What if I told you that you might never need to draw a new footprint again? Such is my friend’s impression of the tool that she’s shown me and I’m about to show you in turn, having used this tool for a few projects, I can’t really disagree!
We all know of the JLCPCB/LCSC/EasyEDA trio, and their integration makes a lot of sense. You’re expected to design your boards in EasyEDA, order the components on LCSC, and get the boards made by JLCPCB. It’s meant to be a one-stop shop, and as you might expect, there’s tight integration between all three. If there wasn’t, you’d be tempted to step outside of the ecosystem, after all.
But like many in this community, I use KiCad, and I don’t expect to move to a different PCB design suite — especially not a cloud one. Still, I enjoy using the JLCPCB and LCSC combination in the hobby PCB market as it stands now, and despite my KiCad affinity, it appears that EasyEDA can help me after all!
All Data, No Hassle
One of the hard-to-beat EasyEDA-LCSC integration aspects is that you can easily add LCSC parts to your boards. There’s no need to hunt for footprints and symbols, they’re all ready to go. You simply get the LCSC inventory at your fingertips, or at least the part of it that’s been documented by EasyEDA engineers. Indeed, this information isn’t just EasyEDA-specific, you can access it externally, and there’s a tool called
easyeda2kicad that lets you download all the part files in KiCad format!
For instance, I was recently looking for microSD sockets — something that I have a tried and true part for. There’s a few hundred pieces in a bag next to my desk, even. Today’s constraint? It has to be less wide than the card itself, since I have to fit it into a narrow spot. Mouser didn’t have any good parts for me, but LCSC did. The sockets I found were also way cheaper, even including shipping and VAT. So, I’ve found a good part, but oh no, the footprint has ten pads and the mechanical dimensions are only half-intelligible, and I just want to get to drawing the long overdue board already!
All you need from here is the
easyeda2kicad script installed – it takes the LCSC part number and creates the symbol, footprint and 3D model files for you automatically. To be clear, not all LCSC parts have been digitized. But that said, for one project of hers, my friend could successfully download a whole MXM slot, DisplayPort, miniDisplayPort and VGA connectors, and a few inductors with non-standard footprints; a combination that would typically need you to sit down in front of a PCB editor for a few hours, and that’s certainly not including the 3D models.
Limited, But Great Nevertheless
Choice in EDA software is something way less malleable than component and PCB service choice, and it rocks that this software now gives us an extra option. I’ve gone through a few projects by now with this script at the ready, the footprints and symbols have all worked as advertised, and while I still need to design footprints every now and then, they’re usually something exotic.
easyeda2kicad will absolutely help if, like me, you have a foot strongly in the JLCPCB+LCSC field. Or the Eastern parts field at all. I’ve given a good few thousand dollars to these two companies, for personal and business purposes alike, and I don’t see a reason I’d stop just yet. I’m not here to promote any specific company, of course, and you’ll guess correctly that I’ve had these footprints and symbols work for Aliexpress parts, too, as long as you find which LCSC part they correspond to.
There are, of course, a few problems. The footprints have dubious legal status — any license granted likely doesn’t include such external use, and while we wouldn’t foresee problems adding such parts to open-source projects, it’s a technicality to keep in mind. These symbols and footprints are untested unless we know otherwise, unlike parts in the KiCad library, and as usual, they might deviate from datasheet in important ways.
You’re also at the mercy of the EasyEDA API, which you might remember [Jan Mrazek]’s irreplaceable LCSC search tool had problems with in the past. The problems have since been resolved, but the situation has left a bad aftertaste.
You might think that this is free symbol and footprint galore, and in a way, it is! Of course, the LCSC-JLCPCB-EasyEDA trio still wins — you’re more likely to use their services if you use this tool. There’s a reason why Western manufacturers often provide the same services, giving you footprints, symbols and 3D models so that you have it easier starting a new design within their ecosystem. SnapEDA, a similar service for Western parts, has been a mainstay in the electronics world, and to think of it, it’s long overdue to have such an option for Eastern parts!