Gerber files are the industry-approved standard format for submitting board layout design data.
The Gerber file format includes the design requirements of each layer of a circuit board, critical to both board fabrication and PCB assembly.
Gerber files are available in the formats: RS-274D, RS-274X, and Gerber X2.
Gerber files contain critical data pertaining to PCB layouts
Once PCB designers prepare a circuit layout design using CAD software, they send it out for fabrication. However, sometimes, the contract manufacturer who does the fabrication might not speak the same language. Designers need a way to convey information in a standardized way, regardless of language barriers. The Gerber file format is a solution for these communication barriers in the PCB fabrication industry. Gerber drawing technology provides complete data pertaining to PCB layouts, enabling designers to communicate information in a standardized way, no matter the language spoken.
In this article, we will explore Gerber drawing technology and the use of Gerber files for PCB fabrication and assembly. Let’s first take a look at Gerber drawing technology.
Gerber Drawing Technology
Gerber drawing technology is extensively used in the PCB fabrication industry. A board layout is translated into Gerber file format, which includes the design requirements that are needed for the fabrication process.
Gerber files are considered the industry-approved standard format for board layout design data. The Gerber file format enables the PCB manufacturer to understand the design engineer's concepts and considerations for their design. Gerber drawing technology ensures products are manufactured the way the designer intended and reduces fabrication time by sending the board design in Gerber file format to manufacturers.
Let’s see how Gerber files support the PCB fabrication and assembly processes.
Gerber Files for PCB Fabrication and Assembly
Gerber files describe PCB images such as copper layers, legends, solder masks, and drill data in an open 2D binary vector image file. There is a Gerber file for each layer in a PCB, describing the design requirements of the layer.
The PCB fabrication process is guided by the information provided in the Gerber files. A standard photoplotter and PCB manufacturing equipment like legend printers, direct imagers, and automated optical inspection equipment calls the Gerber files for board printing.
Usually, the multiple Gerber files generated for a circuit board (single-layer or multi-layer) are saved as .RAR or .ZIP files. A Gerber file sent for PCB fabrication contains operational commands with accompanying coordinates in X-Y format. This file format is extremely helpful in moving photoplotter machines for PCB fabrication.
Utilizing mounting technology, such as through-hole, surface mount, or hybrid technologies, the stencil layer in the Gerber file regulates component placement. Gerber file format also aids testing and quality assurance procedures in the PCB industry.
Let’s explore the different Gerber file versions that are available.
Gerber File Versions
Gerber files are available in different formats:
RS-274D - This is the oldest Gerber file format, also regarded as Standard Gerber. The D format offers two files per layer on the PCB. The numerical format of RS-274D runs the 2D mechanical NC machines in the PCB fabrication process.
RS-274X - The RS-274X utilizes embedded format, unit, and data information. The RS-274X produces all information about a layer in a single file. RS-274X format is recommended rather than the D format.
Gerber X2 - Gerber X2 is the newest Gerber file format, with stack-up data and attributes contained. The X2 file format is compatible with the X1 format, allowing the PCB designer to transfer information to the Gerber file.
Gerber drawing technology is critical to the PCB fabrication process. You can design electronic circuit boards and generate Gerber files using Cadence’s PCB design software. Cadence software enables the easy generation of Gerber files and provides options to output these files to a single ZIP file.
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