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Open Source Design Tools

Posted: Mon May 02, 2016 12:55 am
by softbaugh
For this open-source project, we needed to select open source design tools so that anyone could make changes as they wish.

Two design tools were needed, one for the PCB development, and another for case design (to be used later).

For PCB design, we selected Kicad.

Until about a year ago, our normal PCB development used Protel98, which has many quirks, but we're used to them. However, we decided to migrate our work to an open source tool as newer versions of Windows made using Protel98 progressively more difficult. We rejected many free but non-open source tools, particularly since many of these tools either restrict commercial use or lock the user into certain PCB fab houses. We finally selected Kicad, primarily because of the metadata the tool supports. We're still migrating a lot of our data to Kicad, but we have enough confidence in it at this point to use it as the PCB design tool for the field phone project:

For case design and 3D printing, we selected FreeCAD.

We have used several proprietary CAD programs over the years, but many of these are moving to a recurring pricing model. As with PCB design tools, there are several low-cost or no-cost proprietary CAD packages, and some of them are cloud-based. However, we've never been a big fan of cloud-based tools or storage because of security concerns. While security isn't a big deal with an open source project like the field phone, we wanted to recommend a tool that could be more secure, and which could be patched if needed. After comparing several packages, although there is no immediate need for a CAD tool on the field phone project, we selected FreeCAD:

Our future plans for both of these tool suites include adding extensions which help integrate some of the business processes, but for this open source project we think both are fine as-is.