Share Your Projects: KiCad Automations And Pretty Renders

I have a pretty large GitHub repository, with all of my boards open-sourced there. Now, I’m finally facing the major problem it has – it can be uncomfortable for others to work with. I don’t store Gerber files in the repository because that will interfere with how Git functions – you’re supposed to only have source files in the repo. Yet, when someone needs Gerbers for my PCB, or a schematic PDF, or just to see how the board looks before they clone the entire repository, I often don’t have a good option for them.

In my experience as a hacker, being able to find others’ PCBs on GitHub is simply wonderful, but a PCB repository without a README feels barren, and a PCB README without pictures makes me sad. On the other hand, not having these files autogenerate is uncomfortable – updating a picture every time is a major drawback in particular.

Let’s take a look at some KiCad Git integrations, and see what they have to offer.


We’ve mentioned kicad_cli back when KiCad 7 got released, and in the recently released KiCad 8, it’s only become more powerful. Before, it could do gerbers and schematic PDFs, but now, it can even do DRC checks – which is ideal if you want to add a hook for any pull requests you might encounter.

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An image showing the new KiCad feature that allows you to easily generate schematic labels from IC symbol pin names

KiCad 8 Makes Your Life Better Without Caveats

A few days ago, KiCad 8 was released, and it’s a straight upgrade to any PCB designer’s quality of life. There’s a blog post as usual, and, this year, there’s also a FOSDEM talk from [Wayne Stambaugh] talking about the changes that we now all get to benefit from. Having gone through both of these, our impression is that KiCad 8 developers went over the entire suite, asking: “this is cool, but could we make it better”? The end result is indeed a massive improvement in a thousand different ways, from small to fundamental, and all of them seem to be direct upgrades from the KiCad 7 experience.

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render of a sample board produced with help of this plugin. it's pretty, has nice lighting and all!

From KiCad To Blender For A Stunning Render

We love Blender. It brings you 3D modeling, but not in a CAD way — instead, people commonly use it to create animations, movies, games, and even things like VR models. In short, Blender is about all things art and visual expression. Now, what if you want a breathtaking render of your KiCad board? Look no further than the pcb2blender tool from [Bobbe 30350n].

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen KiCad meet Blender. However, compared to the KiCad to Blender paths that people used previously, pcb2blender makes the import process as straightforward and as quick as humanly possible. Install a plugin for both tools, and simply transfer a .pcb3d file out of the KiCad plugin into the Blender plugin. Want to make the surfaces of your design look like they’re meant to look in real life? Use the free2ki plugin to apply materials to your 3D models. In fact, you should check out [30350n]’s Blender plugin collection and overall portfolio, it’s impressive.

There’s no shortage of Blender hacks – just this year we’ve covered a hacker straight up simulating an entire camera inside Blender for the purpose of making renders, and someone else showing how to use Stable Diffusion to texture 3D scenes at lightning speed. We even recently published a comprehensive tutorial on how to animate your robot in Blender ourselves! Want to give it a shot? Check out this quick and simple Red Bull can model design tutorial.

Thanks to [Aki] for sharing this with us!

Showing KiCanvas board viewer component inside a browser window, with a board being displayed and toggleable layers

KiCanvas Helps Teach And Share KiCad Projects In Browsers

KiCad is undeniably the hacker favourite when it comes to PCB design, and we’ve built a large amount of infrastructure around it – plugins, integrations, exporters, viewers, and much more. Now, [Stargirl Flowers] is working on what we could call a web viewer for KiCad files – though calling the KiCanvas project a “KiCad viewer” would be an understatement, given everything it aims to let you do. It will help you do exciting things like copy-pasting circuits between KiCad and browser windows, embed circuits into your blog and show component properties/part numbers interactively, and of course, it will work as a standalone online viewer for KiCad files!

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