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The Ultimate KiCad flex PCB Design Guide

PCB assembly is a continuous process that evolves with technological advancement. Designing a PCB, therefore, calls for high precision. However, achieving this precision while designing the PCB manually may invite a whole lot of errors. In the past, a designer had to purchase all the components they required or CAD tools from a company, which was very expensive. However, the task becomes more manageable with the application of computer software.

Furthermore, creating a circuit can be either rigid or flexible. However, KiCad offers any of the two styles, hence the name KiCad rigid-flex. The following information talks more about KiCad, and the KiCad flex PCB.

 KiCad software

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In 2003, Jean-Pierre Charras created KiCad, an open-sourced PCB designing tool that is flexible to run on Windows, Mac, and Linux. In addition, Due to its easy-to-use nature, KiCad has many users, including engineers, prototypes, and students. Moreover, the software enables users to design PCB layouts and schematics for embedded systems design or electronic circuits. Additionally, the software has a variety of devices, allowing for fast configuration. The devices include ICs, passive components, a wide range of resistors and LEDs, etc. Furthermore, the software provides an interactive design environment.

KiCad Schematic Editor

The KiCad Schematic Editor is a feature in the software that facilitates the upgrade of every basic schematic design to a complex iterative design with many sheets. Moreover, the Schematic editor has thousands of custom symbols in the KiCad’s official library. However, it is possible if a user wishes to create custom symbols. Additionally, the editor has an electrical rules checker and an integrated SPICE stimulator that aids in the verification of the design.

Features included in the KiCad Program

The KiCad program includes features such as the 3D viewer that lets the user view the PCB in full 3D mode and an interactive autorouter. Moreover, it allows for adding 3D components and has an in-built schematics and PCBs editor. Furthermore, the program offers different algorithm layouts and effective grid-aware plans for efficiently using the board’s space. Additionally, the program has expandable and comprehensive documentation that facilitates multi-layer PCBs. The program also has double-sided or single-track board support, and the user can export the files to any PCB fabricating format—for example, the Excellon and Gerber drill files. Furthermore, the program’s hobbyists and DIY version application versions are available. Finally, software developers are constantly improving the KiCad platform for excellent results.

KiCad flex PCB

KiCad flex is among the easiest and most effective start-up PCB prototyping methods. Integrating all components into the same software assures the user of their design’s working.

KiCad’s flex usability

Although KiCad is a user-friendly platform, it requires practice and patience to understand. Otherwise, it can be the most challenging platform. Therefore, before making significant decisions, the user must gather enough understanding of the platform’s functions. However, KiCad flex is easy to understand and offers a preview mode, allowing the user to see the final design’s look before printing. Equally important is that KiCad does not support updates for Windows 7 and 8 operating systems.

How To Create a KiCad flex PCB

KiCad is the most effective platform for beginners in PCB designing. The beginner will follow the following simple steps:

Downloading and opening the platform

First, the user should download the software.

Second, open the software and go to the “open” or “Create new” project. The “Create new” project will direct you to pick a saving location.

Next, create a schematic, and its corresponding board layout from the schematic layout editor (Eeschema). Finally, open the schematic editor and choose the recommended settings. You will draw the circuit prototype on the schematic.

Component Interfacing

Add all the components required for the PCB without incorporating wires. The parts are available in the “Place symbol” icon. Use the component chooser to pick the component’s symbol, then drop it in the workspace. First, add all the wires you need to link the parts with the necessary components. Then, add symbol values to all the elements that require quantity description. For instance, indicate the voltage value of a battery in your circuit. Also, attach to each component a unique identifier. For example, for several capacitors, identify them as C1, C2, C3, etc. The “annotate schematic” tool aids in this annotation.

Moreover, components on the schematics will require footprints. For instance, you will need to leave three holes for the through-hole transistor. The “assign footprint” tool will assist in that. However, for an easier task, refer to the filter tool.

Error Checking

With all the schematic components interfaced, check for such errors as unlinked components. Making an error is possible; hence the ERC check becomes pivotal. On the software platform, run the ERC function from the “inspect menu” tool. Consequently, the application will display any errors in the setup.

Drawing the KiCad flex PCB layout

Having sketched all the connections on the schematic, you now translate them into a board. The “run PCB new to layout PCB” tool in the schematic will aid in displaying a fresh workspace. You then click on the “Update PCB from Schematic” tool to get the loaded footprints and air wires. Having ensured that no air wires cross each other, now position the components on the board, based on the footprints. You now replace the air wires with track lines, to connect the components. Next, draw the PCB’s framework after linking the components. Finally, Run the DRC error check to detect errors such as missing tracks or short widths. The software displays any mistakes. If the setup has no mistakes, your PCB design is successful and awaits PCB creation in a PCB manufacturing company.

Advantages of KiCad flex PCB

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KiCad is an open-sourced platform and hence easily accessible. Moreover, it’s an easy-to-learn platform with many available components. Additionally, the platform has unlimited post-processing capabilities, and based on the design; it can automatically generate a netlist in eagle. The 3D view mode makes it easy for the designer to assess the board’s faces. Moreover, the platform has over 18,000 pre-made downloadable designs. Furthermore, the software’s version flexibility enables developers to follow up on changes during the designing process. Finally, the platform can generate solder mask layers, Gerbers, and preference files and also allows the user to employ vias on traces to enhance panelization

Disadvantages of KiCad flex PCB

Firstly, the software cannot track records for a previous design. Secondly, the limited Gerber view does not allow for viewing pads, holes, traces, etc. Finally, its BSD license does not allow commercializing the designs using the original code.

Conclusion

From the above information, it is clear that KiCad is a readily available open-sourced platform. With coding experience, the software will be the best for PCB designs. With the current technology trends, designing PCBs is also a dynamic process. As mentioned above, KiCad eases the designing process by employing codes and commands. Moreover, the information has guided the reader on how to acquire the software and outlined the KiCad flex PCB designing procedure.

Also, errors are possible; therefore, checking them out is pivotal. Finally, the information highlights the pros and cons of KiCad flex PCB designing. In conclusion, if you wish to design PCBs at home, being a beginner in electronics or an expert in the field, familiarizing yourself with KiCad flex is advisable.