KiCAD is one of the most widely adopted Printed Circuit Boards (PCB) designing tool across the world. This designing tool is also used for Computer Aided Designs (CAD) and Electronic Design Automation (EDA). The Printed Circuit Board layout can be easily converted from the electrical schematics which is built through its schematics simulator. There are numerous other functions which can be performed through utilization of KiCAD such as artwork, gerber files creation, component list creation, 3 dimensional view of the Printed Circuit Board, and Bill of Material (BOM) etc.
The Definition of Gerber Files
The Gerber files are basically the artwork of the different layers of Printed Circuit Board which can be easily utilized for the construction of the board with an ease after its fabrication. The file types of Printed Circuit Boards which are used for the assembling and manufacturing process of PCBs on industrial scale are known as the gerber files. This is the reason why gerber files are of great importance and can very easily recognized and processed as well by our experienced employees at RayPCB.
The Method for Exporting KiCAD PCB to Gerber Files
This article is dealing with the detailed method of exporting KiCAD Printed Circuit Board to that of Gerber Files.
Exporting Gerber and Drill Files
The first step is generation of the gerber files along with the drill files. Click on the “file” from top menu and then select “plot” option for opening the generation tool of gerber files. This method can be illustrated from the image below. An arrow is marked to the options to be selected.
Generally there are a total of 8 layers which are required for fabrication of a Printed Circuit Board. All layers are mentioned in points below.
- 1- The top layer which is of Copper along with Solder mask, and Silkscreen. The Copper layer is denoted as (F.Cu), Solder mask layer is denoted with (F.mask), and Silkscreen is denoted with (F.SilkS).
- 2- The bottom layer also of Copper denoted as (B.Cu), above it is solder mask layer denoted as (B.Mask), and silkscreen layer denoted as (B.SilkS).
- 3- The board outline is denoted as (Edge.Cuts).
Creation of Dill Files
You have to make it sure that all 8 layers are checked when you are in the plot window having format set for the creation of gerber files. The layers should have check on it as shown in figure below.
However, in case if you are not aware of the layers then you have to make it sure that you put a check on all of the mentioned layers. At RayPCB, our dedicated employees are helping you for choosing the right kind of layers best suited for your product. After that click on the option “plot” which will result in the generation of the gerber files from the mentioned layers. This process can be seen in the figure below.
Remember that you are required to generate the drill files as well. Therefore, you have to click on the “generate drill file” option from the same menu. If you are not aware of the best suited layers, then you can select the default layer option here as well. Click on the option “drill file” or you can also select option “enter” for the generation of the drill files. Make the output or export folder for the drill files same as you chose for the creation of gerber files.
Checking Gerber Files in GerbView
Next, you need to close the plot and drill windows. The exported gerber and drill files would have appeared in the directory given. For example, the figure below is illustrating where the files have been downloaded in computer.
KiCAD tools has a built-in tool for the gerber files viewing knonwn as “GerbView”. Here at “GerbView”, the gerber files can be opened for checking whether the Printed Circuit Board is looking same like you made in PCB layout or different. Checking the files before sending it to client is always good, so as to remove errors if any occurred.
The following table is showing the list of all possible types of files which can be seen after downloading the gerber and drill files.
|2||.gbs||Gerber Bottom Solder Mask|
|3||.gbp||Gerber Bottom Paste|
|4||.gbo||Overlay or Gerber bottom silkscreen|
|5||.gbl||Gerber bottom layer|
|6||edge.cuts.gm1||Gerber machanical or outline of board|
|7||.gts||Gerber top solder mask|
|8||.gtp||Gerber top paste|
|9||.gto||Overlay or Gerber top silkscreen|
Gerber top layer
All of the above mentioned types of files are related to production of the Printed Circuit Boards and are required for the production and fabrication of Printed Circuit Boards. After generation of the required files we will start the process of fabrication of the PCBs at RayPCB.
Errors Occurring Duration Generation of Gerber Files
The following are the major errors which may occur when generating the Gerber and drill files.
- 1- Sometimes there are some missing mechanical holes. As KiCAD is having an option for exporting the non-plated and plated drill holes separately, therefore it is common that you may forget to include both types of holes in archive. In case if the PTH drill file went missing, it is easy to troubleshoot it but if NPTH drill files went missing, then it is very difficult to look for such missing mechanical holes.
- 2- Sometimes, the drill holes are not matching the rest layers when files are opened in Gerber Viewer. In case if the drill holes are appearing in form of bunch in either of the corners or the holes appear larger than layers, it is expected to be caused because of mismatch of gerber and drill files. Almost 99 percent of times, this error is not having an impact on the CAM engineer’s capability for viewing the files correctly when manufacturing process is started as the engineers can change the files manually and correct it in Gerber Viewer.