Useful Tools From KiCad

I always want to find replacements of commercial CAD tools. For example, I have used GIMP (instead of Photoshop) for many years. So, I also tried to use KiCad couple years ago. But it is not very matured at that time. Today, I download the latest version (4.0.6) and try it again. I have to say, it is very useful now.

Many makers use EAGLE for their PCB projects. But EAGLE belongs to AUTODESK now, and you  can only use it for 2 layers PCB for free. 2 layers is absolutely not enough for me (and for you, I guess).

I am not going to introduce KiCad or compare it with other packages. Here, I want to introduce the very useful tools in KiCad: PCB Calculator.

The first thing I have to do for a new project is to design its power circuit. For that, I will pick some power regulators and calculate the dividing resistors for feed back (reference) voltage.  The Regulators tab gives you a quick method to do it.

As shown in the above figure, it is quite intuitive to use.

The 2nd stuff is transmission line impedance calculation. I have designed several ANT+ and BLE devices. When the PCB layer stack is changed, I have to calculate the impedance agin for RF circuit. I used to use Saturn PCB Toolkit which is great and powerful. But it is for Windows only. Now, I can do it easily in MAC. The TransLine tab help you to do it quickly.

Since you can select different transmission line type, you can also use it to calculate trace width for other high speed signals such as USB signal.

There are other tools to help your quickly complete your design. Hope you enjoy it.