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I'm using KiCad to lay out PCBs for some projects and often I find I need to develop a new footprint or tweak one that's in the library.

I'm able to determine most things I need by consulting the datasheet and occasional other sources, but I haven't found anything about how to determine the dimensions and positioning of the courtyard. I understand the courtyard is the minimal "reserved" space for the component, such that no two courtyards should overlap. However, I don't see it stated on any of the datasheets so far.

All of my projects so far will be hand-assembled (by me :), so I won't be needing it for pick-and-place machine purposes. However, being an engineer I don't feel comfortable not getting it right while I'm in there editing something. Also I will be submitting any worthy new footprints for inclusion in the official KiCad library, so I want to make sure I get it right.

How does one determine the courtyard for a PCB part footprint?

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The best answer is probably to follow IPC-7351 3.1.5.4. There are some tables that give guidelines as to the excess to leave around a component or pad, whichever is bigger- maybe 0.1 to 0.5mm in most (not all) cases.

The standard specifically states that the courtyard is the starting point for the minimum area for the component, and there may be a manufacturing allowance that is dependent on factors that are not part of the standard.

I've linked the working draft standard (2008) above, direct from the ipc.org website. The actual standard costs money so any copies you might find floating around probably represent copyright infringement.

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