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I'm new to eagle and I don't understand why there is a small padding to the left and right of some SMD components (for example the 0402 cap in the image).

0402 SMD capacitor

Having the physical board in my hand ... the padding seems just wasted space.

PS: the library used in the example is SparkFun-Capacitors

Thanks

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That is not an Eagle feature (or bug) - it is just the way someone at SparkFun designed the footprint.

If the outline was wider than the part's pads, as well as longer, I'd call it a "courtyard". A courtyard is an outline around a footprint intended to ensure a minimum permissible clearance between components.

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This space is needed for two reasons:

  1. it will allow you to use a soldering iron in case you need to fix something.

  2. it ensures that during wave soldering, no solder bridges are left. Several 0402 capacitors are fairly high, so large solder drops could form there.

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Different assembly techniques have different requirements, including the avoidance of solder bridges, or the need to get a soldering iron in for hand assembly, or heated tweezers for component removal and replacement..

The footprints supplied are not compulsory - the intent is that if your build process has different requirements or you need an unusually densely packed board, you can create and use your own footprints to suit your own requirements.

TL/DR : it's not a bug, it's a feature!

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