Exporting Eagle Libraries to FOSS Tools

Since Autodesk’s acquisition, Eagle has been making waves in the community. The de facto standard for Open Hardware PCB design is now getting push-and-shove routing, a button that flips the board over to the back (genius!), integration with Fusion360, automated 3D renderings of components, and a bunch of other neat tools. However, Eagle is not without its warts, and there is a desire to port those innumerable Eagle board layouts and libraries to other PCB design packages. This tool does just that.

The tool is an extension of pcb-rnd, a FOSS tool for circuit board editing, and this update massively extends support for Eagle boards and libraries. As an example, [VK5HSE] loaded up an Eagle .brd file of a transceiver, selected a pin header, and exported that component to a KiCad library. It worked the first time. For another experiment, the ever popular TV-B-Gone .brd file was exported directly to pcb-rnd. This is a mostly complete solution for Eagle to KiCad, Eagle to Autotrax, and Eagle to gEDA PCB, with a few minimal caveats relating to copper pours and silkscreen — nothing that can’t be dealt with if you’re not mindlessly using the tool.

While it must be noted that most Open Hardware projects fit inside a 80 cm2 board area, and can therefore be opened and modified with the free-to-use version of Autodesk’s Eagle, this is a very capable tool to turn Eagle boards and libraries into designs that can be built with FOSS tools.

Thanks [Erich] for the tip.

39 thoughts on “Exporting Eagle Libraries to FOSS Tools

  1. I don’t understand the “that is still free despite the ignorance of the community”. They want to use Open Source tools to make Open Hardware. Even if that means dealing with the fact that it might not be as nice as Eagle, yet.

    By the way, the part libraries are probably not copyrightable. It’s a consequence of 17 USC 102(b):

    (b) In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

    If there is artwork, rather than following of dimensions of a physical part, that could be subject to copyright.

    1. Yes, I always found that odd. People who are keen on open source, open access etc, seem to mentally give up when it comes to EDA software “oh just use Eagle, it’s free* [as in beer, for limited uses]”. Granted, for high end professional users KiCad may not be first choice, but for the small projects typically done with the “free” Eagle version it works fine.

      A common request on the KiCad forum is “I’ve found this project in XYZ-CAD, can anyone help me convert it?”. Where XYZ-CAD was popular tool but was then passed between a few companies before being killed off, so the only chance of reading the project is to buy their high-end tool, and even then it’s hit or miss. The file format is proprietary and undocumented, so really the prospective user is forced to recreate the project from scratch.

      What I foresee for all the hundreds of small OSH projects using Eagle, is that they will become abandonware when Eagle follows the inevitable path of closing up and introducing subscription model even for low end users. You could argue that in 10 years no one will be interested in 8 bit AVR projects, but you could have said that 10 years ago. It’s just a shame to waste all that effort just for a slightly more polished GUI and a few extra baubles few people use.

      1. I believe the parent poster wasn’t referring to KiCad being buggy or something like that, but rather to its being counterintuitive for anyone who doesn’t use that kind of software for a living.

  2. Have to agree with the other commenters. The community is *quite* aware of how free eagle is. You can either design your board in another tool up front, or you can do it once in eagle and then do it over again in another tool once your board exceeds 80cm.

    Truth is, learning a tool with arbitrary limitations is a waste of mental capacity when you’re going to have to learn another tool too anyway.

  3. My view on using FOSS is that I want clear ownership of the result. The “free for hobby use” license fogs that point.
    I’ll learn to deal with the vagaritees if it means fewer headaches later.
    Libraries should be universal.

  4. 1) WTF happened to the phone number I could call for Eagle support? Pre-Autodesk “improvements”, the 3rd world war could be in full rage, with North Korean Nukes in ballistic trajectory for Florida , during the second coming of Christ, on Chinese new year during the reunion tour of the Beatles at wood-stock, on national free BJ day, and Ed would STILL be there to answer the phone at Cadsoft to and help you through a 3 minute call on the one weird issue you had not come across in 15 years of using the tool… 2017, post Autodesk… I CHALLENGE you to find any phone numbers on Eagle’s web page.. OK, yes, I am an older engineer, but sometimes the adults in the room feel comfort when “real” tech-support (especially for the hard problems) is more than pinning your hopes to a f’ing message board and waiting for the next 3 to 3,000 hours for someone with more than a passing interest in CAD to post a real meaningful answer.

    2) Some of us are REQUIRED to keep our development machines off the internet. I know that this comes as a shock to anyone born after 1997, but there are many (very well funded) groups out there that cannot — will not — subject their development machines in the whims of a corporate entity across. the globe. Millennials: Think of it like this: You are 21 years old, but you still have to ask your mommy every 15 days if she will please allow your Iphone that you bought with the money you saved working at Starbucks all summer to keep working.. Do ya get it yet??

    I am not saying Eagle is not ripe for improvement. For 20 years Eagle has consistently made the worlds ugliest schematics, and had the most cumbersome interface for importing even the most basic DXF’s and JPEGs. Autodesk, (who admittedly writes EXCELLENT software) could really fix this and have a HUGE win, but please, please, please do not forget that you are selling to engin-nerds. We know how the sausage is made. We know that putting a hand grenade under our P and then renting us the firing-safety pin is a BAD idea for us. We will be happy to pay for that pin, but please give us that chance. I have led the purchase of hundreds of licences of Eagle, and sadly that has ended when you forced us to theater to the internet to keep the software running. CAD software as a service? You might be able to pull that crap off on the mechanical engineers, but never here with the Electrical / CS folks.. I call on Autodesk to un-break Eagle. Let use at least buy our software again.

    1. This. I teach a college course –Electronics for Scientists– and I used to use EAGLE for that course. It had its quirks, but it’s decent software and students produced some cool projects with it. I could install the software on the lab machines, and any student could sit down at any machine, log in, and use EAGLE. Once AutoDesk bought them out, the “free” license requires registration: but instead of registering by workstation it’s registered by user/workstation so every student had to set up their free account to use the lab software, and then set up their license on every workstation they were using. If Joe was licensed on workstation A and Mary was using workstation A for another project so Joe used workstation B, he had to go through the whole licensing thing again on B. With 20+ students this was a royal pain in the hindquarters.

      I contacted EAGLE to find a solution, and their response could be summarized as “tough sh*t.”

      I use KiCAD for the class now. It has different quirks, but it’s decent software and students produce some cool projects with it.

    1. Actually, I don’t think it’s his fork. IIRC the first thing he contributed to the fork was an exporter for KiCad. Before that he was just doing standalone utilities for EDA interoperability.

  5. I would hardly call eagle the de facto standard for open source hardware. Most hacker types I know use Kicad and engineers tend to use commercial packages.

    I had to use eagle last year after years of protel, cadstar and Proteus use. I would rather *pay* for software with an interface that makes sense…

      1. It’s not Hackaday — Brian really likes Eagle. But I’d bet that as many of our readers use Eagle as KiCad. Ten years ago, it was the best free PCB/CAD program around.

        Times have changed, but there are still reasons (importing art into silkscreens, for instance) to like Eagle.

        I’ve used KiCad for the last four or five years after a decade of Eagle. You can get work done with either, but it’s very nice that anyone can just pick up a full version of KiCad if they want to work on improving your design. And scripting in Python. And…

        1. Personal preference is one thing, but throwing in phrases like “de facto standard” is misleading and irresponsible. Not everyone is hardened against internet bullshit, someone might actually believe it. We’re but an ignorant community after all.

          (I see Brian has edited that sentence. But the bitter taste remains).

          1. We can argue over which PCB tool is most widespread in the OSHW landscape, but I see a lot of .brd files in peoples’ projects.

            “misleading and irresponsible” — do you have anything to back that claim up? I’d love to see statistics on the use of different packages in the community.

            (I edited the text.)

        2. > Nobody benefits from this discussion and it’s all due to a completely unnecessary incendiary comment by someone who should be more professional

          It wasn’t me writing all these comments. If you want to point a finger at who is making the Hackaday comments terrible, how about you start pointing the finger at the people making the comments. I do not have agency over the people here, and if anyone else wrote a post on this Eagle library exporter, you’d get the same result.

          In the case I actually *do* have agency over commenters here, someone go get me a beer.

  6. No ignorance…some people just actually care about FOSS.

    Once software puts limits on what you can do with it, it’s no longer “Free” in the sense that we want. Even if it is “gratis”.

  7. 2 pieces of information about pcb-rnd are missing:
    1) Supported platforms are Linuxes and MacOS X.
    2) The conversion is only happening for board files and footprint libraries. The schematic and symbols are not supported and those would be required for any significant modifications. But 1 out of 2 ain’t bad.

    1. I’m not sure why they bothered with OSX. Maybe it came free due to it’s “Unixyness”. Not supporting Plan9 though… that’s just unforgivable! At least that’s the only real platform they are missing though. I can’t think of another one important enough to consider.

  8. With many of the Chinese board suppliers doing 10cm x 10cm in a very affordable form, the Eagle limitation of 10cm x 8cm falls just outside my favourite size. I am still using Eagle 6.6 with my old licence to edit those boards, but sooner or later I will need to bite the proverbial and switch to Kicad. Maybe this will convince me to switch sooner.

  9. Here’s an idea of what an 80cm2 limitation might mean to a maker. If you wanted to make a “motherboard” which both an Arduino Mega and a Raspberry Pi mount onto you can’t.(quite a reasonable proposal since the Arduino brings real-time execution and the Pi brings the flexibility of Linux) that’s going to take over 100cm2 even if you aren’t adding any other components.

  10. I was going to switch to KiCAD (or something) this summer, because of the new versions of EAGLE requiring internet license checks. Instead I ended up using my old laptop that still had Eagle 7.1 on it, as being less effort than learning a new tool that wasn’t quite there yet. Maybe next summer or when my old laptop is really, really dead, I’ll switch to KiCAD. I don’t think I’ll be using the rent-a-license Eagle, even if it is still “free”.

    At some point I’ll have to port my old designs (at least the ones worth saving) to a different tool, so a tool that can import Eagle designs is useful. It would be more useful if it imported the whole thing (layout, library, and schematic) so that I could make modifications from an existing complete design, rather than starting over from scratch.

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