Professional Electronics Engineer with specialisms in Test and EMC.

KiCad for Fun and Work!

SquashedFly Logo, Also available as a KiCad Logo
SquashedFly Logo, Also available as a KiCad Logo

My preferred ECAD software is KiCad. It is now at version seven, and over recent years has been developed to be more and more powerful. I used to use CadSoft Eagle CAD until it was taken over by Autodesk and became part of Fusion 360.

I use KiCad for both personal projects and work-related PCB designs. Over the years I have curated my own set of symbols, footprints, 3D models and preferred sets of plugins.

Setting up KiCad V7

I had v6 installed on my computers, and my preferred way of installing software on mac is via brew, once brew is setup, you can install KiCad by using the command brew install --cask kicad.

The first time you run it, it will ask you to configure the settings paths, since I plan to manage this all myself, I will start with the default settings, and get KiCad to automatically check for plugin updates on startup.

Plugins and Content Manager

On the KiCad empty project window, there is a button with a cardboard box icon. This is where you can find external plugins, Libraries, and additional Colour themes, that you can add to your KiCad install.

I only really make use of the official plugin repository for installation, below is a list of plugins that I add:

  • Interactive Html Bom – A plugin that makes the population of boards much easier. and gives a nice way of presenting PCB data.
  • PCBWay Plugin for KiCad – A plugin that sends the PCB data to PCBWay, making it easy to price up and order designs.
  • Bulk hide silkscreen designators – A plugin that hides component silkscreen identifications on the PCB.

Default KiCad Template

Recently I found a small design consultancy company called DevTank which has uploaded its common library to Github.

Looking at their library, I saw how they were managing the common library as a sub-module of their projects. looking at this it seems the most sensible way forward.

I have created two git repositories

Template repo

This repository contains the following files and folders:

  • .gitattributes
  • .gitignore
  • .gitmodules
  • blankproject.kicad_pcb
  • blankproject.kicad_prl
  • blankproject.kicad_pro
  • common/
  • fp-info-cache
  • fp-lib-table
  • meta/
  • sym-lib-table

Some of these are common application files, and some of them relate to the sub-modules. .gitattributes, and the meta folder, which I will cover in a subsequent post.

The easiest way to make use of this is to clone the repository into the kicad templates folder

Clone this repro into:

WindowsC:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\kicad\templates\Default
Template directory

Template Common repo

This folder is already contained in my template folder, but to use it in an existing project, this is where I keep my library, the

cd my_new_project
git init
git submodule add [email protected]:PhilipMcGaw/kicad_template_common.git common

Once that is in the location you will need to copy the two files fp-lib-table and sym-lib-table from the common folder to the base project folder. This will allow you to use the libraries in your project.

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