from the making-gratis-and-libre-tools-even-better dept.
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
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...
[...] 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.
One barrier for those wanting to switch over from EAGLE [software for producing printed circuit boards] to KiCAD has been the lack of a way to convert existing projects from one [file format] to the other. An Eagle to KiCad ULP [User Language Program] exists, but it only converts the schematic--albeit with errors and hence not too helpful. And, for quite some time, KiCad has been able to open Eagle .brd layout files. But without a netlist to read and check for errors, that's not too useful either.
[Lachlan] has written a comprehensive set of Eagle to KiCad ULP scripts to convert schematics, symbols, and footprints. Board conversion is still done using KiCad's built in converter, since it works quite well.
Overall, the process works pretty well, and we were able to successfully convert two projects from Eagle. The entire process took only about 10 to 15 minutes of clean up after running the scripts.
The five scripts and one include file run sequentially once the first one is run. [Lachlan]'s scripts will convert Eagle multi-sheet .sch to KiCad multi-sheets, place global and local net labels for multi sheets, convert multi part symbols, build KiCad footprint modules and symbol libraries from Eagle libraries, create a project directory to store all the converted files, and perform basic error checking.
The Eagle 6.xx PCB files can be directly imported to KiCad. The scripts also convert [Vias] to Pads, which helps with KiCad's flood fill when [Vias] have no connections. This part requires some manual intervention and post processing. There are detailed instructions on [Lachlan]'s GitHub repository and he also walks through the process in the video.
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.
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.