Use a PCB Gerber Viewer to Inspect Your Fab Files in Altium 365

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: January 22, 2021
Use a PCB Gerber Viewer to Inspect Your Fab Files in Altium 365

Your Gerber PCB software communicates your design to fabricators in a universal file format. Your Gerbers will show the arrangement of copper, solder mask, solder paste, silkscreen, and drill hits as needed to fabricate the PCB. Manufacturers can quickly put revisions through a design review with PCB Gerber viewer and compare features as you work through revisions on a project. Altium 365 makes this feature easy to access and easy to use through a cloud-based platform.

Your PCB design tools must be comprehensive, covering everything from schematic design and editing to layout and manufacturing preparation. Gerber files are among the most critical manufacturing files used in PCB fabrication processes. As part of a circuit board design review, manufacturers can use a Gerber viewer to inspect each layer of a printed circuit board and prepare stencils for each layer.

Most EDA tools can take your circuit board layout and generate detailed Gerber files, including layer stack information and standard image input formats for copper layers, the solder mask, and silkscreen. Altium Designer includes a file generator for Gerber X and X2 formats and Gerber viewer features in the CAMtastic tool, but comparing Gerber files has long required an external application. With Altium 365, a manufacturer can open Gerber files from two project revisions and compare them side-by-side. Designers can create their project releases with Gerber files in Altium Designer, and they can quickly push data to their manufacturer.

Use the Best Design Features With a PCB Gerber Viewer

A PCB Gerber viewer is a convenient utility for viewing each of the layers in a PCB. Gerber files show the arrangement of copper, solder mask, silkscreen, drill hits, and paste mask required to fabricate a finished circuit board. You can inspect your Gerber files with Altium Designer’s CAM processor tools regardless of which ECAD application you used to create your PCB.

Once a design is submitted for fabrication, a PCB Gerber viewer will inspect the manufacturing files and call out design changes. Each layer within the stack may be inspected for pad and via attributes, layer pairs, mechanical layers, drill guides, and keep-out layers. In addition, features on the respective PCB layer, or layers, maybe highlighted for cross-probe with the schematic. All design files, including overlays, solder masks, drill files, and silkscreen, facilitate smooth communication with fabrication houses.

Altium Designer Includes More Than a PCB Gerber Viewer

Altium Designer gives you much more than just PCB Gerber viewer features. The industry’s best design tools are available in Altium Designer’s unified interface alongside a complete set of manufacturing and supply chain utilities. Cross-probing is available when making design corrections to ensure high manufacturing yield, so items highlighted within the PCB will be highlighted within the schematic. Everything needed to design, inspect, and manufacture a PCB and confirm design intent is available in Altium Designer.

PCB Gerber viewer and compare tool

Altium Designer offers complete control over all features in a PCB layout and helps designers stay productive.

Get Through Design Reviews with a Gerber Viewer

Before your board can be put into manufacturing, it must pass a thorough design review to ensure high yield and compliance with standards. Your PCB layout also needs to be checked against your design rules to ensure no errors in the layout that might reduce yield. What’s the fastest way to get your board into fabrication and ensure compliance with critical industry standards?

Altium 365 and Altium Designer work together to provide the answer. Altium Designer’s complete set of PCB layout and manufacturing tools is ideal for preparing your new design for fabrication and assembly. The sharing tools in Altium 365 give your fabricator direct access to your manufacturing files. This makes it easy for everyone to stay productive as a new design is prepared for manufacturing.

Inspect All File Formats in Altium Designer and Altium 365 Gerber Viewer

Altium 365 is the only online Gerber viewer platform that integrates directly with Altium Designer. View the latest Gerber X2 formats, IPC-2581 formats, and the Gerber RS-274X standards. Incorporating complete manufacturing details such as layer stack definitions, materials, netlists, test points, and NC drill files unleashes your manufacturing teams to build the PCB correctly on the first pass.

PCB Gerber Viewer

Once you’ve packaged your projects and shared them with your manufacturer through Altium 365, your manufacturer can compare old and new Gerber files for a project using the Gerber compare feature. The PCB Gerber viewer in Altium Designer accepts Gerber RS-274X and X2, along with ODB++, IPC-2581, and IPC-D-356. This means the viewer is backward compatible, allowing evaluation of any collection of artwork for your PCBs.

Altium 365 takes this a step further and includes Gerber compare features in an online interface. This is the fastest way to quickly find and inspect differences in Gerber files as you work through a design review to put your boards into production. The PCB Gerber viewer and compare features in Altium 365 support all file formats in your web browser. Project releases can also be opened in Altium Designer and inspected using the standard PCB Gerber Viewer features.

Stay Productive With a Complete Set of PCB Design Features

Altium Designer’s complete set of printed circuit board design and manufacturing features help you quickly generate documentation for fabrication and assembly. Still, it also includes the best circuit board design features. The rules-driven design tools in Altium Designer unify all your important circuit board design features in a single application, including PCB Gerber viewer, and compare features. Best of all, projects stored on the Altium 365 platform can be instantly opened into Altium Designer, helping design teams stay productive.

Altium 365 PCB Gerber Viewer

Easily create high-quality circuit designs, PCB layouts, and manufacturing documentation in Altium Designer and Altium 365.

When you need to quickly generate and publish Gerber files for your design and send your manufacturing documentation to your manufacturer, use Altium Designer and the Altium 365 platform. No other design application provides a complete set of design, sharing, and PCB Gerber viewer features in a single application.

Altium Designer on Altium 365 delivers unprecedented integration to the electronics industry until now relegated to the world of software development, allowing designers to work from home and reach unprecedented levels of efficiency. You won't find a better Gerber PCB software anywhere else.

We have only scratched the surface of what is possible to do with Altium Designer on Altium 365. You can check the product page for a more in-depth feature description or one of the On-Demand Webinars.

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 2500+ technical articles on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, American Physical Society, and the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA). He previously served as a voting member on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee working on technical standards for quantum electronics, and he currently serves on the IEEE P3186 Working Group focused on Port Interface Representing Photonic Signals Using SPICE-class Circuit Simulators.

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