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Posts Tagged ‘KiCad’

Meadow OLED PCBs

Sunday, January 28th, 2024

Meadow OLED Board Banner Image

A few weeks ago I promised an update on my experience using the PCBWay and Round Tracks plugins for KiCAD.

Well the boards are back and I must say they are looking good.

Rounded Tracks Plugin

The rounded tracks plugin certainly gives the 1970s feel to the PCBs. The batch ordered had a gloss black finish and this made the rounded effect a little difficult to see, a matt finish may have looked better or maybe even a green PCB for that real 1970s vibe.

This plugin has seen a little more use since the first order and here are a few things I have picked up:

  • Apply teardrops after using the plugin
  • Keep the original PCB layout

Adding teardrops to the board really does give the retro feel to the board. I have found that rounding the tracks after adding teardrops can leave a disjoint connection between the track at the teardrop connection to the pad.

So here is a section of the board with the rounded tracks applied after the teardrops:

Rounded Track Applied After Teardrop

Rounded Track Applied After Teardrop

This shows that the track exits the corner of the teardrop which is not ideal. Next we have the same pad with the rounded tracks applied before the teardrops:

Rounded Track Applied Before Teardrop

Rounded Track Applied Before Teardrop

The second case is certainly more aesthetically pleasing.

The plugin asks if you want to apply the changes to the current PCB or if it should create a copy. I went for the halfway house and applied the changes to the PCB, reviewed and ordered the boards and then reverted the changes. This worked well as the plugin ran in under a second and allowed the retention of the original design. It is always going to be easier to apply any changes to the PCB on a board with angular tracks than it is to apply the changes to a board with rounded tracks.

PCBWay Plugin

This plugin really made ordering the PCBs a dream. The only thing to remember is to login to your PCBWay account before attempting to use the plugin. If you do this the plugin will create and upload a ZIP file with the gerbers directly to your PCBWay account. This allows the plugin to set all of the parameters for board dimensions and layers all seamlessly.

Finished Boards

Here is a photo of the finished board connected to a Meadow F7 Micro board running a sok test:

Meadow and OLED Display

Meadow and OLED Display

Conclusion

The Rounded Tracks plugin is only really of interest if you want the retro 1970 look and feel to the final PCB. The PCBWay plugin is really useful as it streamlines the ordering process and removes the need to manually create the gerber files and upload them to the PCBWay website.

Trying Some New KiCad Plugins

Saturday, December 16th, 2023

Meadow PCB Header

A recent change to a PCB design has given the opportunity to try out a couple of KiCad plugins. The board is a simple one and is used to provide feedback when running network soak tests. The board is designed for the Meadow ecosystem and is a fairly simple design consisting of:

  • SSD1306 OLED display
  • Indicator LEDs
  • Reset button
  • Headers to connect the board to a Meadow board

The board has been tested and it works well. The changes doubled the number of LEDs and changed some of the components footprints.

Round Tracks

The concept behind Round Tracks is simple, take a PCB layout and give the tracks the feel of the 1970s. It does this by taking the layout and looking for any tracks that change direction. The plugin then takes these tracks and rounds the corners.

Applying this to the OLED PCBs gives the following output:

Meadow OLED PCB Feather

PCBWay Plug-in for KiCad

The next plugin is the PCBWay plugin. This should take the PCB layout and generate a zip file to upload to the PCBWay web site for manufacture. It appears to be really simple to use and starts an order for you and then uploads the files into the order.

Order submitted and now we just have to wait for the PCBs to arrive.

Conclusion

Manufacturing is complete and they are now on their way. There is going to be a small wait while the PCBs make their way from China to the UK and then we can see how the plugins faired.

Update to follow in a few weeks.