PCB Design Tools Enhanced with an Advanced Free Gerber File Editor

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: January 31, 2020
PCB Design Tools Enhanced with an Advanced Free Gerber File Editor

To successfully manufacture today’s challenging PCB designs, you need to be able to create the latest Gerber X2 file formats in your design tool’s free Gerber file editor.

ALTIUM DESIGNER

Getting manufacturing output files out is a breeze with the right CAD software.

For over 30 years the printed circuit board design and manufacturing industries have relied on Gerber files to transfer PCB image information from design to manufacturing. This data is the standard used all over the world, but it has its limitations. To provide solutions for those limitations there are now new data formats such as Gerber X2. The problem though is that a lot of PCB design systems are not yet compatible with these formats.

To get the best results from your PCB manufacturer you need to be able to send them the most complete information possible, and that means having design software that is equipped with these new data formats. Fortunately, there is one PCB design system that can provide you with the best design tool available, and can output data in the latest file formats. The answer you are looking for is Altium Designer.

What’s in a Gerber File Format?

As the standard data format for building printed circuit boards, the Gerber file format has been in service for a long time. It communicates through a series of codes what shape should be flashed or drawn, and where those flashes and draws should be located in order to create an image. With the addition of aperture information at the top of each Gerber file, the extended Gerber or RS-274X format has been an excellent method of creating PCB editor images, but there are some limitations with it. It doesn’t have any way to identify which board layer is which without using a file is naming convention, and there isn’t any other design data included except for the image information.

Individual Gerber files could be miss-named and switched around or missing altogether causing confusion for the PCB manufacturer. There also isn’t any accompanying netlist, layer stack, drill, or component information in the Gerber data. To transfer this data it must all be included in separate files and documented appropriately. To solve these problems the Gerber X2 data format was created. Now different layers can be identified, and full design data can be included.

Gerber File Data and Its Place in PCB Design

With a long history behind it, Gerber file viewer data continues to grow and evolve as design needs become more complex.

Screenshot of Altium Designer 3D layout in free Gerber file editor

The latest Gerber X2 file formats are needed to successfully manufacture today’s PCB designs

Manufacturing Output Files in Altium Designer

To get your printed circuit board out of the design phase and into manufacturing, you need to create its manufacturing file formats. The Gerber files that you create are the start, but you also need other files such as a bill of materials, XY location files, and drawings. Altium Designer has you covered for all of this with Gerber and Gerber X2 file formats, as well as tools and utilities for all of the other files.

To create your manufacturing drawings, Altium Designer’s Draftsman is a powerful tool to do the heavy lifting of drawing generation for you. And when you have all of your outputs ready to go, there’s no need to worry about combining it all together. Altium Designer’s batch output job files can be configured to create the precise set of manufacturing files that you need.

Altium Designer has Everything you Need to Create Quality Output Files

Altium Designer gives you the features and functionality that you need to create all of your manufacturing output files.

Screenshot of Altium Designer Draftsman in free Gerber file editor

Manufacturing drawings like this can be easily created using Altium Designer’s Draftsman

Powerful PCB Design Software from Schematic to Layout

Altium Designer has all the options you need to create the exact set of manufacturing files that your PCB fabrications and assembly vendors will need. Before you are ready to create output files though, you need to design the board in the first place and Altium Designer has everything that you will need. Starting with the schematic, Altium Designer is your best choice with software that is easily learned and used and yet can handle the toughest design challenges like multi-channel design and hierarchy. In addition, you have tools to query part availability and price information directly from your preferred vendors as well as different simulators to work with.

In layout, Altium Designer is loaded with advanced functionality for footprint creation, part placement, and trace routing. You will have no trouble routing your designs to 100% completion with Altium Designer’s different routing tools. Manual interactive routing, differential pair routing, trace glossing, auto-interactive routing, and full-on auto routing are just some of the different features available to you. No matter the size, shape, or density of your PCB, Altium Designer has the power you need to complete your design successfully.

Altium Designer Gives You the PCB Design Tools You Need for Success

From Schematic capture to PCB layout, Altium Designer has been created with PCB designers in mind.

You need the best PCB design tools with the latest file extensions & formats in its free Gerber file editor to be successful with today’s challenging designs. Altium Designer has those Gerber file formats ready for you to use in the most powerful and versatile set of PCB design tools that you can get.

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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