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Using Kicad at Brunel University


Dear All,
I am an Electronics Technician employed in the School of Engineering and
Design at Brunel University in the UK.
I am a long time user of KiCAD and I have been trying to encourage it's
use by students (and staff) in my lab.
We are about to introduce the use of an LPKF S62 pcb router in the lab.
I have been using KiCAD to process boards on a trial basis for use with
the machine. As we will be using Gerber and Excellon files from EasyPC
and DesignSpark (and hopefully KiCAD) we need to open the files
in GerbView and then import them into Pcbnew for panellizing (using the
amend board function). I have found that when imported into Pcbnew the
pads are replaced with via's. This is means all the via's have to be
manually converted to pads. Our students will not be using via's at all
or in very limited amounts so it would be better if the pads where
created by default.
Another problem is placing the imported files onto a pre-prepared
template board. When I use the amend board function the imported board
is placed in the centre of the page. This means that this area has to be
left clear otherwise boards are overlayed on top of each other. It would
be nice if there was an option to place the boards outside of the
working area when they are imported/appended. Another nice feature would
be an option to auto place the imported boards for panellizing or some
way of evenly spacing/distributing the boards within a fixed border .
As we are trying to speed up the production of boards on the LPKF
ideally the drill should default to 0.8mm for all the pads. An
alternative would be to force all pads under 1mm to 0.8 and all those
over 1mm to 1.2mm. Is there a way we can do this using a script on the
board file (or ideally an option in Pcbnew). I could use the brute force
method of parsing and replacing the drill file values in the final
pcbnew board file but I'm hoping for a more elegant method.
If I was a programmer I'd code these improvements myself. If I could pay
someone to do the work (or get the university to pay for the work) I
would. First I have to use Kicad the way it is to get a usable work-flow
going. Maybe we (or one of my colleagues) could get involved as
developers to code the features if we can prove Kicad is a
workable solution, who knows? I'm a big fan and a long time user of
Kicad and I applaud all the hard work that has gone into it's
development. I'd just like to use this opportunity to say thank you.
Anyway that's all for now. I will keep you all up to date with my
progress between now and September (when we hope it will be operational).

P.S One other problem is the persistence of custom design rules between
exporting to Freeroute and importing back again into Pcbnew. I keep
having to re-enter my design rules again as they are not being
remembered. Am I doing something wrong?

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