What’s new with KiCad?
For those of you who have never heard of it, KiCad is a free, open-source design tool for printed circuit boards (PCBs). PCBs are the electronic cards you see when you open up your PC, satellite receiver or TV set, to name just a few. These essential components are designed with a tool like KiCad and then fed into the production lines.
The objective of KiCad development is to enhance its functionality, making it an efficient tool for PCB design, which people can use to share their design information without compromising on productivity.
Benefitting a wide community of users, who actively contribute time and money to its development in return, KiCad gives back not only to hardware designers, but also to students and academic institutions. Thanks to KiCad, students are able to use professional-quality PCB design tools free from constraints imposed by cost, functionality or intellectual property restrictions.
But what is the current status of KiCad? The recent release of KiCad version 6 completes a cycle that took longer than expected. This happens sometimes, and the scheduling uncertainty is even greater for open-source projects where much of the effort depends on the goodwill and availability of volunteers. The development team tried to reduce that risk by means of sponsored work packages, but KiCad has now grown into a complex project with many dependencies and a focus on quality, which means that some things take longer than before.
A summary of the new features available in this release can be found in the blog post by the development team on the KiCad site.
A lot more is in store for KiCad. Recently, discussions with the lead developer team took place regarding the roadmap for version 7. This process is complex and requires the input and collaboration of various actors. For example, the KiCad team at CERN has involved colleagues from the main technical drawing office, gathering their feedback and making sure all the issues they find are tackled. In this way, KiCad benefits from the extensive experience of these professional PCB designers. At the same time, the KiCad team has started discussions with the CERN IT department to work towards making the project sustainable.
KiCad is becoming an example, a template, of what can be done with a bit of organisation in order to make design sharing easier and to avoid vendor lock-in situations. This achievement is largely down to donors, who regularly support the project and its development.
You too can contribute to KiCad development by supporting the project with an online donation. We look forward to welcoming you into our extended family of generous and open-minded people.
If you are curious about KiCad and you want to know more, check out the interview with Javier Serrano, the coordinator of KiCad development.