Author Topic: Adding artwork to a PCB?  (Read 950 times)

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Offline rollatorwieltje

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Adding artwork to a PCB?
« on: May 21, 2019, 01:08:32 pm »
I have a board designed in Diptrace. I want to use the front of the board as a user interface. I would like to make it a bit fancy, so I would like to place artwork on the copper and solder mask layer as well.

Diptrace has a feature to import bitmaps, which works ok on the silk layer and acceptable on the copper. However it doesn't seem to do anything on the solder mask layer. I wouldn't mind tracing over the solder mask manually using the polygon tool, but the render in the PCB Layout software is a very crude low resolution version, it's a pain to do so.

Another trick I tried was to add a custom footprint and import the artwork from a DXF file, but it seems that file format isn't that well supported and the result was a glitchy mess with text not rendering (I used Inkscape to draw the artwork).

Next I tried to export the board as gerber and import it in Kicad. I'm a bit surprised it actually sort of worked, but it messes up the paths of all components. All pads are suddenly converted to through hole. I also tried exporting to P-CAD and opening that in Kicad, but that seems to mess up the copper pours.

Another thing I'll try is to convert the gerbers to svg or something, but I haven't yet found a tool that could do the reverse.

More ideas are very welcome.
 

Offline LapTop006

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Re: Adding artwork to a PCB?
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2019, 01:37:30 pm »
Kicad's DXF import (at least in 5.0) wasn't able to do what I needed the last time I tried.

svg2mod (python script to convert SVG drawings to footprints) did work for me, however only on some elements. I had to try a few things before I could get all the art I needed on my board.
 

Offline bpiphany

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Re: Adding artwork to a PCB?
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2019, 06:54:18 pm »
Things like this is actually pretty straight forward to do directly in the gerber files. Merging to gerber files is quite simple. Gerber is very simple overall. Gerbers let you add positive items as well as negative ones, subtracting from what is already in place. That way it is easy to add artwork to ground pours or silkscreen layers.

Find the specification for gerber, it's short and easy to understand, and generate some small and simple gerbers to look at.
 

Offline rollatorwieltje

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Re: Adding artwork to a PCB?
« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2019, 09:10:19 pm »
I stumbled upon this:

https://github.com/badgeek/svg2shenzhen

It's an Inkscape plugin that outputs Kicad boards. Diptrace can import those directly, so that looks promising. I know Gerber imports work in Diptrace, so even if Kicad boards don't work directly, there is a plan B. Will give it a test tomorrow.
 

Offline rollatorwieltje

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Re: Adding artwork to a PCB?
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2019, 09:02:29 pm »
svg2shenzen seems to work :)


 


I was also able to export the gerbers from Kicad and import them in Diptrace. However be warned, DISABLE AUTO DRC CHECKING. There will be thousands of DRC errors and Diptrace will try to circle them all... Even my i7 9700 couldn't keep up. I highly recommend to import the gerber into a blank PCB layout, select all elements and group to component. Then put that component in your library and only apply it to your actual PCB as a last step before sending them off for production.

Importing the Kicad board file directly into Diptrace doesn't seem to work, it messes up the fills and the layers are wrong.
 


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