PCB manufacturing requires a lot of design in advance of anything else. In fact, design and output of Gerber files are quite often the most common first step in the manufacturing process. And whether you call it Gerber or IX274X that you use for designing your PCBs, it is likely you are looking to uncover ways to make them more efficient, faster, or better.
You can innovate and use your design resources to make that happen, and it is likely that at the bottom of it all, though, are those Gerber files. They are the digital blueprints of the PCB and explain every layer and outline the fabrication process to follow. This is why some firms want the Gerber files even when they are handling assembly-only processes – to understand all physical attributes of the PCBs.
A single error in the Gerber files, can lead to a financial, scheduling, and production disaster. This is particularly true in the current era when “no-touch” and even “no review” processes are put to use by manufacturers or fabricators. Your job becomes designing the PCB to your needs, running tests, and hoping that there are not inaccurate, incomplete or otherwise flawed files sent to the manufacturer.
Common Issues with Gerber Files
As odd as it might seem at this point in time, there are some common issues with Gerber files, and it can help to be aware of them wherever you stand in terms of PCB design expertise:
- Empty files – There are many instances when a designer may inadvertently delete or somehow negate file contents, leaving a 0-byte file that provides no useful data to the production or fabrication team.
- Flawed file naming protocols – One of the more common glitches when Gerber files are put to use is that the design team fails to use an effective naming protocol, leading to confusion for others involved in the process, and complicating file checking or troubleshooting.
- Incomplete or missing data – Empty files are one thing, but there are also instances when details or information may be lacking or mismatched against the specifications delivered to a manufacturer. Though it can be a very time-consuming process, it is essential that Gerber files are accessible and where they belong.
- Conflict between layers – Often, software generates multiple Gerber files with layer design specs at each layer. If the layers are not combined in a synchronous way, it can lead to composite layer design errors outside of individual layer design specs.
- Aperture lists – A single aperture list is ideal when Gerber files are in use. It should have any details the fabricator or manufacturer will need and details about tools necessary for each stage. With more than a single list, confusion can ensue and errors increase. The format of the lists should be in sync with the Gerber file format, too.
And while such mistakes are often deemed inexcusable, they occur frequently enough to doom many projects to destructive costs, lengthy production delays, and more. To avoid them means attention to detail, using high definition CAD programs, adhering closely to the best quality assurance practices from start to finish, and putting a Gerber file viewer to use.
Of course, issues created by even a single problem with the files has led to some of the best PCB manufacturers and fabricators providing resources to work around the issues. There are a host of troubleshooting or even trouble-avoidance solutions, but not all companies offer them to clients, and few do so for free.
Let Advanced Circuits Help You Avoid Problems with Gerber Files
At Advanced Circuits, we rank as one of the top companies in the PCB and prototype assembly industries. Able to tackle both PCB manufacturing (fabrication) and assembly, we also offer clients exclusive services that support, facilitate and improve any project while cutting down on risks for problems with Gerber files.
How? We make an array of free resources available through our site, and we can serve as a start to finish solution.
For those who have proprietary Gerber files on hand, they need only export them through the Advance Circuit website’s free PCB file check software. The FreeDFM program quickly and clearly evaluates printed circuit board design files, and then the online software reviews them and has the ability to automatically correct issues. It then sends a report itemizing any “Potential Showstoppers,” as well as providing accurate details of the issues that the software both identified and then fixed.
The clients who opt to use it will also receive a discount when they run the designs in advance of submitting them to the team.
This troubleshooting system requires exporting files from the Gerber program and then uploading online. The software is supplied for free but must be run through the site. Once an email is registered (this is for results to be sent instantly), it takes moments for the review, quote, and a discount offer to appear along with a link to the PDF file outlining the issues and repairs done.
Anyone involved in PCB design and manufacturing over the years knows that changes to the industry have made it impossible for most clients to tour a facility and meet with the fabricators to discuss any avoidable or common errors. This was once a strong troubleshooting tactic, but with companies in all corners of the globe making PCBs, that face to face interaction is no longer viable.
We recognize the hazards in this system and make a long list of resources available to our clients in order to help them prevent the creation of a batch of unusable PCBs or other products. We want to help clients avoid the enormous financial impact to their businesses this might cause.
The design phase of a project is a most crucial time, and so we offer free Gerber file reviews, corrections, and reporting. We also provide clients with free use of our unique and exclusive PCB Artist software. This offers a long list of features, including unrestricted design capabilities with a 28 layer limit, a controlled auto-router function, multi-page schematics, and more. It helps clients to avoid unnecessary design flaws, and though it is not the same as the Gerber options, it comes with a full array of free tutorials that teach even inexperienced designers how to make flawless files for production.
Enjoy Error-Free Design with Advanced Circuits
The high-quality design resources available on our website prove our commitment to client satisfaction and success, but we also deliver such benefits as never subbing out our work, skipping unnecessary tooling fees on orders adhering to standard specs, 24-hour tech support as well as customer support (meaning a CAM engineer is always available), no minimum orders and the BEST ON-TIME SHIPPING RECORD in the industry. Currently, we are shipping 50% of orders early! In fact, we ship Standard Spec orders on time or they’re FREE!
Don’t worry that Gerber files might cause costly errors – use the free resources available from Advanced Circuits!