PCB Gerber

PCB Gerber Files: Vital for Fabrication and Assembly

Rush PCB UK makes well-fabricated and well-assembled printed circuit boards for the electronics industry. The bottom line is that a high-quality PCB is a critical aspect of ensuring the operational soundness of electronic products. The fabrication process, however, relies on the design of the PCB, and the means of communicating these details is via the PCB Gerber file. It is the pivotal aspect ensuring the successful capture and actualization of the design of the PCB.

PCB Gerber Files

Companies providing electronic contract manufacturing and electronic manufacturing services often turn printed circuit board designs into high-quality and reliable boards. However, ECMs can carry out the fabrication and assembly process successfully only if they have the proper raw materials like copper clad, electronic components, solder, etc. But above all, however, they need the basic design guidelines that are available in the PCB Gerber file.

A PCB Gerber file is an open ASCII vector formatted file, comprising information on all the layers of the circuit board design. This includes all aspects of the circuit board traces, vias, pads, silkscreen, and solder mask images, which find representation in the file as a draw or flash code. Multiple vector coordinates further represent these objects. Ultimately, the PCB Gerber file is a pivotal point for PCB manufacturers for translating the design details into realistic properties of the circuit board.

That makes it essential for the PCB designer to coalesce all design details into their Gerber files properly. The information must offer accurate and understandable information, and it must do so following general standards. Typically, PCB design software suites generate the Gerber files in most instances. However, the generation process depends on the CAD tool under use. Presently, the PCB design file generation uses the RS-247X file format of the Gerber file, superseding other obsolete file formats such as the R-274-D Gerber. In addition, most Gerber data has file extensions such as .gb or .gbr for text files. Therefore, it is not necessary to assign a distinctive file name.

PCB Gerber

PCB Gerber Files for Manufacturing

Over the years, there has been substantial improvements in printed circuit board manufacturing technology. For instance, earlier, vector photo-plotters created tooling films for PCB fabrication. They used a concentrated beam of light, which exposed the film after passing through an aperture. It also formed flashes when drawing the traces and pads. Therefore, creating larger films with numerous line drawings took a long time.

Earlier, as the number and set of apertures in use were minimal, designers had to restrict the copper trace widths and features. Fortunately, vector machines have also evolved into newer types, deploying raster lasers for exposing the film. The laser photo-plotter now creates large films in no time at all.

Latest Gerber Files for PCBs

The latest laser plotters use Gerber information, but the earlier restrictions on apertures for vector plotters are now no longer in place. The laser plotter converts the coordinates in the Gerber file into a raster file, and the information instructs the plotter about what it must print and where to print it. For instance, the aperture definition conveys the size of pads and the width of traces. Similarly, a drawing command provides the information on the position of polygon fills with lines or flashes. The laser beam simply sweeps across the film while exposing the image in real time.

Recent developments have manufacturers bypassing the film creation process. Rather, they use the laser imaging to create images directly on the copper clad. This direct printing effectively bypasses the film creating stage. Nowadays, Gerber files use fresh database formats that comprise smart design data like net connectivity. However, the older formats are still in use, as some manufacturers still continue to use films.

Conclusion

According to Rush PCB UK, it is necessary to configure the Gerber file creator to ensure the setup of standards, formats, and units are consistent with the standards of the PCB manufacturer. Another important file, but separate from the Gerber file, is the drill file (NC). This file is necessary to direct the drilling equipment to the proper position during fabrication.