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Basic instructions for using KiCad

by: Feb 23,2021 772 Views 0 Comments Posted in Help Center

Kicad Gerber PCB design Tutorial

This post will give some guidance on how to use Kicad

Open KiCAD. The first window that opens is the Project Manager.

On the right of the Manager are the buttons that will open the stand alone Tools for creating your PCB. To the left is where you create and manage all your files. This is where we start. If you are starting KiCAD for the very first time.

There are two ways to start a project. "Create New Project" and "Create New Project From Template". The "Create New Project From Template" is something to use one you have become used to using KiCAD.

So for now, click "Create New Project". This opens the standard File Dialog.

Make sure that the Checkbox in the lower left of the Dialog Window is Checked.

This will create a folder with the name you have given your project and all the files for your project will be created inside this folder. Click save.

The Project Manager should now be populated with files like I have shown above.

The next ting to do is Create/Edit our Schematic.

Click the "Schematic Layout Editor" icon in the right side of the Project manager.

This opens the "Schematic Layout Editor"

This is where we place all the components and connect them to each other.

To place a component (symbol) in the editor, click the "Place Symbol" icon on the right of the editor.

The "Choose Symbol" Window will open.

If this is the first time you have chosen a command that uses the database, it may take a little time to open.

The first time you use a command that uses the database, it will load the database into memory. Depending on how big you make the database, depends on how long it takes to load.

The "Choose Symbol" Window is where you select the component you want to add to the circuit.

You can type what you are looking for in the filter textbox.

Once you have found the symbol for the component you want to add to the circuit, in the bottom right of the "Choose Symbol" Window you can also chose the type of Footprint the component has.

Once you have selected the component you want, click OK and place it in the circuit where you want.

Once you have placed all you components in the "Schematic Layout Editor" you need to connect each of them to which ever component they connect to.

To do this, use the "Place Wire" tool. 

Now that the circuit is done, the next step is to position all the components on a board which will become our PCB (Printed Circuit Board).

But before we can use the "PCB Layout Editor" we need to create a "Net List" of all the components.

The "Net List" is similar to a bill of quantities but with extra information like which component is connected to which.

To make sure that all components have been annotated with a unique names/reference, the "Annotate Schematic symbols" tool can be used.

Clicking the "Annotate Schematic symbols" tool button brings up a window where you can select options on how the schematic is Annotated.

Just click "Annotate" button, then the "Close" button.

With all the components annotated a Net List can be made.

This is just simply a matter of clicking the "Generate Netlist" button.

An Options window will open first, click the "Generate Netlist" button.

A file dialog window will open to select a name for the Net List and where to save it. Click the "Save" button.

The Options window will close automatically when the file is saved.

If the annotation of the schematic symbols had not been done, you would be prompted to do so before creating the Net List.

Now that the Net List has been created, it's time to create the PCB.

Click the "PCB Layout Editor" icon in the right side of the Project manager.

This opens the "PCB Layout Editor"

When the "PCB Layout Editor" first opens, it will not be populated like the image above, it will be empty. The first thing to do it import all the components from the Net List.

Click the "Load Netlist" button at the top of the "PCB Layout Editor".

This will bring up the "Netlist" window.

The first time the "Netlist" window is opened, you will have to browse the the netlist file.

Do this by clicking the folder icon in the top left corner. this will bring up the standard file dialog window, chose the Netlist file created earlier and click "open" button.

The "Netlist" window will load the Netlist file and list the changes that will be applied.

Click the "Update PCB" button.

When you click the "Update PCB" button in the "Netlist" window, you will find that all the components are attached to the mouse cursor.

Just place you mouse in a location on the page and click the left mouse button.

Click a blank area of the page to deselect all the components.

You can now move and place each components on the page to where you want them placed on the board.

To create a board, you use the "Edge.Cuts" layer, drawn with "Add Graphic Lines" tool.

Select Edge. Cuts layer by using the dropdown list at the top of "PCB Layout Editor" or by clicking the Edge. Cuts layer in the "Layers Manager" on the right.

 Use the "Add Graphic Lines" tool to draw the shape of you board.

The other "Add Graphic ...." tools can be used to draw more complex shapes.

The "Add Graphic Circle" tool is used to insert holes.

The shape and size of the board is all done on the "Edge.Cuts" layer, make sure there are no brakes in the drawing of the shapes.

Use the "Rout Tracks" to place the copper traces onto the board.

This can only be done on the Copper layers.

F.Cu Layer is the Front Copper Layer.

B.Cu Layer is the Back Copper Layer.

Select the copper layer as you did for the Edge.Cuts.

You can add a Via using the "Add Vias" tool if you need to change the side that the copper track runs.

After placing all your components and joining them all with copper tracks you may want to write some text on the board.

You can do this using the "Add Text on Copper Layers or Graphic Text"

This can be done on layers:

F.Cu - Front Copper Layer. Text is written with the copper on the board.

B.Cu - Back Copper Layer. Text is written with the copper on the board.

F.SilkS - Front Silk Layer. Text is written in ink over all coatings on the board.

B.SilkS - Back Silk Layer. Text is written in ink over all coatings on the board.

Remember when looking at text on the back of the board in the "PCB Layout Editor", it will look mirrored (reversed), as the default view of the board is viewed from the front.

One important thing to do when creating you board is to set the "Origin" from which all dimensions and placement are made. Most manufacturers preferer this to be set to the bottom left of your project.

To "Place the Auxiliary Axis Origin for some Plot File Formats and for Drill and Place Files". Simply click this button and click where you want it to be. Don't confuse it with the Add Layer Alignment Target.

Now that all is done, it's nice to have a look to see what it looks like.

In the top left of the "PCB Layout Editor" click on View, then choose "3D Viewer"

This will open the "3D Viewer".

In the "3D Viewer" you can rotate zoom in/out and render the PCB.

The model used by the 3D viewer can also be ported to FreeCad, to be added to any 3D model you are making.

For more on "how to Generate Gerber file from Kicad"

Please check: https://www.pcbway.com/blog/help_center/Generate_Gerber_file_from_Kicad_5_1_6.html

Note: The content and the pictures in this article are contributed by the author. The opinions expressed by contributors are their own and not those of PCBWay. If there is any infringement of content or pictures, please contact our editor (steven@pcbway.com) for deleting.

Written by Tim.


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