My first commercial circuit...

panic mode

Joined Oct 10, 2011
1,993
Thanks, guys! ... I've just gone through the proposed options, and I think that Kicad is the better choice, since it's not only about graphics but it also has simulation capabilities and 3D viewing of the finished assembly. And those are features that might come in handy in the future.

I just hope that the learning curve that Max mentioned doesn't prove to be too steep.

as someone using KiCad for many years here are few things i would like to mention:
- all of those products have learning curve (and it can be steep), and before one uses any EDA product, familiarization with workflow and terminology is needed.
- i made choice many years ago when i needed to make several large boards and could not spring $$$ for commercial products. most of those commercial products have free demo or trial but there are numerous limitations such as very limited number of connections, number of layers, number of schematic sheets etc. not to mention that they explicitly forbade using demo or trial license to make commercial products. so KiCad was it... one can do giant 32 layer boards, no license fee or royalty needed.
- my first project required 4 boards with average size of a book cover. and i did it in a hurry - it was less than a week from installing software till order was placed. it was stressful to do so much including learning how to use it but it was possible. and i had to create ton of custom footprints.
- KiCad is well supported and over the years has really gone long way. library is huge, footprints and 3D models are even downloadable from electronic retailers like DigiKey - right from the product page. But i rarely use anything from built in KiCad library - i use this to view projects others have created (like included samples). i like to make each footprint myself since here and there i did run into things that did not work well. i like to make sure that pads and footprints are really correct size and as per datasheet of specific component. also i like to center components so when flipped or rotated, they do not swing wildly on the screen, symmetrical components tend to fit into same place/pads (no need to realign regardless of used grid) and this is also what assembly houses like JLC expect. i am sure they can work with placement that is offset but it is probably added work and cost. i don't know, i just do things my way. here is an example footprint centered on pin1, not on the component.
1642171945271.png

- 3D models are more than just cosmetic. several times designing 3D models and adding them to part helped me catch mistake in footprint, or clearances when components or PCBs overlap etc.
- do a proper schematics, document it in as much detail as you can (signal names etc.) then build board from it. KiCad does allow working with no design rule check (and no schematics) but this is a total pain even for the simplest boards. signal names are very handy when creating net classes and routing.
- I use KiCad on a Windows machine. For me that means NOT using default path (C:\Program Files\...). Problem is that library is installed there too and that folder has special access rights which interferes with smooth workflow. One can still install there but have libraries in different path, but setting this up correctly can be frustrating,
- I keep my library separate anyway. This way backup or KiCad upgrade do not overwrite it. updating things in the standard library is a waste of time. it will work but backup of things that may be dispersed over dozens of libraries and hundreds of files is - waste of time (in my opinion).
 
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nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
9,080
Another thing I would recommend for every electronic project document, file, folder is to use a external file level revision control system like git in the root project folder. Git was designed for software version control but it handles any type of file.
https://www.pcbway.com/blog/PCB_Design_Tutorial/Using_Git_with_KiCad.html
Why use Git
But why use Git as it does not understand KiCad files? There are still many good reasons for Git and KiCad combintaion:

  • Git can help you keep track of the file changes
  • You can create branches with Git
  • You can use git to synchronize files on multiple computers
  • You can use Git to mark important milestones in your project (i.e. mark the point where files have been sent to PCB manufacturer)
  • You can collaborate with your team using Git
  • Git can help you organize and maintain your schematic and footprint libraries
  • KiCad 6 will be much more Git friendly
  • You can use Git as a base for automation – for example you can use automation tool that will automatically create a lot of outputs from a Git repository
 

tindel

Joined Sep 16, 2012
847
I agree with using git... great tip... unfortunately I haven't found a tool that will let you diff git versions.

Altium will allow you to diff VNC versions.
 

nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
9,080
I agree with using git... great tip... unfortunately I haven't found a tool that will let you diff git versions.

Altium will allow you to diff VNC versions.
You won't be able to cherry-pick the design files usually but I usually make a PCB version number git branch with PDF schematic log notes about changes and fixes. You can diff PDF files.
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
24,218
When I first started using Kicad, It was rapidly gaining popularity in NA.
I had to get used to all the French terms and labels used. used, there is still remnants there with ver 6.
Douille, Bornier, eschema, et-al.

Also the documentation has been updated to the new ver. in PDF.


1642190336052.png
 

Thread Starter

cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
7,552
Ok... I've created my first PCB using KiCad, and it was easier than I feared it would be. But I might have made the mistake of skipping the creation of a schematic first. I really don't need a schematic for my circuit because it's my circuit and I know exactly how it works and I'm not planning on sharing it with anyone else. But when I tried to generate a schematic from the PCB I created, I got a bunch of errors, mainly saying that a symbol for X and X part could not be found. Which is strange, because, for instance, when I placed an SMT resistor on the PCB layout, I chose it directly from the library. And said library already knows that the thing is supposed to be a resistor, right?


Anyway, I'm wondering if the PCB drawing and its corresponding Gerber files is going to be enough for PCBWay so that I can get a fabrication and assembly quote.
 

MrSalts

Joined Apr 2, 2020
843
Ok... I've created my first PCB using KiCad, and it was easier than I feared it would be. But I might have made the mistake of skipping the creation of a schematic first. I really don't need a schematic for my circuit because it's my circuit and I know exactly how it works and I'm not planning on sharing it with anyone else. But when I tried to generate a schematic from the PCB I created, I got a bunch of errors, mainly saying that a symbol for X and X part could not be found. Which is strange, because, for instance, when I placed an SMT resistor on the PCB layout, I chose it directly from the library. And said library already knows that the thing is supposed to be a resistor, right?


Anyway, I'm wondering if the PCB drawing and its corresponding Gerber files is going to be enough for PCBWay so that I can get a fabrication and assembly quote.
They only need the gerber files. Google online gerber viewer, you can upload and view what the manufacturer will see. Or maybe PCBway has a viewer when you upload.
PCBWay and JLCPCB actually have pretty good customer service and you can likely get a live-chat with either company at this hour if your gerber files don't look quite right.
 

Thread Starter

cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
7,552
They only need the gerber files. Google online gerber viewer, you can upload and view what the manufacturer will see. Or maybe PCBway has a viewer when you upload.
PCBWay and JLCPCB actually have pretty good customer service and you can likely get a live-chat with either company at this hour if your gerber files don't look quite right.
Thanks, Salts. Especially for mentioning JLPCB, I hadn't heard of them and just took a look. It seems like a perfect alternative to PCBWay for comparison purposes.
 

nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
9,080
Thanks, Salts. Especially for mentioning JLPCB, I hadn't heard of them and just took a look. It seems like a perfect alternative to PCBWay for comparison purposes.
JLC is OK but upgrade the default board for a commercial product.
https://forum.allaboutcircuits.com/...nching-through-pcb.165323/page-2#post-1458432
https://forum.allaboutcircuits.com/...ll-medium-quantity-boards.174375/post-1580030
https://forum.allaboutcircuits.com/...c-controlled-battery-array.32879/post-1463914
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
24,218
Anyway, I'm wondering if the PCB drawing and its corresponding Gerber files is going to be enough for PCBWay so that I can get a fabrication and assembly quote.
Kicad has a built in Gerber viewer.
Also the board maker will come back to you after they have checked the Gerber files and let you know what is missing.
Do you have the name of the library device that showed missing?
 

MisterBill2

Joined Jan 23, 2018
10,533
It may be that the software neds a schematic and a parts list to stock the project library. Often things like that happen. The software thinks it is smarter than the user.
 

MrSalts

Joined Apr 2, 2020
843
Practically all of them. Like I said, I created the PCB first, and things went haywire when I tried to create the schematic using Kicad's tool for that purpose.
DesignSpark can handle drawing PCB without a schematics. But if your Gerber is ok, you'll be ok.
if you are having assembly done, you'll need a coordinates file to show x/y-coordinates and orientation of the parts.
Finally, jlcpcb has had a restriction of maximum 50 parts can be assembled per order to keep with their prototyping (not manufacturing) business model.
 

Thread Starter

cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
7,552
Kicad has a built in Gerber viewer.
Also the board maker will come back to you after they have checked the Gerber files and let you know what is missing.
Do you have the name of the library device that showed missing?
This is the message I get when I try to use the "Update Schematic from PCB" tool:

1642434507927.png
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
24,218
I have never tried to use the program in the 'reverse' method, I have always created boards starting out with the schematic.
Have you watched the JLCPCB factory video?


 

BobaMosfet

Joined Jul 1, 2009
1,917
It's finally here. I've been requested close to about 5,000 units of a small circuit I designed, and now I need to delegate its PCB production and assembly. My plan is to have the supplier partially assemble the circuit and then adding myself a few through hole parts and finishing touches to try to keep the price down and things as confidential as possible.

For this purpose I've chosen PCBWay, but right now I'm open to suggestions as to other suppliers.

Here's the thing, I've always designed my circuits using AutoCAD and manually put them together in-house, and I've produced my own PCB's using a transfer technique of my own creation.

But now I need to learn to use a software capable of producing the Gerber files requested by PCBWay so I can get a quote and put things in motion.

Any suggestion as to which software (preferably freeware, or as inexpensive as possible) would be best for my venture? My boards will only be using two layers, and measure about 2" x 1-1/2"

Edit: red alert... paging @MaxHeadRoom, @nsaspook, @ericgibbs, et al ... HELP!
You can try the free version of DipTrace. As a commercial producer, we use the paid version. But the Trial version has all capabilities for 30 days, and if that's not enough, reach out, and they can extend another 30 days. Whatever product you go with ultimately, make sure it has netlists, and ability to link the schematic and matching PCB- that way you can confirm via the software (much more reliable than human mark-01 eyeball) that your schematic vias match your pcb vias, and link the way they should (ie. this via connected to that via, etc).
 
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