The Importance of Gerber Files for the Right PCB Design

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The Gerber model is an open ASCII standard vector format for the production of printed circuit boards, which contain information on various copper layers, drilling masks and pads; all obtained through EDA tools. The RS-274X Gerber files are the de-facto Gerber standard for the PCB industry. The obtained files are sent to the PCB Manufacturers to be loaded into the CAM software. Gerber Files are a typical example of intermediate step in PCB design. The format, initially developed by Gerber Systems Corporation, founded by Heinz Joseph “Joe” Gerber, has quickly gained market by becoming a standard of indisputable utility. Building the PCB in the right format and with the right electrical and physical features and constraints is undoubtedly a challenge that major manufacturers are trying to keep in mind, offering proper processing through the industry’s de facto standard. This standard represents a classic and efficient way to define printed circuit description algorithms in order to represent exactly the PCB image obtained with EDA software such as Eagle, Orcad, Altium, as well as through freely available online tools.

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Step 1: Gerber Format

PCB manufacturers use Gerber files during the construction of electronic devices. All information is needed to automate the manufacture, respecting the extreme design feature sof the market. RS-274X or Extended Gerber or X-Gerber is the de-facto standard for the PCB industry: it is a readable ASCII format composed of a sequence of commands and coordinates. A RS-274X file contains a complete description of a PCB image and does not require any additional external files, which represents a complete standard for fast and secure data transfer and reliable and automated workflows.

Each Gerber file corresponds to one layer in the physical board – the component overlay, top signal layer, bottom signal layer, the solder masking layers and so on. A Gerber file creates an ordered stream of graphics objects, which represent plane figures with a shape, size, position and a polarity (dark or clear).

Gerber files should be inside a .rar or.zip archive with standard file extensions:

Gerber files should be inside a .rar or.zip archive with standard file extensions:

  • GTL: Top Copper
  • GTS: Top Soldermask
  • GTO: Top Silkscreen
  • GBL: Bottom copper
  • GBS: Bottom Soldermask
  • GBO: Bottom Silkscreen
  • TXT: DrillsGML/GKO: Board Outline

Layer board also need:

  • GL2: Inner Layer2
  • GL3: Inner Layer3

File extensions can also be .gbr, .GBX, and .ART. In some cases,.TOP, .BOT, .SMT, and .SMB are used, together information about drill holes. The file extension is managed directly by the EDA software, which is a fully evolving marketplace for maximum flexibility, providing accuracy and precision in design.

Step 2: Altium Software

Gerber files can be obtained by open source and professional tools, but also by online without installation, by using modern web browsers on Windows, Mac, Linux. A precious opportunity for all designers of discrete electronic systems who want to check the status of their projects and the results obtained. PCB design solutions provide the ability to extrapolate Gerber files and send them to the printed circuit manufacturers. Through the Altium software, Gerber files can be generated directly from the menù File » Fabrication Outputs » Gerber Files as shown in Figure 2.

Step 3: ​Gerbv

Gerbv is a native Linux application (open source) as viewer for Gerber RS-274X files for many common UNIX platforms and with a Windows version available for download. The core functionality is located in a separate library named libgerbv, allowing designers to include Gerber parsing/editing/exporting/rendering into other programs (figure 3).

Step 4: ​Eagle

In Eagle open Board view. Click the “CAM” button or choose “File->CAM Processor”. This will open the CAM Processor tool visualized in figure 4 to generate the Gerber files.

Step 5: Main Steps for a Right PCB Design

The main steps for a right design are the following:

  • a) Establish the requirements to be met
  • b) Select the technology to be applied
  • c) Design and simulation
  • d) Design of the PCB
  • e) Assembly
  • f) Verification
  • g) Gerber File for Manufactures
  • h) Installation and prototype testing.

For the PCB manufacturers, CAD tools have a Gerber format suitable for special machines CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing). The Gerber files contain blocks of text called MACROs, which define the geometric characteristics of PCB traces, which trajectories, pads and other functions as visualized in figure 5, and support complex composition rules.

The production of electronic devices involves a series of steps and different manufacturers. Coindustrio.com is a powerfull supply chain as a service that improves and implements innovative processes to optimize PCB Production and offers a best time-to-market.

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