FOSS Software

Delve into electronic design automation with KiCad

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Today we are going to enter a field that is not usually the protagonist in, that of the electronic design automation, and we are going to do it, of course, presenting the news of the latest version of a free software suite (GPLv3 and MIT licenses) aimed at this need: KiCad 6.

Basically, Electronic Design Automation (EDA) refers to software tools geared towards creating projects for the conception and production of electronic systems. To give a specific example, KiCad is one of the toolkits with which the System76 Launch Configurable Keyboard PCB can be opened.

Going into details about KiCad 6, it is the first major version to be released since July 2018, when version 5.0 appeared. With such a large amount of time, the developers have been able, in their own words, to add “Hundreds of new features and enhancements” and correct “Hundreds of errors”. We imagine that they speak in cumulative terms.

The first notable novelty of KiCad 6 is a revamped user interface in order to lower the barrier to entry to newcomers and reduce friction when switching from other design software to KiCad. “The visual design language, hotkeys, dialog layouts, and editing workflows have been harmonized in KiCad so that you no longer feel like you’re using two different tools when switching between the schematic editors and the PCB “.

KiCad 6 schematic editor

The schematic editor has been revamped to use the same object selection and manipulation paradigm as the PCB editor, in addition to receiving dozens of new features to enhance the design. On the other hand, and continuing with the diagrams, KiCad 6 introduces a new symbol and diagram library file format based on the format used for footprint and plate files.

The PBC editor is another section that has been fully updated to add many new options to better help navigate complicated designs. Advanced plate creation has been enhanced with support for rounded tracks, shaded copper areas, and removal of unconnected annular rings. “The push-push router and track length adjustment functions have also been improved for faster, easier, and easier-to-use routing.”.

KiCad 6 PCB Editor

It’s great to have perspectives to help design and create, but what does the end result look like? Fortunately, KiCad 6 includes a updated three-dimensional viewer with “Ray tracing lighting controls, highlighting selected objects in the PCB editor, and easier access to frequently used controls”.

To finish off the most important new features, the new custom design rule system lets you define complex design rules, including area-specific rules, layer-specific rules, and other restrictions that might be required in advanced design.

KiCad 6 3D Viewer

All the details of KiCad 6 are available in the official announcement, while the application can be obtained from the corresponding download section with installers for Windows and macOS and instructions for installation on the most popular Linux distributions and FreeBSD. There is also an installer Official Flatpak hosted on Flathub for those who don’t want to mess with dependencies and steps specific to the Linux system they are using.

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