Advanced Circuits, Inc. (ACI)

As experts in the manufacture and assembly of printed circuit boards, we work to make our blog a helpful resource on PCB topics and the industries that we work with, including automotive, consumer electronics, aerospace and many more. Here you'll find insights into PCB design, tech trends, assembly issues, and trending topics in the general news media as they relate to printed circuit board technology.

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PCB Layout Tools Avoid Delays and Waste

Buyers may not understand PCB layout and manufacturing processes fully, and most are surprised at their complexity. Because PCBs are used in almost every modern electronic device – from that IoT array of kitchen appliances to the key fob for your car, they represent a diversity of designs. Innovation is a hallmark, and one of the most significant elements of design is PCB layout.

There are many tools and resources used in the PCB layout, design, and manufacturing processes, and this leaves a lot of room for error and waste. One small glitch and production delays may occur, or entire batches of PCBs end up tossed into the trash. Thus, it is best to start with the best design and layout, and this is where software and experts can save the day.

Advanced Circuits offers an astonishing range of PCB layout and design tools that can almost guarantee a simple and flawless process. It all starts with the right file types…

Gerber Files and PCB Layout

IX274X files (typically called Gerber files) are the most commonly used for PCB layout and design. They are what we might call the first step in production and are often described as digital or physical blueprints for the printed circuit boards to be manufactured.

Typically, designers or engineers would print layers of transparent films or overlays that were color-coded to show the PCB layout and to support design evaluations. In other words, the layers could be looked at individually or all at once to detect glitches or shortcomings.

The creation of PCB layout software and programs gave designers and manufacturers the ability to eliminate the printed films and to begin to adjust the layers with greater ease. Though they might still be described as blueprints, Gerber files may still have design or function flaws.

Even if an expert uses the best PCB layout tools, there could be problems in the file, and it could cause a production delay or result in a batch of useless PCBs. This is particularly true if the PCBs are being made by a no-touch resource or outsourced producer. For instance, the overall appearance of a Gerber file or PCB layout may look acceptable to the untrained eye. A subcontracted producer may not even review the files but simply use them to make the entire batch of PCBs without any troubleshooting or evaluation. This can easily result in a long list of problems if there is a flaw in the design, including scheduling, production, and financial issues.

Use Optimal PCB Layout and Design Tools

This is why it is so valuable to find producers of PCBs able to offer services and resources that avoid such issues. For example, a tool that can evaluate a Gerber file and detect or even correct errors can be a lifesaver. At Advanced Circuits, clients can count on tools meant to ensure that PCB layout and design are exactly as needed, even correcting some errors, generating reports, and offering discounts along the way.

Here are a few of the tools Advanced Circuits offers to clients.

Free PCB Design Software and Analytics: As one of the most trusted domestic producers of PCBs and prototypes, Advanced Circuits provides full design to shipping services. There are also full assembly services that can all be put to use to ensure clients avoid costly errors. Using free design and evaluative tools, customers (whether using Gerber files or another design program) can export design files into the company’s free PCB file check software known as FreeDFM. They then receive a comprehensive analysis of the layout and design.

Then, the free software quickly evaluates and repairs problematic issues in the PCB layout and design files and generates a report of any questionable issues left uncorrected. Labeling them as problems, it ensures that a customer cannot waste time or resources on flawed or unusable batches of PCBs. And even more exciting is that those who run the Gerber files before submission enjoy a discount on the project.

PCB Artist: This unrestricted version of the leading PCB layout and design software is provided to all clients. It can be used to design PCBs of up to 28 layers and features a library of more than 500k common parts and components. This is in addition to the troubleshooting software and comes with such functions as controlled auto-routing design tools, digital schematics, and much more. It helps reduce risks of a flawed layout or design, and the files from this are also capable of the same evaluation and analysis.

Common PCB Layout and Design Issues

 What types of problems will the software evaluate and/or correct? The most common include:

Empty files: Designers frequently move, erase, or negate data, and this inserts zero data files into the process, which runs the risk of causing issues in the design and fabrication process.

Missing data: While an empty file is bad enough, a file with incomplete data is worse. Using free PCB layout software and checking services indicates when data cannot align with job specifications or when information is mismatched. Gerber files must not be without key data, so any opportunity to eliminate problems of this kind will save a lot of time, money, and headaches

Flawed file name: It is not at all unusual for Gerber files to be created via a flawed naming protocol. This causes confusion within the process and can only be detected by file checking or troubleshooting ahead of the game.

Conflicting layers: Gerber files feature design specifications at every layer. The designer must ensure that the specs function synchronously, or there will be errors at every subsequent layer.

There is no real reason for any glitches to occur in the layout and design processes, but there are many reasons for such mistakes to occur at other times. Accessing free resources like those from Advanced Circuits erases almost all risks and helps customers to ensure that their layout, design, fabrication, and manufacturing processes are moving smoothly and result in the PCBs needed for production.


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