Last Updated: June 25, 2019
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Creating PCB Assemblies from your KiCad PCB Project

If you use the EDA Tool KiCad to design your PCB Assemblies, the best method to upload your design files to MacroFab is to create the following manufacturing package to upload to the MacroFab platform.

  • Component Placement Data from your .kicad_pcb file
  • PCB Layer Information in Gerber Format
  • Bill of Materials from a .XLSX spreadsheet

Once you have created this manufacturing package you will be able to easily upload your PCB Assembly to the MacroFab platform.

In the PCB tab, simply drag-and-drop your KiCad manufacturing package into the file upload target. Alternatively, you can click the Upload Files button on the right side of the screen. More information about uploading files to the platform can be found on the knowledge base article Creating a PCB and Uploading Design Files. The Bill of Materials .XLSX format upload procedure can be found here.

However, KiCad does not allow you to use a configuration file for generating manufacturing data, so we will walk you through the process below.

The .Kicad_PCB File

For our process to know where your components on your PCB Assembly are placed and the size of the components, we require the .kicad_pcb file from your PCB project. When the .kicad_pcb file is uploaded the MacroFab platform the component names, placement locations, values, and footprints will automatically be extract.

PCB Layer Gerber File Generation

Gerber files have to be generated manually from KiCad. Open up the plot menu by clicking on File then Plot. Make sure the following layers are selected: F.Cu, B.Cu, F.Paste, B.Paste, F.SilkS, B.SilkS, F.Mask, B.Mask, Edge.Cuts. If you have internal layers (In1.Cu, In2.Cu, ect..) make sure these are selected as well. PCB layers can be renamed in KiCad so if they are renamed you will have to take care in selecting the correct layers.

Before generating gerbers it is generally a good idea to run KiCad’s Design Rule Check. See lower in this article on how to run DRC.

Click the Plot button at the bottom of the window and KiCAD will generate the Gerber files. Next, the drill file needs to be created. Open the Drill Files Generation window by clicking the Generate Drill File at the bottom of the Plot window.

Make sure the options are the same as shown above, then click Drill File which will generate the Excellon Drill file required.

Gerber File Extension Names

Double-check the extension names that KiCad generated for the gerber files. They should match the file extensions listed in the Required Design Files article. If the gerber file extensions do not match what the platform expects, the gerbers will not be processed automatically and you will need to organize the layers in the platform using the Design Viewer.

Bill of Materials Generation

For the Bill of Materials Auto Fill to work on the MacroFab Platform, Manufacture Part Numbers (MPNs) must be supplied for the components. KiCad’s .kicad_pcb file does not have a standardized way to supply MPNs so a .XLSX spreadsheet will have to be made to do so. The spreadsheet only needs to contain designators and the corresponding MPN. For more information on making a .XLSX formated spreadsheet and uploading it see the knowledge base article, Importing a Bill of Materials Spreadsheet.

Generating this Bill of Materials .XLSX file is optional for KiCad PCBs. You will be able to fill out the Bill of Materials without MPNs. The platform will use the footprint and value provided by the .kicad_pcb file to suggest parts. See the Bill of Materials Management article for more information.

Design Rule Check (DRC)

To setup the design rules in KiCad open Pcbnew and click the File menu at the top. Select Board Setup… from the drop menu. The Board Setup window will appear and there is a section for Design Rules. You will be able to input the DRC settings for MacroFab here.

Minimum via diameter is the minimum drill diameter plus two times the minimal annular ring. EX: 10mil + 2*(4 mil ) = 18mil or 0.4572 mm

You will also need to edit the Default Net List rules with the DRC Settings.

Please note! Our most up-to-date DRC settings can be found on the PCB Specifications and DRC page.

Cut Outs, Routs, and Slots

The MacroFab Platform currently only works with internal cut outs, routs, and slots that are defined as gerber features. To make this work in KiCad, cut outs, routs, and slots will need to be defined on the Edge.Cuts layer. This causes the cut outs, routs, and slots to be combined with the border layer gerber file. The MacroFab platform currently does not support drill slots. For more information about cut outs, slots, routes, and board outlines check out this engineering article.

Additional KiCad Questions?

If you have any other questions about creating a PCB Assembly with a KiCad PCB Project please contact our support team.