CERN Shows Off New KiCad Module Editor

Photo from video demo of new KiCad module editor

CERN, the people that run a rather large particle collider, have just announced their most recent contributions to the KiCad project. This work focused on adding new features to the module editor, which is used to create footprints for parts.

The update includes support for DXF files, which will make it easy to import part drawings, or use external tools for more complex designs. New distribute tools make it easy to space out pads evenly. The copy and paste function now allows you to set a reference point, making it easy to align blocks. Finally, the pad enumeration tool lets you quickly set pin numbers.

CERN has already implemented a new graphics engine for KiCad, and demonstrated a new push and shove routing tool. The work plan for CERN’s KiCad contributions shows their long term goals. If you’re interested in what CERN is doing with KiCad, you can check out the CERN KiCad Developers Team on Launchpad.

After the break, watch a quick run through of the new features.

[Read more...]

Fail of the Week: Unconnected Nets in KiCad

fotw-unconnected-net

From the title and the image above you surely have already grasped this Fail of the Week. We’ve all been there. Design a board, send it to fab or etch it yourself, and come to find out you’ve missed a connection. Automatic checks in your software should prevent this, but when making small changes it’s easy to overlook running the checks again. This is exactly what [Clint] did with this board; leaving a net unconnected in the schematic, which made its way through to the board layout and into the OSHPark boards.

Okay, so fix it with jumper wire which is clearly what he did (white wire in the lower left image above). But since this is rev3 of his PCB it’s pretty upsetting that it happened. The meat and potatoes of the fail is the missing software feature that led to it. KiCad doesn’t have a pin swap tool in the board layout. Really? We use KiCad frequently and didn’t realize that the feature was missing. Needing to simplify his board layout, [Clint] went back to the schematic to swap some resistor network pins by hand. He pushed the change through the netlist and into the board layout, not realizing he had left an input gate unconnected.

A bit of searching proves that pin swapping may be coming to KiCad soon. It’s on the CERN roadmap of features they plan to add to the open source PCB layout software. We remember hearing about CERN’s plans quite a while ago, and thought we featured it but the only reference we could find is [Chris Gammell's] comment on a post from back in December. It’s worth looking at their plans, these are all features that would make KiCad a juggernaut.

EDITORIAL NOTE: We’ll soon be out of story leads for this series. If you have enjoyed reading weekly about fails please write up your own failure and send us the link. Of course any documented fails you find around the internet should also be sent our way. Thanks!


2013-09-05-Hackaday-Fail-tips-tileFail of the Week is a Hackaday column which runs every Wednesday. Help keep the fun rolling by writing about your past failures and sending us a link to the story — or sending in links to fail write ups you find in your Internet travels.

TIME’s Best Inventions of 2008

tesla

Attempting to put our past behind us as quickly as possible, TIME has released what they feel are the best inventions of 2008. While there’s some pretty wishy-washy lab-only stuff on the list, we’re glad to see a lot of cool hardware made the cut. Some of our favorites are: The Tesla roadster proving electric cars can be fun. IBM breaking the petaflop barrier with LANL’s Roadrunner. The Large Hadron Collider for getting everyone scared about physics all over again. Have a look at the list for many other tech highlights from this year.

Space tech helps athlete attain world record

German athlete [Wojtek Czyz] set a new world record for the long jump at the Paralympics 2008 in Beijing, with the aid of his space tech enhanced prosthetic leg. He jumped a record 6.5 meters, 27 centimeters more than the previous record. Prior to switching to his new prosthetic leg for athletic competitions, he was prone to breaking the prosthesis when he performed to the best of his abilities. [Czyz] and his trainer met with ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme (TTP) technology broker MST Aerospace to assess the most important parts of the prosthesis. According to [Dr. Werner Dupont], MST Aerospace Managing Director, the crucial element was the connection angle, or L-bracket. Working with German company ISATEC, they developed a new L-bracket using a much lighter and stronger material from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), which is an instrument that will be installed on the ISS to study extraterrestrial matter. We find it interesting and pretty cool that space technology can help enhance a disabled athlete’s performance, and think that this could lead to interesting possibilities, even for those who aren’t athletes.

[via Boing Boing]

Large Hadron Collider roundup

The Large Hadron Collider was a success and it didn’t destroy the world. We have to admit, we were a little bit worried about the possibility of generating black holes but were soothed by scientists’ reassurances that we would still exist, and this self-explanatory website. We’re also kind of hoping to build our own. PHD Comics visits CERN to learn all about the experiment. Xkcd prepares for the end times with a new friend. The curious can explore some amazing imagery of the LHC, and read about the best-and-worst-case scenarios, and what scientists are hoping for, or monitor progress via webcam. The celebratory will listen to appropriate music, consume inspired science fiction, and drink to the Large Hadron Collider and its success.

Welcome to the petacentre

[Cory Doctorow] obtained access to a few data centers that deal in petabyte storage. The demand for data storage and processing doesn’t show any sign of stopping. It’s especially relevant when people need the resources to manage not only things like Google searches, but also email, customer transactions, and in the case of CERN, physics calculations. [Doctorow] drew an interesting conclusion from his experiences with the data centers; any innovation that the petabyte centers work on will eventually drift on down to the ordinary user, in laptop or desktop innovation. The petabyte center is easily duplicated with materials that are available for purchase to the average computer user; the only obstacles are price and space.

[via Boing Boing]

Large Hadron Collider user manual online


If you’ve got a few hours (or weeks) of spare time, you could learn how to run the Large Hadron Collider, located at CERN in Switzerland. CERN published the full technical details of the collider and detectors online, and anyone with some curiosity and patience can read all 1,589 pages. Tell us if you got through all of it, and if you’re planning to make your own particle accelerator.

[via MetaFilter]

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