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Gerber File Ultimate Guide-A Beginner's Guide to Gerber

In the guest question, there are often questions about the gerber file.


How to turn the eagle into Gerber?
How to generate Gerber?
What is an extension file?


So we have prepared a guide to help you find the answer and let you become an expert in this area.
Let's start.

 

1、Circuit Board Vector In Gerber File

1. 1 So, What Are Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs)?

Primarily, PCBs are just boards that are made of tough insulating material upon which circuits for electronic components (e.g., resistors, ICs, capacitors) are mounted. The circuits mounted on the boards are often drawn using thin strips of conducting materials like Copper that is overlaid with additional layers of circuits or insulating material.

 

Like I had noted in the introduction, they are the frameworks for nearly all modern electronics. Simply put: that’s why you need to know them well enough. The invention of PCBs and Integrated Circuits (ICs) was the revolutionary invention that led to the reduction in the size of modern electronics.

 

Gerber file.jpg

 

1.1.1 Do You Need PCBs? 

Even though the earliest uses of PCBs can be traced back to 1936(Harper, 2004); it is hard to imagine of any modern commercially viable electronic gadget/project that will not employ the use of PCBs. Perhaps you too might have noted that PCBs run as the backbone of nearly all modern electronic devices. So, if you are intending to learn about electronics, or produce electronics, then you will inevitably need to learn about PCBs willy-nilly.

 

1.2 What Does “Gerber” Or “ Gerber File Format” Mean?

According to UCAMCO (the company that currently owns the rights to Gerber File format); a “ Gerber file format” is a de facto standard for PCB designed data storage or transfer. It can further be described as an open ASCII vector format for representing 2D binary images. Gerber file describes and communicates the constituents of a PCB image like the number of copper layers, solder masks, and many others such attributes.   

Gerber files also act as input files to PCB printing devices like photo-plotters and Automated Optical Inspection (AOI) machines to print or compare circuit board images for different gadgets.

 

1.2.1 Gerber Formats

The three generations of Gerber are:

     ►Standard Gerber (Also known as RS-274-D) – the oldest form of Gerber

 

     ►Extended Gerber (Also known as RS-274X)

 

     ►Gerber X2 –The newest kind of Gerber

 

More about these formats will be elaborated in chapter three. At the moment, let’s try to grapple with the simple definitions.

 

1.3 Here’s Where Gerber Meets PCBs 

So far, we have covered the essential details of PCBs are and their importance. We have also tried to explain in a nutshell the essence of Gerber files.  From the two definitions, it was prominent that Gerber files are the software sketches that are used to communicate information about the composition of circuit boards.  The two differ in that software applications handle Gerber files whereas PCBs mount electronic components.

 

The preceding chapters will discuss more on the compositions of Gerber files, methods of manipulating Gerber files.

 

Note:

     ►An important point you need to note at this point is that circuit boards were originally not made with the aid of CAD or CAM software application. It is logical then to conclude that PCBs are not limited to circuit boards that are drawn from CAM software applications.

With the increased use of PCBs came the demand to have standards that could guide the production of the circuit boards. Gerber emerged as a standard that could ease the process of developing PCBs. So, let's try to understand what a "Gerber" defines.

     ►In 2014, UCAMCO declared the Standard Gerber as “technically obsolete” and gave preeminence of Extended Gerber over Standard Gerber. This is because aperture definitions for the standard Gerber were not standardized. 

2、The Gerber File

2.1 What Is A Gerber File?

A Gerber file is a file that contains information that guides the production of a PCB. As you might have observed, a Gerber file format is simply a de facto standard that defines 2D binary images using open ASCII vector format.

 

Modern Gerber files may also include metadata (data about other constituting data within a file) like solder mask, legend/silk, number of copper layers among other relevant printing information.

 

PCBs are made from Gerber 274-X data and NC drill files, Each Gerber file corresponds to one layer in the physical board – the component overlay, top signal layer, bottom signal layer, the solder masking layers inner layers and so on.

 

Because there are so many different versions of pcb files in use today, In order to avoid version conflicts we require our clients to provide us with a full set of Gerber and NC drill files.

 

When submitting Gerber files for the quote or an order, it’s handy to have a simple text file that accompanies the data explaining the requirements that do not appear in the Gerber files.

 

Important information not often easily identifiable includes solder mask and silkscreen colors, penalisation requirements if any, pad finish, board thickness, and copper weight.

 

Also any special PCB requirements or features on the such as slots or cutouts. Placing details like this on a mechanical layer is a good place for such data, Or in a text file.

 

A Gerber Setup dialog provides you with tools to completely configure your Gerber file output options.

 

Gerber file.jpg

 

At its inception, Gerber emerged as a standard that could guide the production of circuit boards among Engineers. But because Gerber defined an open standard, it held a high generality and low particularity.

 

In that, it Gerber standards did not lay down fixed guidelines that could restrict the production of PCBs at its inception. As a result, Gerber was easily adopted by various PCB designers and engineers in designing electronic circuits on boards. This boosted its adoption and popularity among PCB designers and engineers.

 

2.1.1 Here Is Why You Need To Care About Gerber Anyway…

In 2015, UCAMCO estimated that about nine in every ten PCB productions are presented in Gerber form. With the increase in production of electronic devices is a parallel increase of PCBs produced.  

 

This brings about a consistent and constant push for circuit improvements on Gerber files. Now, because of this constant need to improve on current designs and efficiency, studying about Gerber files could make your skills relevant to the field of PCBs.

 

2.2 Gerber File Viewer

A Gerber file viewer is a software application that aids you to view the contents of a Gerber file. At the moment, there exist a variety of Gerber viewing tools in the market.

 

Some of these tools work by installation (much like traditional software application), but most of the tools work online without being installed on one’s computer. They allow you to upload files and view the Garber files online.

 

2.2.1 Key Features To Consider For Gerber File Viewers

To choose s good Gerber file viewer, you might need to consider the following three features:

  1. Updated file format support: an ideal Gerber file viewer should be able to support the popular modern file types like HPGL/HPGL-2 and Excellon among other modern file formats.
  2. Support precision in viewing: good Gerber viewers should also include features for zooming and precision measurements so that you can check through circuits and rectify errors with ease.
  3. Have broad printer compatibility: Gerber file viewers should also be compatible with a wider variety of printers. Besides, it should also give room for various printing options for various printers.

 

2.2.2 The Best Gerber Viewer Tools

Of all the several Geber viewing tools available in the market, the following three tools are currently the top-rated tools for viewing Gerber files:

 

2.2.3 The Online Gerber Viewer

Online Gerber is a free online tool that allows you to view and check errors within your Gerber files online. This tool is light-weighted, in that, it does not need you to install it or run it on a computer with larger memory storage or high processing capability.

 

It is compatible with Gerber274X as well as Excellon 1 and 2 file formats. This tool also allows you to zoom whenever you may need to check your boards for design errors.

 

Gerber file.jpg

 

One other reason you might love The Online Gerber is the fact that it does not restrict its usage to only registered users as other Gerber viewers do.

 

2.3 The EasyEDA Gerber Viewer

EasyEDA is an awesome online Gerber viewer that has nearly all the features of the Online Gerber tool. But unlike the Online Gerber, EasyEDA allows you to view the layers of an uploaded/imported PCB, zoom through and choose the color for the PCBs.

 

It also has some statistical features which will allow you to compare the shapes and sizes of the holes and dimensions of the board. Once done, EasyEDA will offer you the option of sharing your files using a URL.

 

Gerber file.jpg

 

2.4 The Numerical Innovation Gerber Viewer

Numerical Innovation is simply awesome. This tool has checked all the features we had highlighted as the important aspects to consider for an ideal Gerber Viewer. Are you looking for clarity? Check that. How about an ability to zoom images?

 

Check that. What about files compatibility? Check it. Honestly, an experience with Unmerical is just seamless. Both the Eagle and the Altium generated files from Seed Studio are very easy to use. For beginners, this could be an indispensable tool.

 

Gerber file.jpg

 

In the following chapter, we’re going to take a look at the Gerber file extensions available in the industry and then later see how we can manipulate Gerber files.

3、Gerber File Extensions (.gbr /.GBR)

Primarily, Gerber file is often associated with the file extension “.gbr" or."GBR”. However, other extensions like “.GBX”, “.Top”, and “.BOT” is also used in defining Gerber files.

 

 And even then, the “.gbr” extension does not exclusively apply to PCB Gerber files. Sometimes this extension is still used by other image editing software application like GIMP to represent the applications’ image brush file.

 

Gerber file.png

 

3.1 So, Why Do We Have Such A Variety?

Well, do you still recall the three highlighted generations of the Gerber file format? That is where we will find the entire story of Gerber File extensions. Let’s begin with:

 

3.1.1 The Standard Gerber (Also Known As RS-274-D)

This was the oldest form of Gerber file representation that was designed by Gerber Systems Corp as a Numerical Control (NC) format that was aimed at driving the photo plotters of the 1960s and 1970s. The RS-274-D supported the basic plotting capabilities like drawing trucks. It did not distinctly define coordinates and margins of drawing (Electronic Industries Association, 1979).

 

With time, the Standard Gerber became unpopular and was eventually revoked by its developers in 2014. Even then, the Standard Gerber was responsible for the origin and popularity of “.gbr” file extension.

 

3.1.2 Extended Gerber (Also Known As RS-274-X of X-Gerber)

This form of Gerber was introduced in 1998 by UCAMCO. It is used human-readable ASCII commands that are combined to generate a 2D vector graphic. X-Gerber also incorporated the use of metadata to define graphics. It is associated with the “.gbr” and the “.gbx” files extensions.

 

3.1.3 Gerber X2

This is the latest Gerber format for files. It includes improvements from all its predecessors. This file format supports all the extra vendor extensions like ".top" and ".bot." This file format is compatible with most modern CAM software applications.

 

Now, because we had already looked at some software tools that can help us to view Gerber files, it’s now time to take some time and get our hand dirty with manipulating Gerber files. Are you ready? In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...

4、Hands On The Gerber File

4.1 Creating A Gerber File Using Eagle 3.55

This part will teach you step-by-step of how to use the eagle to generate or convert Gerber file and excel file.

 

Choosing a reliable manufacturer is an important thing when you after your design, there are some factors you need take into consideration:

   1. Can help you quickly check if there any problems with your design?

 

   2. Can they meet any special requirements in your design?

 

   3. Lead-Time, Quality, and then the Price is acceptable.

 

4.1.1 Gerber File

Before we start next step, you’ll need to download another definition file: CAM file.

 

EAGLE provides a CAM job file, which will create your Gerber file for a, 2 layer board in an easy fashion. Please follow these steps:

 

First, download these files:

   1, eagle to gerber1.doc;(39.5 KB)

 

   2, Eagle user brochure.pdf; (289 KB)

 

   3, IPC-a-600.pdf(1.50 MB )

 

1. Load your board on the screen. To do this from the Eagle Control Panel, click on File/Open/Board and select the board you will use. 

                      

2. Click on the Icon on the top Toolbar that says ULP. When the dialog box appears to select the ULP file called DRILLCFG.ULP from the ULP directory. In a matter of seconds the command line you will notice a message saying ULP has finished.

 

3. Now click on the Icon that stands for the CAM Processor. This will load the CAM Processor Screen. From this screen click on File/Open/Job (when asked to save “Modified Job” reply NO) and select the CAM job called GERBER.CAM from the CAM directory and click OK.

 

4. Now click on the button that says Process Job. This will prompt you with 2 messages. The first message will be “Delete the $$$ file after process” this is a dummy file which EAGLE creates, click OK. The second message is “More than one signal layer Active”, Click OK to this message as well. Depending on the size and complexity of the board, the entire process will take a few minutes or a few hours.

 

5. When the CAM Processor stops all process it means it has finished. This process created several files that will have the same name as your board with different extensions:

 

   .WHL Aperture Wheel File.PLC Silk Screen Component side

 

   .CMP Copper Component side        .STC Solder Stop mask Component side

 

   .SOL Copper Solder side          .STS Solder Stop mask Solder side

 

Then you need to zip the following files and deliver it to PCB Manufacturer

 

Gerber Files

Extension

Top (copper) Layer

.GTL

Bottom (copper) Layer 

.GBL 

Top Overlay 

.GTO

Bottom Overlay

.GBO 

Top Paste Mask 

.GTP

Bottom Paste Mask

.GBP 

Top Solder Mask 

.GTS 

Bottom Solder Mask

.GBS

Keep-Out Layer 

.GKO 

Drill Drawing

.GD1 

Drill Guide

.GG1

Internal Plane Layer1,2,...,16

.GP1, .GP2, ... , .GP16 

 

 

*The GTP file isn’t necessary for the PCB fabrication, because it is used to create a stencil(if your design had SMD parts).

 

4.1.2 Excellon Files

(Make sure you have done step 1 and 2 before proceeding with Excellon files)

 

• Directly from the CAM processor click on File/Open/Job and select the CAM Job called EXCELLON.CAM from the CAM directory, then click OK.

 

• Now click on the small button that says Process. This will begin the EXCELLON file generation. Normally this process only takes a few seconds.

 

• The following files are created when the process ends.

 

.DRL Tool Rack File.DRD Excellon. Output.DRI Drill Information file

 

ICONS

CAM Processor User Language Program (ULP)

Adding Layers to the existing GERBER.CAM file

(Refer to your EAGLE 3.55 manual page 86.

The first page of this document teaches you how to create all the necessary Gerber files for a 2 sided board. But due to the growing demand for more than 2 layers, we decided to add this portion to this document.

Initially GERBER.CAM generates all of the apertures needed to make a 2 sided board. By modifying the Gerber.CAM process we can easily add more steps to the CAM processor to take care of our additional layers.

 

Let's begin:

1. From the EAGLE control panel click on File/Open/Board and select the board you are interested in.

 

2. Click on the CAM processor ICON.

 

3. Now click File/Open/JOB and select the file called GERBER.CAM from the CAM directory. If Eagle prompts you to save the current process. Click NO.

 

4. Notice on the CAM processor screen a field called SECTION. If, the section called “Generate a wheel file” is not visible, then click on the down arrow at the end of the section and select the section called Generate a Wheel File.

 

5. On the right-hand side of the CAM processor screen, you will notice the layer list. Tag the additional layers you wish to include: Any inner layers or maybe the bottom silkscreen layers (BPlace and BName). DO NOT UNTAG ANY OF THE OTHER LAYERS. Click on File/Save Job to save what we have done so far. I would recommend giving this CAM job a different name. For example, 4Layer.cam)

 

6. After tagging all the necessary layers click on the SECTION down arrow and select the very last section called Solder Stop Mask SOL.

 

7. Click on the ADD button. Eagle will ask you to name the new section you are creating. You can give it any name you feel comfortable with, example, call it inner POWER PLANE VCC, INNER SIGNAL Layer 2, or BOTTOM SILK SCREEN). Click OK when done.

 

8. Now select the appropriate layer for this section. If its an inner power plane (for example $GND) only select that layer by itself. If it’s a bottom silkscreen layer tag the Dimension, BPlace and BName layers. If it’s a regular signal layer combine it with PAD’s and VIA’s MAKE SURE NO OTHER LAYERS ARE TAGGED.

 

9. Change the name of the output. Use the table at the bottom of this page as an example.

 

10. Create a new section for every new layer needed. Repeat step 7, 8, 9 and 10 for every new layer.

 

Go to step 4 on page number 1.

 

Layers 

Extension

Supply Layer

Supply layer only ($GND).GND

Signal Layer

Signal layer, Pad, Via.LY3

Bottom Silk screen

Dimension, Bplace, Bname.PLS

 

4.2 How To Export Gerber Files From Altium Designer

4.2.1 Generate Gerber

Step 1: Select “File” menu, >> “Fabrication Outputs” >> “Gerber files”

 

gerber file.jpg

 

Step 2: in the dialog box that appears, specify the parameters of measuring the PCB.

 

gerber file.jpg

 

Step 3: Select the layers: For a 2 layer board, uncheck layer G1, G2, G3 ….

 

gerber file.jpg

 

Step 4: Check the Embedded Apertures

 

gerber file.jpg

 

Step 5: Once you affirm that all settings are fine, click “OK” to generate Gerber.

 

gerber file.jpg

 

4.2.2 Generate Excellon

Step 1: Select “File” menu, >> “Fabrication Outputs” >> “NC Drill files”

 

gerber file.jpg

 

Step 2: Adjust the parameters to fit the parameters for the Gerber File and click "Ok" to generate.

 

gerber file.jpg

 

Step 3: Compress all the files generated into a .zip file, and send them for Manufacturing.

 

gerber file.jpg

 

4.3 Converting Gerber Files (“.gbr”) to “.pcb” files

4.3.1 What Are “.pcb” Files?

In a nutshell, “.pcb" file extension is an extension associated with CAD (Computer Aided Design) software application generated files. After designing your circuit through software applications like the ULTIUM Designer, these are the files generated to store information that can guide to create circuit boards.

 

4.3.2 Why Is This Important?

Though designing engineers can be comfortable sharing data in their PCB format, as it is easy to comprehend; manufacturers of PCBs might require additional guidelines on factors like drilling. These parameters may hinder successful PCB manufacturing if unchecked.

 

4.3.3 How Do I convert It? : 12 Steps To Conversion (Using LinkCAD)

        ►First, download LinkCAD from their official site here.

 

        ►Next, install it on your computer (like any regular program).  This action will allow you to have a five-day trial of the software.

 

        ►Run LinkCAD in your computer

 

        ►On the opening screen, click on the "Import Format" and select the PCB file type (the type you intend to convert) from among those listed in the drop-down.

 

        ►Select “Gerber” from among the "Export Format" drop-down.

 

        ►Uncheck the "Skip options" dialog option.

 

        ►Check "Ignore text" menu option from the "GDSII Import Options" window.

 

        ►Modify any additional preferences you might need to modify within the "Export Options" menu that appears.

 

        ►Browse within your computer and choose the “PCB” file to convert.

 

        ►Click on “Next” button in the window that appears and waits for the file to be converted.

 

        ►Check within the folder having the original “PCB” file for the converted Gerber files.

 

        ►If everything was okay, click on “Finish” and exit.

5、Conclusion

Now, not long ago, the process of creating a Gerber file that could precisely present your circuit idea for PCB manufacturing was often a challenging task. First, there was the challenge of learning appropriate Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software applications.

 

This challenge would often be followed by the common problem of missing lists like the aperture list or tools list. And then, the challenge of compatibility within CAM software applications would make this task way too hard.

 

With time, however, this process has been highly streamlined. Thanks to the advancements made in CAM software applications and file representation like Gerber; developers and designers can now fabricate PCBs from fabrication datasets.

 

Now, this creates an interesting loop, electronics depend on PCBs; PCBs depends on the Gerber file. So, for electronics to thrive, PCBs must thrive, for PCBs to be great, Gerber designs must be off the charts.

 

For Gerber to improve, there must be an increased demand for improved electronics. You see it? Do you notice a funny loop? That is why the future of electronics is likely to be filled with Gerber files on ends. Besides learning on your own, what other things can you do?

 

Hey! I am sure you might love this part.

 

Perhaps after reading through our guide, you might have developed some interest in knowing more about Gerber files and PCBs. Feel free check through our official website and peruse through our collection of tricks that can transform you from a beginner to a pro.

 

Also, just in case you succeed to make a custom PCB for your project, feel free to make an invoice from us at a freaking bargain. We will be glad to offer you a helping hand in beginning your Gerber journey.

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