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Why is the .CPL File Crucial in PCB Assembly?

The component placement list (CPL) file is crucial when utilizing the pick and place machine. This file is usually requested to help place SMT components and through hole parts accurately on a PCB. The CPL file also known as pick and place file comprises information such as rotation, the bottom or top side of the PCB, and X/Y locations.

What does a CPL File Mean?

A CPL file is a system file integrated by Windows operating system. The full meaning of CPL is component placement list. This file defines the particular location, rotation, and position you need to populate each component reference designator. The CPL file is also referred to as an XY file or centroid file.

The component placement file describes the location map of the components. This file comprises all necessary details about the orientation and position of every SMT component on the printed circuit board.

The CPL file is usually in the text format (ASCII) and it is composed of two main locations (x and Y). Furthermore, the list file of a component placement is very important for circuit board assembly. This is because it offers some data set which permits users to prepare ahead for the production of their boards. Also, this CPL file is made up of just SMT components.

You can generate this file by making use of several CAD packages. Moreover, there are some of the packages that fail to create or generate the file. There are cases where this file needs to be changed by some assemblers of printed circuit boards. CPL file has some file formats which includes csv, xlsx, as well as xls.

Assemblers of circuit boards can use the CPL file for the easy importation of data without the manual imputation of the important details. To achieve this, you can work with several packages, which includes Altium, KiCad, as well as Autodesk Eagle.

What are CPL Files Made of?


The assembly sample CPL files are made of the following below

The reference designator: This must work with the bill of materials and PCB demarcation

Location: Both values of the X and Y location explains the component of that PCB origin. This is why these locations’ values need its part origin centered in the component.

Rotation: When handling rotation, it must be done counterclockwise for the top area and then clockwisely for the bottom parts. Take note that rotation is usually measured in degrees.

The layer: It helps in describing either the top or bottom side where the component needs to be placed.  You will also find the details below in an assembly sample CPL file.

  • X as well as Y position of the component
  • The top or bottom side
  • The reference designator of the component
  • Orientation

How to Export the Component Placement List (CPL) File using Different Software

You can easily export the CPL file from different PCB design software. These guidelines will help you export CPL files from different design packages.


When exporting a CPL file from KiCad, the first thing you should do is to open the Kicad file and click on File. After this select Fabrication Outputs and then click on Footprint Position File. A new window will appear, choose the output directory for the file and select Generate File. Doing this will help you generate the pick and place files.


For Altium, you need to open the .PcbDoc file and click on file, choose Assembly Outputs and click on Generates pick and place files. The Altium version you are using will determine the columns you want to include in the file. The rotation, X-y coordinates, and the Designator columns are needed. You can decide to leave out other information. However, Altium will produce the file in a similar location just like the PcbDoc file.

Autodesk Eagle

Open the .brd file and go to File and choose Export, click on Mount SMD. You will be asked where you want to save the bottom and top pick and place files. While the .mnb file represents the bottom side and the .mnt file represents the top side.

Importance of the CPL File in PCB Assembly

The component placement file saves time and enhances accuracy when programming the pick and place equipment. CPL file comprises the list of all components on the PCB design while stating their X-Y coordinates. The majority of PCB design software packages can generate the component orientation and location from the PCB layout in order to design a CPL file.

The CPL file is crucial for the PCB assembly process as it offers efficiency and quality.


A CPL file enables a PCB manufacturer to easily import data without the need to input the information manually. Also, the import data can hide any problems as regards the orientation of devices. Silkscreens in the Gerber data are not usually clear or not available in some cases. Also, silkscreens might not be correct in some cases since references are included in the wrong place. The CPL file offers more accuracy.


It takes time to enter the data manually. Therefore, you will have to include engineering processing time before commencing production. This could cause another delay on the delivery dates. Also, the manufacturer will need some clarity if there is any problem with an assembly. The outcome is a possible delay since responses are not timely.


Another important benefit of using the CPL file is that it helps pick and place machines to accurately place components and parts on a circuit board. The details provided by the CPL file are usually accurate. This information will tell the machine the appropriate location for the placement of all the surface mount components.


Two out of the countless benefits of using CPL files is their efficiency as well as quality. Throughout the process of PCB assembly, assemblers of printed circuit boards usually ask for users’ CPL file. It provides the data set needed for the commencement of the process of PCB assembly. For exporting this file, there are different softwares available.

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