Open Source Hardware and KiCad

One of the reasons I decided to make this site is because I am very interested in Open Source Hardware. Arduino is what made me realize that I can do hardware work without a background in electrical engineering; projects like RepRap and commercial ventures like MakerBot Industries have shown me that physical things can be just as accessible for DIY makers as software.

KiCad is an open source EDA (electronic design automation) suite, used for schematic capture and designing PCBs (printed circuit boards). It’s considered to be the “open source equivalent” of EAGLE, another well-known and used program in the OSHW world.

I originally chose KiCad for a simple reason: I was learning how to make PCBs, and while everyone I knew used EAGLE, the board I wanted to make was larger than EAGLE would create with its free version. KiCad was one of the two major alternatives (the other being gEDA), and was the tool that I learned how to do PCB design with.

Over the last three years, I’ve considered switching back to EAGLE and buying a license for it. This is primarily due to the community support for EAGLE, e.g. SparkFun releasing parts libraries and schematics in its format (and requiring it for projects sold through their site).

I’ve decided to stay with KiCad and never made the switch back because I feel very strongly about using free and open source software for open source hardware designs. With the development of EAGLE to KiCad parts converters, the advantage of using EAGLE has been becoming less of an issue; creating new parts in KiCad is also easy and has also never been an issue to stay away from it.

To help encourage other people use KiCad, I’m releasing all of the parts libraries and footprints I create and use in the Google Code repository I’ve set up. I hope that these are of use to other hardware designers and that it helps promote an excellent open source EDA project that I’m happy to have found.

Some Links