Sierra Circuit Certification

Get the best out of your board with KiCad

KiCad is one of the best open-source electronic design automation tools for PCB design available today. It enables its users to design circuit schematics and convert the same to board designs. We have created this design guide to make things easy for PCB designers and get you started quickly with KiCad. This guide will help you create a schematic, set up board parameters, carry out component placement, route your board and export the resulting Gerber and other production files.

How Sierra Circuits helps hobbyists with their electronics projects

We are an accountable manufacturer.

Not only can we review your stack-up and assist you with your design, but we also run DFM and DFA checks as soon as you send your files. We are specialized in DFM analysis that prevent issues and ultimately save you time and money. Our engineering team will reach out to you before we start building your board so you can optimize your design for manufacturing.

We offer fab and assembly under one roof.

Avoid miscommunications between separate fabrication and assembly shops that will cause delays in deliveries and errors in your board. A manufacturer that doesn't handle assembly won't run DFA checks and will not care if your board cannot properly be assembled. One single vendor will make sure that you receive a high-performant PCB.

Visit our manufacturing and assembly facilities in Sunnyvale, CA if you want to see how we build zero-defect PCBs.


Creating a component symbol library

This guide explains how to create a schematic and a symbol library for components to be used in the schematic. But before we dive into that, we will have a brief look at the KiCad component library.

All the components used in a schematic are described in the component libraries. Several libraries are used to provide reasonably simple component management, through the grouping of components by its subject (by functions, manufacturers).

The component library contains a large variety of pre-installed libraries. Also, the Library Manager menu helps you to modify libraries like: build new libraries, add and delete components from libraries, and pass a component from one library to another.


Setting up board parameters and rules

Before starting the layout, it is very important to determine a set of rules you will follow. In Hotkeys, you can choose shortcuts. This is an efficient way to do your layout. You will find pre-saved commands but you can also add new ones.

Once you have browsed the display options and chosen your grid style, thickness, spacing, etc., you can start setting up the rules for your:

  • Layers
  • Net classes
  • Track widths and vias
  • Solder mask and clearance
  • Differential pairs

Follow our design guidelines

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    How to route differential pairs

    In this design guide, we will show you how to route your PCB and most importantly how to route your differential pairs.

    We can all agree, the most critical tracks in routing are the differential pair lines. Both wires in the differential pair should be identical in length and width - we will have a focus on length tuning. You need to make sure that they are routed properly and not separated by any other high-frequency signal.

    If you have multiple differential pairs in your design, then there must be at least a 5W gap between them. 5W is five times the width of the differential pair.

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    How to place of components

    This section will demonstrate how to place components in KiCad and also cover how to define your PCB outline.

    Once you have all the parts from your schematic and you have set all the rules, such as the track widths and vias you will require, you are ready for component placement. Our first tip is to set your grid on 5 mils, which is normally the grid setting when you need to place components in KiCad.

    And before starting the placement, you need a board outline. We will show you how to define the edges of your board.

Take a peek at what’s inside the design guide

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"Sierra makes it easy to place orders and offers quality and quick turn for our prototype boards."

Bruce Feige

CAD Operator/Supervisor, Ohio Semitronics, Inc
"You guys have the DFM checks that are really handy."

Herbert Gass
Design Engineer, Winduracnce LLC
"From getting a quote to placing an order, it was all very easy. The DFM/DFA check-in system worked pretty well."

Ryan Tullius
Design Engineer