Render your Gerber files, inspect layers, and perform a thorough review before sending your design in for PCB fabrication.
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Developed initially by Gerber Scientific, a company founded by Joseph Gerber, Gerber files have now become the standard file format used to fabricate a bare PCB. Currently, the rights to the Gerber file format are owned by UCAMCO. Gerber files are the software files that PCB designers give to manufacturers for the production of a PCB. Once designers have created the PCB layout in their design application, the software converts the design into manufacturing data. The most common file format is Gerber files.
A Gerber file consists of all the crucial information, such as copper content, hole locations, assembly information, silkscreen, etc., required to fabricate a bare PCB. A Gerber file looks just like an image of a particular PCB layer; a Gerber file encodes this image of each layer as an open ASCII vector format, giving a 2D representation of each layer in a PCB. These 2D images are used to create stencils, fixtures, and any other tooling required to fabricate a bare PCB.
The following are the three currently existing versions of Gerber file formats:
Once the design and layout are finalized for production, a designer will export the printed circuit design information in one of the above formats alongside other required production files. It's recommended that PCB design engineers review their generated Gerber files before sending the board to be produced. A spot check of a Gerber file can allow a designer to identify a problem that was not obvious when working in a PCB editor.
In addition to Gerber files, several other files are required to fabricate and assemble a PCB:
Gerbers continue to remain the most popular There are two other PCB manufacturing file formats that can provide additional information beyond the photoplot information in Gerber files.
A Gerber viewer like the application on this page enables users to view the contents of a Gerber file. Typically, before placing a board into production, the elements in the file are expected for accuracy and potential for DFM problems. Designers are encouraged to examine their Gerber files before they pass their data package to a manufacturer for a full engineering and DFM review.
Designers don't need to have full knowledge of a manufacturer's processing capabilities, but there are some basic tasks that can be performed in a Gerber viewer. Primarily, the designer will need to verify that the Gerber files are a correct representation of the layers in their PCB design files. Designers tend to rely on the DRC engine in their CAD software to spot errors, but an error-free CAD document does not necessarily translate into a design that will pass DFM.
The list of design and DFM problems below is not an exhaustive list, but these are some examples of design choices that are electrically correct and will not trigger a basic electrical rule check violation. However, the points listed below can impact fabrication and assembly through reduced yield.
After reviewing your Gerber file package, it's important to make changes to the design and re-export the file package before sending data to a manufacturer. Make sure you carefully inspect the points above with a manual Gerber viewer or an automated application. Some automated applications are available for Gerber analysis, but these may require a license fee and they are normally purchased by process engineers at a manufacturer.