Whether you call it Gerber or IX274X that you use for designing your PCBs, they are often the first crucial step in your PCB manufacturing process. Demanding a lot of design ahead of production, most PCBs lean hard into their Gerber files.
Writing them without errors, though, is easier than it may seem. Gerber files are digital blueprints for your PCB. They detail each layer and shape the fabrication process that will be used to make even the most innovative designs. Many producers demand Gerber files, even if they are an assembly-only part of the process. This is to ensure clarity on all of the physical attributes of a PCB.
This means that even a single mistake will lead to all kinds of delays, financial issues, production problems, and losses. If you are using a “no-touch” manufacturer or fabricator, it also means it is a “no review” production process. They don’t analyze your Gerber files or PCB design, and it makes it easier than ever for incomplete, flawed, or inaccurate Gerber files to make their way into production, resulting in a PCB that doesn’t work.
Is the Gerber file so wrought with potential disaster as to make it a problem? No, it is simply that there are common glitches that are easily overlooked.
Common Glitches to Consider When Working with Gerber Files
Many are unaware of the most common problems with Gerber files, but it is immensely useful to know about them when entering into the PCB design and production process. These problems include:
- Empty files – Any designer may unintentionally delete or negate file content, leaving a 0-byte file that offers no workable data for the production or fabrication team.
- Flawed file naming protocols – Among the most common concerns with Gerber files is the use of a flawed file naming protocol. Leading to confusion for others involved in the process, this also complicates file checking or troubleshooting.
- Incomplete or missing data – Empty files are one thing, but it is also possible for details or information to be lacking or mismatched against the specifications delivered to a manufacturer. It is crucial for Gerber files to be where they belong, accessible, and complete.
- Conflict between layers – Some software creates multiple Gerber files with design specs at every layer. Should those layers fail to be combined synchronously, it can lead to composite layer design errors outside of individual layer design specs.
- Aperture lists – When Gerber files are in use, it is best to have a single aperture list with details the fabricator or manufacturer will need, as well as specs relating to the tools necessary for each stage. Multiple lists can mean errors, and the format of the lists should be in sync with the Gerber file format, as well.
Those experienced in Gerber file creation may think of such mistakes as avoidable or inexcusable, but they are common events. They doom most projects to huge production costs, lengthy delays, and failure. Avoiding them requires attention to detail, the use of high-definition CAD programs, implementing the best quality assurance practices from start to finish, and using a Gerber file viewer.
Because problems are so common, the best PCB manufacturers and fabricators offer free resources to prevent such issues.
Advanced Circuits Offers Support for Flawless Gerber Files
Advanced Circuits is among the top names in the PCB and prototype assembly industries. With the ability to handle PCB manufacturing (fabrication) and assembly, it provides clients with services that help improve all projects, especially the quality of their Gerber files. This is done by making a range of free resources available that support the creation of projects from first phase to final product.
Advanced Circuits offers the following options:
- The Advanced Circuits website has free PCB file check software for those with complete Gerber files ready to enter production. Known as FreeDFM, it is a program that will rapidly evaluate printed circuit board design files, correct many issues, and send a full report that identifies any other issues that could present problems along the way. Those who use this tool get a discount for simply running the files through the program. It does require an import of Gerber files (via an online upload). However, the software is free to use, and it will utilize the registered email address to send all of the analysis (in a PDF report) as well as the discount code.
- PCB Artist As anyone familiar with PCB design and manufacturing knows, most customers rarely get to tour a fabricator’s facilities or work one-on-one to address issues or avoid common errors. Once a great way to prevent problems, the global nature of PCB production makes this impossible. This is why Advanced Circuits offers another resource – the free PCB Artist program. This has a long list of features that guarantee an error-free design process and includes unrestricted design capabilities with a 28-layer limit, a controlled auto-router function, multi-page schematics, and more. This is not the same as Gerber files but includes a full library of tutorials that help all users to create flawless files.
- Free Gerber file reviews, corrections, and reporting by an engineering expert.
Further Resources to Trust
While this array of design resources proves invaluable to many, Advanced Circuits also dedicates itself to client satisfaction and success in other ways. For example, work is never subcontracted, there are never tooling fees if an order sticks to standard specs, and there is 24-hour tech support provided by a CAM engineer. They make no minimum order requirements and have the best on-time shipping record in the industry, with many orders arriving ahead of schedule. They are so sure they can meet customer needs that Standard Spec orders are FREE if they fail to arrive on time.
Gerber files can be a major hassle, but the tools and services available via Advanced Circuits support only the best results. Avoiding costly errors and long production delays are a thing of the past when your files are created without errors or problems.