Generating prototyping board files for Kicad

My love/hate relationship with the Kicad CAD package continues, although I have resolved this year to try to be more positive about it. This week it has been moving more towards love, as I discovered how easy it is to generate Kicad data files for modules and PCBs, and even 3D models.

Kicad uses a syntax for modules and board files based on “S-Expressions”, originally designed for Lisp I think. The syntax is clean, compact and easy to read or edit by hand. It is also really easy to process with software.

Having found a cheap source of PCB manufacture, it’s cheaper to have boards made custom than buy off the shelf stripboard. Since it is rather tedious placing hundreds of pads by hand, I set about generating proto boards for Kicad, using C#.

A couple of evenings later I have this:

pcb_proto_5x10The size of this board is 50 x 100mm to match the budget PCB house, but the bonus of generated data is that it is really easy to adjust the size, layout etc. Previously I have been generating Kicad modules, but for this I generated the kicad_pcb file directly in order to place silkscreen on both sides, which doesn’t appear to work with a module.

The 3D rendering in Kicad is now much nicer, it doesn’t really make any difference to the finished product, but it does help visualise it and gives a more professional feel.

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