KiCad Import and Export Methods

Introduction: KiCad Import and Export Methods

KiCad is a free, easy to download software that is used for electronic design automation (EDA) and computer-aided design (CAD). While using this program, PCB design schematics can be realized from their electrical circuits. Within, there are tools that allow the creation of a bill of materials (BOM), artwork, 3D view of the PCB + components and Gerber files. From the workflow of KiCad working process, kiCad offers using of import or export methods to make the process of doing the project easier by adding done and completed projects or components and just modifying on them then export them to the wanted file extension.

Step 1: Introduction

Instead of creating a new object (library, symbol, or footprint) from scratch it is sometimes easier to start from one already made and modify. And after finishing create the project you can export it as many extensions. All of that KiCad can do easily. But what is KiCad?

Briefly, KiCad is a free software suite for electronic design automation. It facilitates the design of schematics for electronic circuits and their conversion to PCB designs. KiCad was originally developed by Jean-Pierre Charras and its logo is shown in fig (1). It features an integrated environment for schematic capture and PCB layout design.

Before talking about import or export methods, we have to know about KiCad interface or the workflow of KiCad. In the picture below, you see a flowchart representing the KiCad workflow. The flowchart explains which steps you need to take, and in which order. When applicable, the icon is added for convenience.

Step 2: Importing Methods

From the last workflow, it’s obvious the import method

reflects in the condition of adding:

1. Foreign project

2. symbol or component

3. footprint

Importing a foreign project

KiCad is able to import files created using other software packages. Currently only Eagle 6.x or newer (XML format) is supported.

To import a foreign project, you need to select either a schematic or a board file in the import file browser dialog. Imported schematic and board files should have the same base file name (e.g. project.sch and project.brd). Once the requested files are selected, you will be asked to select a directory to store the imported files, which are going to be saved as a KiCad project.

Adding symbol:

The KiCad symbol libraries are the individual .lib files, with the corresponding .dcm files containing symbol metadata. So, to add symbols to an existing symbol library:

• Go to: Tools> Run Library Editor.

Once the on the Library Editor window:

• Go to: File> Current Library

• Select the library where you want to add de component.

Then on the toolbar

• Select “Import component”

• Select the *.lib file you want to import.

• Click on Open.

Once you see the symbol on the screen

• Select “Update current component on the current library” on toolbar.

• Go to File > Safe current Library > Yes.

Importing footprint:

1. Extract the content of the downloaded .zip file

2. In KiCad, go to Tools > Open Eeschema

3. Select Preferences > Component Libraries

4. In the Component library files section, click Add

5. Select the .lib library file

6. Go to Tools > Open PcbNew

7. Click Preferences > Footprint Libraries Wizard

8. Follow the steps in the wizard to select and import the footprint library (.mod file)

Step 3: Exporting KiCad File

After importing the wanted object and working and modifying it, it’s the time to save it or export it to a new extension. The following figure shows the possible file extensions that KiCad offers to export its files.

One the most familiar extensions that Kicad offers is the Gerber file.

What are Gerber files?

Gerber files are the artwork of the layers that will be used to construct the board once it’s being fabricated. The industry standard file type used for manufacturing and assembling PCB’s are Gerber file types. Therefore, they are easily recognized and processed by our manufacturing equipment.

Exporting Gerber Files

From the Pcbnew, navigate to File > Plot.

Under Plot format, select Gerber.

Optionally, create a subfolder to hold the generated files. By default, they will be written to your project directory.

Under Layers, select F.Cu, B.Cu, F.Paste, and B.Paste. You will not need all of these files for every circuit, but exporting them all simplifies this process.

Under Options:

Check Plot footprint values

Check Plot footprint references

Check Exclude PCB edge layer from other layers

Set Default line width (mm): 0.1

Under Gerber Options:

Check Use Protel filename extensions

Set Format: 4.6mm

When ready, Click Plot to export the Gerbers files.

Exporting Drill Files

Continuing from the Plot window, click Generate Drill File, next to the Plot button.

If you created a subfolder for your Gerber files, select it as your output directory

Under Drill Units, select Millimeters

Under Zeros Format, select Decimal format

Under Drill Map File Format, select Gerber

Under Drill File Options, uncheck all options

Under Drill Origin, select Absolute

When ready, Click Drill File to export the drill file.

Those are the most famous condition that used for import and export conditions and their ways to happen. Hope it is useful.

Step 4: Citation

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