Eagle and KiCad

I’m finally getting back into designing boards.  I just ordered some test boards from OSHPark.  Love that site and there low minimums and affordable pricing.

I have been working with Wemos D1 Mini units and need to build a carrier board that supplies power and holds other components.  I drew up the pin outline in Eagle and sent it off to make sure it’s right.  I find this saves alot of aggravation when drawing my own parts.

Now that I’m designing PCB’s I figured I should look at an upgrade of Eagle.  Ruh Roh!  Autocad bought them.  Autocad makes nice stuff, but the baby from the marriage of CadSoft and Autocad is likely to need time to grow up.  They seem to have stopped selling Eagle and are talking about something new.  Branding and messaging is a mess and there is annoying pop-up all over Cadsoft’s site.  Messy Marketing makes it look like a Walking Dead website.  🙁

Well, that’s as good of an excuse as any to survey the field and see what’s out there.  Altium seems okay, but I’m not ready to throw $1k at it and I don’t want a product filled with gotchas and fish-hooks trying to upsell me.  I already have Quick(sand)books for that.

Enter KiCad.  It’s open source, GitHub friendly, and has a huge number of users.  It’s also multi-platform.  The price is right, just bits from Comcast which are $120 for 1 TB/mo.  300MB later, I run the installer.  There are some features to be desired, like auto-update.  It has it’s own set of vexing issues, but the documentation and YouTube videos are really good.  There are a number of things that are fundamentally easier to do… such as part design/layout.  Other things are awkward at best, such as the inability to set defaults or work with Design Rule files for various fabrication houses.    One particular nice thing is that Eagle was always picky about design scale i.e. units/millimeters and was notorious for leaving wires disconnected.  KiCad seems to have a more intelligent UI that avoids this issue while being far easier to share design files etc.

Like all PCB design tools, learning curve is a modest description…. I prefer to call it a learning cliff.

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