KiCad Script Hack for Better Mechanical CAD Export

Open source EDA software KiCad has been gaining a lot of traction recently. CERN has been devoting resources to introduce many new advanced features such as differential pair tracks, push and shove routing and this plenty more scheduled in the pipeline. One important requirement of EDA packages is a seamless interface with mechanical CAD packages by exporting 3D models in industry common formats. This improves collaboration and allows further engineering designs such as enclosures and panels to be produced.

KiCad has had a 3D viewer available for quite a long time. But it uses the VRML mesh format (.wrl files) and there are compatibility issues which prevent it from rendering certain versions of VRML files. Moreover, the VRML mesh export is not particularly useful since it cannot be easily manipulated in mechanical CAD software. Recent versions of KiCad now offer IDFv3 format export – the Intermediate Data Format, a mechanical data exchange specification for the design and analysis of printed wiring assemblies. Taking advantage of this new feature, [Maurice] created KiCad StepUp – an export script that allows collaborative exchange between KiCad and FreeCAD.

A FreeCAD macro and a corresponding configuration file are added to the KiCad project folder. You start with .STEP files for all the components used in the KiCad design. The next step is to convert and save all .STEP files as .WRL format using FreeCAD. On the KiCad side, you use the .WRL files as usual. When you want to export the board, use the IDFv3 option in KiCad. When [Maurice]’s StepUp script is run (outside of KiCad) it replaces all instances of .WRL files with the equivalent .STEP versions and imports the board as well as the components in to FreeCAD as .STEP models. The result is a board and its populated components which can be manipulated as regular 3D objects.

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VFX1 Virtual Reality Headset LinkBox


[Kevin Mellott’s] take on the VFX1 was to update it so it can be used with modern computers requiring just a USB socket and VGA feed.

The VFX1 is a Virtual Reality Headset that hit the market in the first half of the 90’s. The headset was the first of its kind to hit the home market and was ahead of its time. The VFX1 was developed and marketed by Forte Technologies, who’s assets where purchased in 1997 by Vuzix who now produce modern day Video glasses with optional tracking system.

What [Kevin] has achieved is nothing more than remarkable. The original system required a massive ISA card and a link from this card to the Feature Connector on the display card. [Kevin] did away with the ISA card and FCON replacing it with what he calls the LinkBox. This LinkBox has serial or USB out and accepts stereo/mono VGA input or RGB.

The system can now be used with modern day computers including laptops. Those into VR should really check this out.

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