When the design of a printed circuit board (PCB) is complete, the design needs to be sent to a PCB manufacturer to be physically fabricated. Rather than send the entire design file, manufacturers require an industry standard file format to be used in their fabrication process. The standard format is called a Gerber file.
Exporting a file refers to taking a CAD representation of a PCB (as can be seen in your Ultiboard file) and producing an output in a format that can be understood by the fabrication equipment at the board manufacturer. There are many different manufacturing techniques used to produce PCBs and Ultiboard can produce a wide variety of outputs to meet these needs.
It is important to talk to your production house and identify all the files and formatting information they need to support their manufacturing process.
You can export a file in the following formats:
You can also export text files that contain:
You can also create reports on:
A Gerber file is a standard file format that contains information necessary for the computer controlled machines used by PCB manufacturers to exactly replicate CAD-based design patterns. The patterns usually contains features such as the board outline, land patterns (footprints), drilled holes, vias, copper routes, and any other information that is required by the board manufacturer to create a board.
PCB manufacturers currently use two Gerber formats, the RS274D and RS274X. The current industry standard is the RS274X format, because these files provide a complete set of manufacturing instructions including the routing patterns and land patterns as well as the aperture settings.
NI Ultiboard has a standard Export dialog box to export a set of Gerber files.
The Export dialog box is a simplified dialog box that you can use to establish the different parameters required by different manufacturers for the final file export.
This tutorial uses a shipping example to showcase the export process.
You are now ready to view the export dialog box.
You can see in the dialog box the various types of formats and reports that can be exported from NI Ultiboard for manufacturing purposes. This tutorial focuses primarily on the Gerber RS274X options, as this is one of the most common outputs for manufacturing purposes.
Figure 1. Export Dialog Box
With the Gerber properties (RS274X or RS274D) dialog box, you can select the layers to be exported, the number of digits in numerals, and the kind of measurements.
In Figure 2 below, you can see the various parameters that can be set to configure your Gerber file export.
Figure 2. Gerber File Export
As can be seen in the figure above, there are a number of different parameters that must be set to properly export your design to the Gerber format. In Table 1 below you can see a description for each export option.
Table 1. Gerber File Parameters
The following are typical Gerber files needed to produce the board:
Once you have selected all of the necessary layers, click the right arrow (highlighted in red in Figure 3 below), to add the selection to the Export Layers list.
With the layers selected (and any other option set, such as units, digits, options, oversize, and so on) you are ready to export the Gerber files.
Click on the OK button to save the settings and exit the properties dialog box.
Ultiboard directs you to the Create aperture mapping dialog box (Figure 4). For Gerber RS274X files, there is no need to edit the aperture settings as they are automatically set by the export process.
Figure 4. Aperture Mappings
Ultiboard now cycles through all the layers, and allows you to set the aperture settings and file locations for each layer of the design. This means repeating Steps 8 and 9 for each layer.
Ultiboard includes a built-in Gerber Viewer that you can use to verify the production files created.
You can now view the exact file that the manufacturer views, as can be seen in Figure 5 below.
Figure 5. Gerber Viewer
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