Gerber files are the standard format used to transfer printed circuit board (PCB) design data to manufacturers for fabrication. They encode copper layers, solder masks, silkscreens, drill data, and other information required to produce a physical PCB.
Opening and inspecting Gerber files is an essential skill for PCB designers. Reviewing the files before sending them out for fabrication helps catch any errors in the data. Understanding how to translate raw Gerber data into human-readable information is key.
This guide will walk through the basics of the Gerber format, the types of Gerber files, the tools available for viewing them, and how to open Gerbers in the leading PCB software. With the right knowledge, even novice users can learn to visualize PCB designs from the underlying Gerber files.
What are Gerber Files?
Gerber files use a specific CAD file format native to the Gerber scientific plotting device invented in the 1960s. They have since become a standard exchange format in PCB fabrication and assembly due to benefits like:
- Vendor neutral data exchange
- Capability to represent all fabrication data
- Human readable text codes
- Reliable validation tools
Some key facts about Gerber files:
- ASCII text format describing PCB images in Cartesian coordinates
- Contains codes for primitives like move, draw, flash apertures
- Includes netlist info and various metadata
- Individual files represent copper layers, silkscreens, solder masks, drill data, etc.
By combining multiple Gerber files together, manufacturers can fully reconstruct PCB designs. Next we’ll look closer at the typical file types.
Types of Gerber Files
A complete PCB fabrication dataset will consist of multiple different Gerber files carrying specific design data. Here are some of the most common types:
|Copper Layers||The conductive copper traces and shapes on each layer|
|Soldermask Layers||The insulating soldermask regions and openings|
|Silkscreen Layers||The visible silkscreen graphics and markings|
|Drill Drawing||Locations and sizes of all drilled holes|
|Drill Data||The NC drill file with drill hole tools|
|Assembly Drawings||Mechanical drawings showing PCB outlines, etc.|
|Netlists||Connectivity data for manufacture testing|
Additional files like Inner Layer drawings, testpoints drawings, and scoring lines may also be included.
Knowing the purpose of each layer is crucial for understanding the PCB images when opening the Gerber files.
Why Open Gerber Files?
Before sending Gerber data to a PCB manufacturer, designers will want to open and inspect the files for multiple reasons:
- Visual validation – Verify images match intended PCB layout
- Error checking – Look for missing copper, silkscreen issues, etc.
- Data validation – Confirm all necessary layers are present
- Manufacturing review – Check for producibility issues like isolation, annular rings, etc.
By reviewing the compiled data files, errors and problems can be caught early before costly PCB fabrication begins. The ability to open and inspect Gerbers is therefore an essential skill for avoiding issues.
Tools for Viewing Gerber Files
There are a variety of options available for opening, viewing, and inspecting Gerber data files. Here are some of the most common solutions:
PCB Design Software
Most PCB design packages like Altium Designer, Eagle, KiCad, OrCAD, and others have native capabilities to import and visualize Gerber files. These tools allow validation directly against the source design.
Standalone Gerber viewers like GC-Prevue and Kicad StepUp provide dedicated Gerber and drill file visualization. They render all layers and offer measurement tools, but lack editing capabilities.
Since they use ASCII text, Gerber files can be opened in text editors like Notepad or Sublime Text. This allows parsing the raw data codes but doesn’t visualize images.
CAM toolchains like Genesis 2000 and Ucamco integrate various validation tools like DRC checking for deeper analysis of Gerber datasets.
Online Gerber Viewers
There are also various free online Gerber viewers that allow file uploads for visualization and sharing of designs. These are accessible to anyone with just a web browser.
In the following sections, we’ll provide specific guidance on opening Gerbers across the leading options.
Opening Gerber Files in Altium Designer
Altium Designer is one of the most popular PCB design systems used to generate Gerber files. It also provides excellent built-in Gerber viewing capabilities:
- Select File > Import > Gerber File
- Choose the files and select import in single layer mode
- Files will appear as new layers in the CAM document
- Enable the desired layers in the layer tabs
- View the rendered images and measure as needed
- Validate against source PCB file if available
Additional functions like performing DRC checks, overlaying drill holes, and generating fabrication outputs are also available.
Opening Gerbers in Eagle CAD
The free version of Eagle CAD has limited support for Gerber files, but the premium version includes sophisticated viewing tools:
- Use the File > CAM Processor tool
- Under modes, choose to enter the CAM editor
- Import the Gerber files from the job panel
- organizing individual layers as needed
- Switch between layers to inspect images
- Validate against board file by overlaying layers
Eagle also provides an automated DRC tool for analyzing Gerber datasets.
Viewing Gerbers in KiCad
The open-source KiCad tool has an advanced GerbView utility for inspecting Gerber files:
- Launch GerbView from the KiCad main menu
- Use File > Load Gerber Files to import a folder of files
- Files will appear as layers in the layer manager
- Toggle layer visibility to inspect images
- Adjust transparency to overlay multiple layers
- Perform measurements and export images
KiCad’s GerbView provides extensive options for manipulating, analyzing, and validating Gerber data.
Using Online Gerber Viewers
For quick online viewing, online tools like Pentalogix ViewMate offer straightforward Gerber inspection:
- Navigate to www.pentalogix.com/viewmate.html
- Drag and drop Gerber files onto the page
- Click the layers button to enable different files
- Pan, zoom, and measure the PCB images
- Optionally export images or share URL
Online tools provide easy collaborative viewing without any software install.
Tips for Inspecting Gerbers
When reviewing Gerber files, here are some useful inspection tips:
- Check silkscreen layers for desired text and logos
- Look for complete copper fills with no voids
- Ensure adequate annular rings around plated holes
- Look for any exposed copper that should be covered by soldermask
- Verify board outlines, cutouts, notches all aligned between layers
- Cross-check any layer misregistration with fab tolerance
Finding potential issues early prevents headaches once boards are fabricated!
Automating Gerber Inspection
Since manually screening every Gerber file is tedious, many designers utilize automation scripts for validation:
- Script DRC rules validation on layers for potential violations
- Programmatically check annular ring tolerances around drilled holes
- Automate layer alignment checks between copper, silkscreen, and soldermask
- Hash and audit design files for data integrity
- Execute regression tests on new file generations
Automated checking provides peace of mind that Gerber data is valid before production.
Key Gerber File Insights
To wrap up, here are some key insights on working with Gerber files:
- Gerber format encodes complete PCB fabrication data into various layers
- Understanding typical file types provides context when viewing
- Visual inspection validates designs and catches issues early
- All leading PCB tools can import Gerbers for validation
- Online viewers enable quick collaborative reviewing
- Automation assists in verifying quality and validity of datasets
With the ability to properly open and inspect Gerber files, electrical engineers can have confidence their PCB designs will translate accurately into fabricated boards.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some common problems found in Gerber files?
Typical Gerber issues include incorrect copper shapes, silkscreen misalignment, voids in copper pours, thin or missing annular rings, insufficient isolation between pads, and incorrect board outlines.
What does aperture mean in Gerber files?
Apertures define the shape and size of the drawing tool. Different aperture codes correspond to tools for drawing circles, rectangles, polygons, etc. These are then flashed to create the PCB images.
Can Gerber files be edited after generation?
While Gerber files are primarily intended as output files, some CAM tools do provide limited editing capabilities, like removing slivers or scraps. But more significant changes typically require modifying the original design files.
How can you validate drill data in Gerbers?
The drill drawing can be visually validated for proper hole locations. The separate drill data file is used by CAM tools to validate the specified drill bit sizes and hole tolerances.
What’s the best way to learn to inspect Gerbers effectively?
The open source reference PCB ‘BeagleBone Black’ is commonly used in training. Comparing your own generated Gerbers against the reference validated data helps train an eye for spotting potential issues.
Understanding how to open and inspect Gerber files is an essential skill for avoiding costly mistakes in PCB fabrication. Whether using desktop PCB tools, online viewers, or automated scripts, reviewing Gerbers before manufacturing catches errors early.
This guide covered the basics of the Gerber format, typical file types, reasons for inspecting, leading viewing tools, and tips for effective validation. With the ability to visualize raw PCB design data, electrical engineers can take a proactive role in ensuring their creative visions translate accurately into physical boards.
A file that contains an electrical circuit board pattern is called a PCB file. The PCB stands for “Printed Circuit Board.” You do not require the computer program utilized to produce the file; many Windows application programs with PCB support are acquirable, and each can open up the printed circuit board pattern.
Your blueprint file will hold the mandatory info of levels and other things associated with PCB. Your PCB data file will contain information about all layers and their spread-eagling. Moreover, it will also hold information concerning holes and via sizing along with the lowest and uppermost silk layers.
Your maker will demand this data file to manufacture your electrical circuit design. This data file will state your trusted PCB attributes, finished copper, solder mask via the process, and additional details.
At this spot, it is valuable to mention that your final file will not all of the time bear the .pcb file extension. It may be a PCB file or a Gerber file. Furthermore, each software system will have its particular file type. Frequently, you will run across .pcb files more than other extensions.
PCB design end product is the data files wanted by the makers for planning the PCB. Although operating on a PCB setup, you edit out a data file that is selective to your CAD software system. It is not a general file format, and the data it utilizes is unneeded to the maker. This is how you want to get a different kind of data file as you change the conventional into a physical, electrical circuit board. Almost every electronic gimmick is a PCB onto which the elements are automatically and electrically linked up by soldering. PCB pattern utilizes a CAD (computer-aided design) system. To physically understand the pattern, we must shift the cybernetic blueprint information to a photolithographic computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) system. As various companies typically create computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing systems, they must accord on a CAD-to-CAM information exchange format to shift the information. You can also open .pcb files online.
Which file format can you beget or export with a basic software system?
In the concern for manufacturing PCB, you will frequently require to create a Gerber file format as Gerber file carries data concerning 2-D artwork that states the maker about the place of solder mask, copper, and so forth.
Thus, you might find out it hard to beget a Gerber file. It does not associate with internet connectivity, blueprint rules, or component libraries. You will require excogitating about distinct configuration details as creating a Gerber file.
As a whole, you will be able to abide by the following two steps for begetting a Gerber file:
- Search for a maker who will offer you directions for begetting a Gerber file. The directions will be as per the particular CAD software.
- And then, you can utilize that CAD software to intent your printed circuit board.
All the same, this is not as effortless as it sounds. All the same, with practice, you will be able to master this piece of work. Further, you can avoid a malfunctioning PCB and held up manufacturing by cautiously following the directions. Well, you can try to open gbr file online it may help you out.
How do I open up a PCB file in Eagle and PCB file viewer?
- Opening up a PCB file in Eagle Software:
Eagle is doubtless one of the popular software packages of an electronics engineer. Eagle is a PCB design software package and has created the contriving process a joyous one. Instantly, a question might come up in your mind concerning opening up a .pcb file in Eagle software, is it possible to open up a .pcb file in Eagle software? Or can we open gbr files in Eagle?
Unluckily, the .pcb file format is not associated with Eagle software. So, you cannot open up a .pcb file with Eagle, but you certainly can apply different software packages to do so. You can open the file with gerber viewer online free tool.
Furthermore, you will find a user script here that can change your file into something like that Eagle can open up.
- Refreshing the PCB file in PCB file viewer:
When you have your wanted .pcb file, you require viewing it. Looking at it is determining to be sure that it has everything that you and your maker want. You can refresh your PCB files in a Gerber viewer. You can use the Gerber viewer online for free. It will assure that whatsoever you are posting is a suitable illustration of your pattern files.
Moreover, previewing the .pcb files will also make sure that your data files have been exported correctly.
How To open up or change Your PCB files from some other Software?
- Eagle to Gerber:
Foremost, you will require opening up your PCB design data file in Eagle. This data file will hold a .brd extension. Later on, that, abiding by the following commands:
- Select “File -> CAM Processor.” CAM central processor instrument will open up to create your Gerber file.
- And then, choose “File -> Open -> Job”.
- And then go to your default option that is the cam folder of Eagle, choose “gerb274x.cam -> Open”.
- At last, select the “Process Job” button to beget the Gerber files.
You are also able to open .brd files open. You can try to open .brd file online it might help you so you should not require downloading the software packages.
- Altium to Eagle:
Fortunately, you will be able to import Altium data files in Eagle. You require to export your Altium blueprint file into ACCEL ASCII file format. Eagle then simplifies this information structure. You will need to tick on Import/File/Pad in Eagle and abide by the commands.
- Changing Gerber Files (“.gbr”) to “.pcb” files:
For changing Gerber data files (.gbr) to Altium (.pcb) files, you will require to convert the data file extensions. For instance, if you have a peak layer Gerber file called “Layer1. Pho”, you can change it into an Altium file by converting its name to “Layer1.GTL.”GTL” file extension mentions Gerber Top Layer.
PCB files requisites:
Every PCB maker has a few requisites which you require to accomplish before positioning an order. The PCBs data file that you will propose to them must bear these requisites.
PCB design requisites:
As per to a few makers, Gerber files should let in:
- Drill instrument listing
- Excellon drill data files
- Solder mask
- Internal layers with signs depending upon the pattern
- Aperture / D-Code listing
- Board draft
- Readme file
- Copper levels
- Copper weight and insulator thicknesses essentials
You will as well come across a couple of makers who will accept aboriginal blueprint files of:
PCB drill file requisites:
Once again, the makers will demand you to present PCB drill files the accompanying way:
- Possibly in Excellon format.
- They had better not bear “G01”, “G54,” and “D” codes if opened up in a text editor.
- They had better not hold some weird graphic characters; they must hold visible ASCII text.
- If they are arranged properly, they will have sizing dispensed with “T” codes.
- In that respect, there had better be a tool write-up holding the drill sizing.
- Present them NC Drill File or fab graphics for cuts out and slots.
- For a plated cutout or slot, you had better put the dimension on the drill level. Later on, mention an external layer pad bearing a minimal cutout or slot you would like to be plated.
- For non-plated cutouts or slots, position them on the draft layer.
Electrical circuit board routing requisites:
Makers commonly get the thought about electrical circuit board routing out from the PCB draft. You had better keep in mind the coming points while rendering your PCBs file:
During the routing out procedure, we will suggest you apply a copper back set of 0.020? It will assist you in keeping off the damage to copper dimensions. Some makers may as well permit you odd or circular shapes but with a few constraints. Then, once you have accomplished all the above and additional similar requisites, you are all fit to post an order. Exact requirements will hinge upon your makers. Just be sure to let in everything in your .pcb file.
A PCB data file is a primary thing that you should bear for manufacturing your electrical circuit design. Here all the details related to a file are discussed. Like what is a PCB file? How is it open up? What are the requirements to open PCB files? And so forth. It would help if you were sure that your PCB files are accomplishing your maker’s requisites. By following the above instructions, you can open your PCB files through the different software mentioned above. It is not so easy but not too tricky it only required practice.