designing a PCB and then nope, nope, nope

A project log for DIP switch calendar

habit / activity tracker for the year, based on a popular youtuber's design

davedarkodavedarko 01/13/2018 at 11:3713 Comments

With no idea of the size I started to roughly layout the idea in EAGLE but soon noticed that I'd run into the size restriction of the "free" version I have. So I thought to myself, why not use KiCad for this idea and it worked out! Overcoming some UI quirks and stuff I'm not used to is a small price to pay for an unlimited boardsize, I thought to myself.

But I soon missed the auto-router :( I've routed everything and finally got to the point where I was ready for an OSHPark upload... but wow that price! - a pretty fair price and I probably can get it cheaper from a pcb producer you'd no doubt want to write in the comments, but I've decided to try a good old perfboard instead. 

So here is what I've produced in Inkscape so far, it really helped to draw the 15 x 20 cm2 and notice that I've bought all the wrong sizes, starting with a 10x22 board and a 12x18 board. I plan on adding a decal before soldering, maybe a gold sticker and print something purple on it as a tribute to the OSHPark boards I've never ordered. 


Jens Hauke wrote 01/13/2018 at 20:58 point

You shouldn't miss the auto-router. FreeRouting integrates well in KiCAD. After installing FreeRouting, the PCB view has a menu "Tools/Freeroute" which let you export a "Specctra Design" and launch FreeRouting (and reimport the routes afterwards).

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davedarko wrote 01/13/2018 at 21:07 point

We might have a different understanding of the word integrated - for me that means clicking one button, ignore a settings window and hit OK. Especially with this schematics it can't go wrong. There were a lot of tutorials I clicked through before that to get where I got, so I just did the routing myself, after hitting both auto-routing buttons in the navigation did nothing, not even an alert.

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Jens Hauke wrote 01/13/2018 at 21:39 point

The UI, well, yes. My advantage: I never used a commercial EDA. And KiCAD is so much better than InkScape for this job. I do not know what i am missing :-).

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Frank Buss wrote 01/13/2018 at 23:45 point

I use FreeRoute like this: Tools->FreeRoute, "Export a Specctra Design", then start freeroute (from , the jar file works well, just type "java -jar FreeRouting.jar" in a console). Then open the exported file in it, do the routing, save the result and click the Back Import button in KiCad. Especially for such big boards with not much timing constraints it makes it really easy.

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davedarko wrote 01/14/2018 at 00:13 point

@Jens Hauke I already have a full design in KiCad, but the graphics that I would have wanted on the boards I'd probably had to design in Inkscape anyways and then find a way to import them into the board designs. now it's only for planning out the parts and that was actually easier than in Eagle or KiCad because of the alignment tools of Inkscape (although I really liked the snapping of components in KiCad, that's much cooler than in Eagle). 

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Bastiaan wrote 01/14/2018 at 12:34 point

Just an FYI on importing graphics in KiCad, you can use bitmap2component which is included, where you can choose a bitmap image, change settings to make it look good and export it as a board component. Then after refreshing your component libraries (e.g. restarting KiCad) you can just place the graphic on your board just like any other component.

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jaromir.sukuba wrote 01/13/2018 at 16:53 point

You may try to design the calendar, but change from big single board, to more smaller boards, making advantage of asian PCB manufacturing houses offer where you receive 10 boards of the same type; if you fit 10x10cm area. For example, you may make one PCB with two sub-PCBs for long and short months, use 6 of those pairs, you still end up with 4 bonus boards.

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davedarko wrote 01/13/2018 at 17:10 point

hmm, didn't think about that. 4 month each on a board and ordering on OSHpark might be more reasonable than ordering a big board :)

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jaromir.sukuba wrote 01/13/2018 at 16:46 point

No love for February 29th? That's 25% of sad.

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davedarko wrote 01/13/2018 at 17:06 point

I thought about that for a while. You gotta have a "funday" at some point ;) also, I'm still able to add one just in case I really miss it.

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Bastiaan wrote 01/13/2018 at 16:24 point

What size board did you get? It looks like Simone used a laser cut material and I assume she connected the switches with wire on the back, and I think perfboard would also look great. 

By the way, if you switch to the OpenGL mode in KiCad you get push and shove routing which works great. The ‘default’ mode in PcbNew is legacy I understand from the roadmap. 

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davedarko wrote 01/13/2018 at 17:09 point

I've bought a few sizes, but it 15 x 20 cm2 seemed to fit best with some space between to add text, just in case I put a sticker on the hole board before putting in the parts.

that KiCad mode was weird, routed wires didn't really show :D is the OpenGL stuff in the normal releases?

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Bastiaan wrote 01/14/2018 at 12:31 point

Yep it should be in the regular release, you have to go to View > Switch canvas to OpenGL. I used it for #Bicolor 8x8 bicolor LED matrix backpack which helped tremendously, so try it out again, you won't regret it :)

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