Why is Gerber Viewer PCB Used in Circuit Board Designs?
You must have heard about the Gerber File, but you don’t know what it means. Generally, it is a dedicated file that contains the main details of a Printed Circuit Board (PCB). Most circuit board manufacturers require you to submit this file before proceeding with prototyping or producing the circuit board.
To get the best results, it is better to use a Gerber File for your PCB. In this article, we explain in details what this file is used for and what relevance it has in the designs of Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs).
What is a Gerber File?
According to Wikipedia, a Gerber File, also called the Gerber Format, is a dedicated file format used to specify the design formats for a Printed Circuit Board. The Gerber Viewer PCB format is usually in the form of an open, ASCII, and vector format.
It is common for the PCB manufacturer to make provisions for an online, free Gerber viewer, which you can use to maximize the outcome of the circuit board designs.
The Relevance of the Gerber Viewer in the PCB Industry
Have you ever wondered why most circuit board manufacturers hit hard on using the Gerber Viewer to ascertain the content of the Gerber File? Do you know why the Gerber File is even required in the first place?
Below are some of the top reasons why the Gerber Viewer is important for PCB fabrication and design:
The Gerber Viewer, is first of all, an industry standard in the PCB market, in the sense that it is the de facto standard that helps to specify important images and sections of the Printed Circuit Board (PCB).
Some of these image specifications include:
- Drill data
- Copper layers
- Legend and;
- Solder mask
Importance of Gerber Viewer in PCB Fabrication
The fabrication processes of Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) can be scaled if the Gerber Viewer is used to streamline the process. At the core of the viewer’s relevance in this regard is the fact that it helps to fine-tune the fabrication data for the boards.
The Gerber Viewer PCB Formats and Extensions
There are two (2) major generations or formats of the Gerber Viewer. These are generally classified into the Extended Gerber and the Standard Gerber.
It is important to mention that the Extended Gerber format is the one being used.
Here is a breakdown of how these two generations of Gerber Viewer PCB formats work:
1. Standard Gerber
This used to be the core or primary Gerber Viewer format, until 2014 when it was revoked. During the time of use, the Standard Gerber Viewer format was a simplified ASCII format that comprised of XY coordinates and commands.
At the time of use, the Standard Gerber format was a subset of the Electronic Industries Association RS-247-D specification and was quite popular in the 1960s and 1970s.
The revoking of this format was because of the introduction of the advanced Extended Gerber format in 1998.
2. Extended Gerber
The Extended Gerber Viewer format, launched in 1998, became an advanced variant of the Standard Gerber and is still in use till this day.
One of the hallmarks of the Extended Gerber’s success is the extension of the graphics format in 2014. This extension allowed the Extended Gerber format to support the addition of meta-information or additional metadata to the graphics objects or to the image.
Below are some of the attributes of the Extended Gerber format:
The Extended Gerber format has a human-readable ASCII format, which consists of the streams of commands that generate an ordered stream of graphics objects.
It is important to mention that this format also allows for these graphics objects to either be negative or positive.
Either way, the final image can be created, only if these graphics objects are superimposed in the right order.
Excellent Labeling is Possible with the Extended Gerber Format
It is now possible to get a correct labeling or attributes of the Gerber files’ metadata. These attributes are similar to the labels that provide detailed information about the image files.
The following are some of the metadata that is conveyed or passed across with the attributes:
- Pad Function: the metadata specifies the function of the pad, such as if the pad is a fiducial, an SMD pad or a via pad.
- File Function: the metadata also specifies the function of the Gerber File. For example, it can detect if the file is the bottom of the copper layer or the top of the solder mask.
- Part Representation: this is one of the most important attributes of the Extended Gerber Viewer format. It helps in finding out the part being represented in the Gerber file. For example, it can detect if the part is a coupon, a single Printed Circuit Board (PCB) or an array.
Gerber Viewer PCB Extensions
The standard extensions of file formats for the Gerber files are either .gbr or .GBR. However, it is also possible to get variants like the following:
- .GB and;
Important Points to Note About Working with a Gerber Viewer
It is pertinent to note that many PCB manufacturers now make provisions for free Gerber viewers on their sites. You can use these to access the content of the Gerber files you submitted and get an accurate quotation for the project.
However, the following are some of the important points to have in mind before you submit your next Gerber file:
Gerber File Extension is Important
Depending on the Gerber Viewer you use, the extensions might. Although the popular extensions are .GBR and .gbr, you can also find some PCB manufacturers that allow you to submit ZIP files.
Some manufacturers will also allow you to submit the Gerber files with the following named affixes:
It is also possible for the PCB manufacturer to be specific about the type of file makes. For example, some of these manufacturers may prioritize the Gerber Viewer PCB files made with DipTrace, KiCad, Altium Designer, Eagle or EasyEDA.
Finally, you can use some of the best Gerber Viewers for free and even use the ones provided by your preferred PCB manufacturer to fine-tune your PCB materials ahead of the prototyping of the circuit boards.