Electronics > KiCad

Transitioning from Eagle to KiCAD

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I have a small business and have been using Eagle as my CAD tool for the past 10 years or so.   When Autodesk bought Eagle, I switched to the subscription model, and have had a full professional license from the beginning.    I currently have about a dozen designs in production, none of which are super complicated as electronic designs go - my biggest board is about 100mm x 160mm, they tend not to be super dense, nothing more than two layers, no super fine pitch lines, no high frequency stuff.  I do have some high power stuff, so aluminum core boards, and thick copper but from a CAD standpoint, that is not an issue.

I have also taken advantage of Fusion 360 to design some of my cases - I do fewer than one mechanical design per year, so it is difficult to justify a lot of cost for mechanical CAD.   I have had limited experience in integrating the ECAD and MCAD designs, but don't trust the results which would be most valuable part of Fusion to me (for example, I did a thermal analysis on one of my designs, with the thought of figuring out what size cooling fan I would need, and the results that I got said that my current design was running with transistors at 600C - which I know is not the case).

I am seriously thinking of transitioning all of my E CAD projects to KiCAD.   I would expect that half of this work would be the designs themselves (The tools by Anool Mahindra on Hackaday look promising), and half or more of the work will be in generating the libraries - I use my own libraries for Eagle with my metadata in there (including my suppliers etc).   I'd love to find a tool which would enable active metadata, so that I could have a field for a Digikey partnumber, and the tool would populate price and availability fields from the Digikey website - does this exist?

I am curious to know if anybody has had experience in moving designs from Eagle to KiCAD, and if so, how that went - for bonus points - suggestions for an open source 3D design tool which will support sheet metal designs.



My advise is to wait untill KiCad 6 has been released.
I still use Eagle V7 Ultimate/professional but also KiCad 5.19.

Stability and speed of Eagle V7 is superior (at least on Linux) but KiCad has a better router and support for 3D models
including a cool 3D viewer to impress clients. However, creating and managing libraries with KiCad 5 is tedious and the built-in
editors lack many functions (most KiCad users seems to use external tools to create new libraries).

KiCad can import Eagle projects but I wasn't satisfied with the results so I started to use another (external) tool to convert all my
Eagle libs to Kicad (Linux only).

Anyway, my plan is to switch completely once KiCad 6 is out and stable.

Freecad is a good mechanical complement to Kicad. there is a module to transfer kicab pcb to freecad design and build a box surrounding the pcb is quite easy.

I have some experience with KiCad but had not used the eagle importer yet.
Some time ago I bumped into:


The author of that project had made it in eagle, but in one of his project blogs he mentioned he was interested in KiCad. I thought it was a good Idea to get a bit of hands-on experience with importing an eagle project in KiCad, so I made him an offer to port the project and he accepted.

I pulled a clone from github, opened it in KiCad and just saved it, and it mostly worked in about 5 to 10 minutes, but it looked quite ugly because KiCad handles labels, buses and bus labels differently. After that I think I spend about an evening (4 to 5 hours) of cleaning it up. Probably more then an hour was for figuring out what that project did in the first place and how the different schematic sheets fit together.

All the cleanup I did was in the schematic. The PCB import was (nearly?) flawless.
As with any decent PCB design suite, KiCad also has a full DRC. This means that if there are any errors during the import, then DRC will flag them as long as both the schematic and the PCB do not have the exact same error (and that would be extremely unlikely).

This does leave some remnants, as KiCad also imports all schematic symbols (including power symbols) from eagle and these do not look very "beautiful" in KiCad. Same for the footprints on the PCB. I easily could have spent much more time on the "cleanup" by replacing imported eagle symbols by native KiCad equivalents, but it was not my project, I reached my goal of verifying the importer works, and I did not want to change too much on someone else's project.

And KiCad is FOSS, which means you can just install it, make a backup copy of one of your eagle projects and then open it in KiCad and see for yourself how good it works.

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About the KiCad version...
KiCad V6 was expected early this year, somewhere around February, and it's being ... delayed a bit. At the moment it's becoming unsure if the Release Candidate for KiCad V6 will be released this year, and the official release of KiCad V6 will probably be a few months later.
The differences between KiCad V5.1.x and KiCad-nightly V5.99 (which will become V6) are quite significant. Starting now with KiCad V5 would seem illogical.
KiCad-nightly V5.99 is quite far developed, but still about 7 issues per day are being fixed. If you're adventurous, or curious, then I'd say give it a try. If your conservative or your bread and butter depends on it, then using it for "serious" work is not such a good idea and you'd probably better wait for KiCad V6.

But if you port an eagle project to KiCad, you still have the eagle project. So there is not much keeping you back to just try how good it works. I also advise to start with something small and not too serious. The Idea is that if you make mistakes out of inexperience, you can just start over without loosing a lot of time. Bigger projects have much more repetitive work, and this makes it more tedious, and is a hindrance to the process of learning KiCad itself. Projects of around 10 to 20 schematic symbols and below 100 pins are probably best to learn with.

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About mechanical CAD...
There is a "KiCadStepUp" workbench for FreeCAD.
In the two and a half minute video below it is used to create a PCB outline from a .STEP file, apply an offset to get a clearance, and then export it to a KiCad project.


FreeCAD has a lot of powerful capabilities, but it's not an easy program to learn or use.
It has also made quite some progress in the last 5 or so years.
I've been using it for hobby things for a few years now, and each workbench is a separate struggle to master.

I've been fiddling with freecad as a newbie......love it.   So much to learn.  ALso an eagle 7.5 user and looking to go KiCad.  Tried before but found it clunky so looking for Kicad ver 6.   

Especially the 3D view.   

There are a huge number of Freecad tutorials indeed finding many relating to Kicad and freecad PCB import/export.  Looking forward to changing now i'm into freecad


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