeking a path away from that EULAware app. Many have moved to (FOSS) KiCAD, a project started by French academics which has gained developer support from personnel at CERN.
A sticking point for those wanting to transition to a new tool is the projects previously developed using the old tool and saved in the native format of that package.
There is a desire to port those innumerable Eagle board layouts and libraries to other PCB design packages. This tool does just that.
The tool is an extension of pcb-rnd, a FOSS tool for circuit board editing [itself, a fork of gEDA's "PCB" module], and this update massively extends support for Eagle boards and libraries.
As an example, VK5HSE loaded up an Eagle .brd file of a transceiver, selected a pin header, and exported that component to a KiCAD library. It worked the first time. For another experiment, the ever popular TV-B-Gone .brd file was exported directly to pcb-rnd.
This is a mostly-complete solution for Eagle-to-KiCAD, Eagle-to-Autotrax, and Eagle-to-gEDA-PCB, with a few minimal caveats relating to copper pours and silkscreen--nothing that can't be dealt with if you're not mindlessly using the tool.
While it must be noted that most Open Hardware projects fit inside a 80 [sq.cm] board area, and can therefore be opened and modified with the free-to-use version of Autodesk's Eagle, this is a very capable tool to turn Eagle boards and libraries into designs that can be built with FOSS tools.
Things are about to get interesting in the world of PCB design software for the open [...] hardware community. This week, Altium launched the open public beta for its new [CircuitMaker] software, and it's a major change from what we looked at previously. Everything is [gratis].
You heard that right, [gratis]. Unlimited board size and unlimited layers--all [gratis]. And this isn't some stripped-down, bare-bones software here. They've thrown in almost everything under the sun: a 3D viewer, team project collaboration, [Cadsoft EAGLE] and DFX import, integrated Octopart supplier and pricing information, no commercial usage limits, and project sharing. And if that isn't enough, the "engine" seems to be the exact same back-end that is used in the full $10,000 Altium Designer as well (with a bit easier to use user interface on top).
This is a major departure from the pre-beta we covered back in September. Altium was going [to] have board size and layer limits, with the ability to "upgrade" at a cost.
[...] there are a few gotchas[...]. The software uses cloud based storage for your project files and [it] is community based. It won't work without an Internet connection, there is no local storage, and it forces you to share your projects with the world. You do get two "Sandbox" designs that you can hide from the world before you generate your Gerber files, but after that, your project is online for the whole world to see.
[...] anyone with a doggy Internet connection is not going to enjoy using [CircuitMaker] (we're hoping they remove that limitation in the final product). [...]how many people will be willing to trust their designs to a free service that could be turned off on a whim?
[...] If you want to see in-depth review of [CircuitMaker], we highly recommend you watch the video[...]. Dave Jones of the eevblog, gives you a full rundown on the beta version. Dave's in a unique place to review this software: Not only has he been using Altium since the mid-80's as a professional engineer, he's also a former Altium employee.
 The CircuitMaker page contains a "Free" link, but it doesn't lead anywhere--especially not to source code (even after allowing the 8 scripts that the page wants to push at you). There is some vague gibberish about GPL at the bottom of the CircuitMaker page but, again, no mention of actual source code. It appears that although the Hackaday submitter used the term "open source", that is used incorrectly.
In addition, the Download link doesn't lead anywhere for me--again, even after allowing the 8 scripts. Justice_099 in the comments says "Downloading requires a CircuitMaker account and I don't see any way to create an account there." (This really looks like amateur night.)
There is also no mention of operating systems, so I'm assuming this is Windows-only. (imroy264 in the comments says that is so and Anonymous below him says it fails via WINE).
majost in the comments says "My biggest issue with CircuitMaker is you cannot import manufacturer or third-party supplied parts libraries, and the Ciiva Library is lacking quite a few parts."
The comments also contain numerous mentions of (GPL'd, zero-restriction) KiCAD.