Friday 31st May 2019
So I\m active on the KiCAD forums, I'm "a refugee" from a two-decade-old tool that I liked and it has an autorouter and it still works OK for me (it would autoroute a 4x4 inch board with 2 microcontrollers in 2 seconds which would then pass DRC) but it's getting to be a pain to support a tool that really only wants to run on a Windows XP-compatible system (I have Windows 7 Professional running in VirtualBox and it works fine but I would like a more versatile footprint library than this ancient tool). I'm starting to migrate about 5 small PCBs into KiCAD, I already have the schematics almost all converted over and I'm bringing over the DXF board outlines.
Like I said I'm on the KiCAD forums and I was asking about autorouting and everyone seems to want to tell me "oh you won't want to do THAT" and no one over there has even heard about LayoutEditor. Now I understand KiCAD tried integrating autorouters before and now there's just a Java file of FreeRouting and it's not integrated in THAT tool but it is in LE which will also read KiCAD files. Now when I read about autorouting in KiCAD I hearall this about Specctra (.SES) importing and so forth which confuses me greatly.
I'm trying to understand what my workflow ought to look like, I would think I let KiCAD Eeschema generate a netlist with footprints, I import that into KiCAD Pcbnew and do my placement so I get the advantage of their footprint libraries, then I output their .PCB and .NET files into LE and it will autoroute. Is that it or do I need to understand the .SES structure? The existing documentation leaves me quite confused and like I said the guys iver there don't know anything about LE. Thank you for accepting me into this forum and I look fprward to getting straightened out about all this.
Friday 31st May 2019
I'm looking at some other blogs trying to become more knowledgeable, now maybe the idea is I export a .DSN file from KiCAD to LE, it autoroutes then I export a .SES file from LE back to KiCAD for DRC?? (Sorry that this shows how confused I am by this, maybe this is why nobody on the KiCAD forum figured this out either!)
Jürgen LayoutEditorFull Friday 31st May 2019
There are different option to use freeRouting. As you have already notice freeRouting need .DSN files and creates .SES files. .DSN file can be created from KiCAD and .SES file can be read. So you can use freeRouting without the LayoutEditor if you what. Some setup is required, that is described [here](hhttps://freerouting.org/freerouting/using-with-kicad).
Alternative you can import the KiCAd schematic in the LayoutEditor and use the LayoutEditor layout tool to make the layout. FreeRouting in integrated and works very smooth with it without doing any setup.
Sunday 9th June 2019
Well I did export the .dsn file from KiCAD and run freeRouting, I do like the overall performance of the tool but from what I can tell the board outline (Edge_Cuts layer) doesn't show up in the .dsn therefore there's no attempt made to stay within the outline, which in the case of what I'm doing is somewhat of a disaster, I can drastically modify the outline "after the fact" to accommodate it but that really wasn't what I thought I was getting into at all. Am I doing something wrong or "is that just how it goes"??
Jürgen LayoutEditorFull Sunday 9th June 2019
I am sorry. I cannot help you with this issue much. The problem seems to be that KiCAD does not store the board outline in the .dsn file. So it should be an issue with KiCAD. Maybe you get some help in a KiCAD forum.
Tuesday 11th June 2019
Here's the latest, my outline appears in fact to be getting into the .dsn files, but then freeRouting deliberately "oversimplifies" my complex board outline into a larger roundrect and just treats THAT as the REAL outline, but in the process when routing it "steps all over" my actual edge cuts!! I don't like uploading files because of privacy concerns but I could if you want to have a look, right now I did that in the KiCAD forum and I'll see where it goes. This might not upset a lot of arrangements but I have a tendency to mount most of my external connectors on PCB "out tabs" and freeRouting just cuts through those boundaries like a hot knife through butter! What bothers me is they said whey were using the actual outrines but in the actual result they were as disingenuous as hell.
Tuesday 11th June 2019
Sorry to bother you, just found the answer on the KiCAD forum and (in my opinion) it was way too obscure but this is what it is. If FOR ANY REASON the board outline "isn't perfectly closed" (and I swear at one point in my editing it WAS, but apparently not when I started autorouting) instead of halting the routing with an "outline not closed" error it just invents its own bounding roundrect and uses THAT without comment!! I guess before you start routing you're expected to just run DRC just to make sure the outline is PERFECT because "any competent person would know" that if your outline is less than perfect that alone entitles freeRouting to just go ahead and substitute ITS judgment for YOURS. (I guess maybe you're "almost as imperfect as I am" because you didn't have the answer either! And I'm sincerely sorry to have bothered you but this is what happens when people write programs "that don't need to have their documentation kept complete and current because their operation is just obvious". Yeah sure!)
Tuesday 11th June 2019
And in order to be perfectly clear about this I actually don't know whether it's freeRouting or KiCAD that is substituting its outline for mine because neither offered up an error about the situation in the first place. And when I went on the forum to find out I was severely castigated for having the audacity to find a flaw in somebody's otherwise perfect(!, it's borderline amazing that with a UI as flawed as that anyone has the patience to even attempt to wade through it all) software, even though the situation basically handcuffed me for almost two days (when I was "under the gun" to release some Gerbers immediately to get the prototype PCBs on order rather than having my boss have to tolerate another schedule slip) with no answers and no one offering any clarity on what the issue was in the first place. And I STILL don't know, all I do know is the folks in the KiCAD support forum don't take kindly to anyone pointing out flaws in their system, and if you're anything but a hobbyist with all the time and patience in the world then they don't really want to have to host you on their forum.