Altium Designer’s Free PCB Viewer Download Allows You to Explore Your BRD Files

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: November 10, 2020
The Essentials for PCB Design File Formats

Today, it almost seems if there are as many PCB design file formats as there are PCB manufacturers. Using a custom file format is advantageous when working with the originating company’s program. However, there are many times when you need the capability to view or use non-native files. This can be a challenge when working with most PCB software companies, but not Altium. Altium offers a freeonline BRD viewer powered by the Altium 365 platform, as well as aread-only viewer license for Altium Designer.

ALTIUM DESIGNER

The industry’s leading unified, comprehensive PCB design software with BRD file view and import capabilities.

The proliferation of electronic systems into virtually every aspect of life has spawned many opportunities for designers and developers to creatively ply their trade. Consequently, the PCB design software options have expanded as well. And after decades of relying on a single design file format, Gerber files, the industry is trending toward the use of native CAD file formats. This may be fine for single designers using a preferred design program; however, it creates problems for design teams that may be using multiple design software applications as it restricts team collaboration, design transfers and the leveraging of previous work. Altium Designer is designed to alleviate these constraints to your Circuit Board design by providing tools and capabilities, such as the BRD file viewer free download.

The Essentials for PCB Design File Formats

The ability of your design to be brought to life or manufactured depends completely on the transfer of your board specifications to your PCB manufacturer. The almost exclusive medium for this transfer is the design file extensions. If your design information is inaccurate or incomplete your boards may not be buildable or built, but not perform as intended. As either of these scenarios will negatively impact your ability to satisfy your customer requirements, it is imperative that your design file(s) include the essential information needed for your board manufacture that reflects your design intent.

Essentials that must be included are materials, dimensions, PCB layout with traces and drill holes, component data and placement details. Any and all information that you can provide; including textual descriptions and graphics, to define and clarify your design serves to aid your manufacturer. Since the 1970s, Gerber files or Gerbers have been used as the standard format for design files; however, the advent of newer equipment for fabrication and assembly by manufacturers has led to CAD file extension preferences by manufacturers. And today, the use of Gerbers as the PCB design file standard is being challenged.

Gerbers versus a CAD File Standard?

As the need for PCBs has increased, the number of manufacturers and PCB design software options has grown, as well. Some of this growth in design software has come from manufacturing companies accompanied by a native CAD file preference. A significant reason for this is the desire to improve upon Gerber files.

Gerbers are in fact multiple files where copper, silkscreen and soldermask information is given in individual files for each layer. These typically have to be augmented by a pick-and-place file, drill file, board outline file, image and a text file with descriptions and special requirements. CAD files, on the other hand, contain all necessary information for manufacture within a single file extension. Virtually all manufacturers accept Gerbers; however, they can be inaccurate and require conversion.

AD Gerber Setup Dialog

Gerber File List

Learn about Altium’s Free BRD File Viewer Software Download

The development of native CAD file formats has transformed the PCB design software industry. For designers, there are more programs to choose from which can be seen as an improvement. Yet, an increasingly large number of the programs are sometimes offered by manufacturers to entice designers to adopt their design file format and use their manufacturing services. Typically, these programs are limited in functionality as they are targeted at a specific company.

For most companies that specialize in printed circuit board design and not manufacturing, there are also native CAD file preferences. One of the most popular of these formats is BRD. BRD is the PCB design file format for Eagle PCB Design software by AutodeskⓇ. To attract users, Eagle is offered for free. BRD files are also used by the Allegro PCB Designer program from CadenceⓇ. Although, the BRD file format is popular it is not a format that accepted by many manufacturers.

Why You Need Multiple Design File Format Viewer Capabilities?

PCB design today often involves many professionals and may require the integration of designs from multiple sources. For the development process to be efficient, you need a PCB software program that is designed to support and facilitate team collaboration within your company or across organizations. Altium Designer has been built to enable you to take full advantage of a collaborative environment. This includes tools that allow you to work with virtually all Printed Circuit Board file formats used in the industry. One of these is the PCB file format viewer, which is available for free download.

Easily Incorporate Multiple File Formats into your Design with Altium Designer

Although, the ability to view BRD designs is a great capability, it is only the tip of the iceberg of Altium Designer. In addition to viewing BRD files, you can view any of the most used CAD file formats in the industry. This maximizes your ability to collaborate with colleagues irrespective of the source of their printed circuit board design files. And the 3D viewing capability allows you to inspect and verify all details of your design.

Unlock the Power of Altium’s Import and Export Capabilities

Altium Designer is the industries most advanced and comprehensive PCB design software platform. It provides you with a unified design environment with full simultaneous access to your schematic capture, PCB layout and BOM, which gives real-time component data. Moreover, it promotes concurrent engineering while maintaining accurate status information for all aspects of your design. By unlocking Altium Designer you can not only view any design format but also import, incorporate and modify your design and export in any format.

AD Import Wizard

Altium Designer’s Import Wizard

Printed circuit board design today often requires collaboration to optimize development. In order to leverage work by colleagues within and external to your organization requires the ability to view designs created by other EDA tools. Altium Designer includes several tools that promote team collaboration and PCB design processes. Including a free PCB file viewer download that allows you to view virtually all design file formats; including BDA files.

 

About Author

About Author

Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. He currently provides research, design, and marketing services to companies in the electronics industry. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University and conducted research on random laser theory, materials, and stability. His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental sensors, and stochastics. His work has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written 1000+ technical blogs on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, and the American Physical Society, and he currently serves on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee.

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