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What is Gerber and How to Generate Gerber File - Steps with Images

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Gerber files are necessary to require printed circuit boards (PCB). When you draw the schematics, you need to generate them into Gerber files so that PCB manufacturers can follow your requirements.

You may ask, what is a Gerber file?

More importantly, how to generate Gerber files?

No worries, this post will let you know what is Gerberhow to generate it, and how to print PCB from the Gerber file.

Part 1: What is a Gerber File

The Gerber format is an open 2D binary vector image file format. A Gerber file is the standard file used by printed circuit board industry software to describe the PCB images such as copper layers, solder mask, legend, etc.

Each layer of the PCB needs a Gerber file. You can know the layers of the PCB here.

When you generate Gerber files for either a single-layer or a multilayer PCB, multiple Gerber files are saved at once in a RAR or ZIP file.

Gerber Files by Type and Format

The trick with Gerbers is that every file you generate will be associated with a particular layer on your board layout, each with its own unique file extension. 

File Extension of PCB Layer on Autodesk EAGLE

File Extension
PCB Layer
.cmp
Top Copper
.sol
Bottom Copper
.stc
Top Soldermask
sts
Bottom Soldermask
.plc
Top Silkscreen
.pls
Bottom Silkscreen

File Extension of PCB Layer on Altium Designer

File Extension
PCB Layer
.GTO
Top Overlay
.GTP
Top Paste
.GTP1
Top Paste
Top Paste
Top Solder
.GTS
Top Solder
.GTL
5-15
Top Layer
<2-11
.G1
Mid-Layer 1
.G2
Mid-Layer 2
.GBL
Bottom Layer
.GBS
Bottom Solder
.GBP
Bottom Paste
.GBO
Bottom Overlay
.GM1
Mechanical 1
.GM7
Mechanical 7
.GM13
Mechanical 13
.GM15
Mechanical 15
.GM16
Mechanical 16
.GKO
Keep-Out Layer
.GPT
Top Pad Master
.GPB
Bottom Pad Master

Another thing to remember about Gerber’s is their available formats – Gerber RS-274D and Gerber RS-274X. The D format is the older standard and uses two files per layer on your PCB. The newer X standard has done away with the two file format and contains all of the information about a layer in a single file.

Regarding having to manage your design data, the X format makes it a whole lot easier when you only have to keep track of one file per layer instead of two. We’d always recommend using the Gerber RS-274X format.

Now you’ve got to know that once you generate Gerber files, you can get the PCB printed from them. Let’s dive to see how to generate Gerber files using OrCAD and Altium!

Part 2: Generating Gerber Files Using OrCAD

Step 1. First of all, design PCB on any OrCAD software (like in the figure below ). To learn more about PCB layout, read here. Verify all points to check those are not shorted. After verification, move to the next step.

design pcb

Step 2. Navigate to the "Output" option on the top tab of the software.

output gerber orcad

Step 3. After clicking on "Output", choose "Generate Gerber".

gerber file orcad

Step 4. Click on "Output to a single ZIP file", and then go to "Reflection" > "Mirror". Confirm to generate a Gerber file by clicking on "OK".

confirm gerber orcad

Step 5. Finally, the Gerber file in ZIP format is generated. It can be found in your saved location.

save gerber orcad

Part 3: Generating Gerber Files Using Altium

Step 1. Open your schematic using Altium Designer. Navigate to the "File" option on the top tab of the software and go to "Fabrication Outputs" > "Gerber Files".

generate gerber altium

Step 2. You will jump to the Gerber Setup window. Here, you need to choose the "Layers" option on the top tab.

Step 3. Then click "Plot Layers" > "All on". Confirm to generate the Gerber file by clicking the "OK" button.

confirm gerber altium

If you want to generate the drill file, follow the steps below.

Step 1. Open the schematic using Altium. Navigate to the "File" option on top of the tap.

Step 2. Choose "Fabrication Outputs" and click "NC Drill Files" from the drop-down list.

generate drill file altium

Step 3. The NC Drill Setup window is open. Click "OK" and you generate the drill file.

confirm-drill-file-altium.jpg

Note
The drill file and Gerber file are generated separately. But you need to place them into the same RAR or ZIP file before uploading the file on a PCB printing website.

Part 4: Upload Gerber Files for PCB Manufacturing

Next is printing the PCB from the Gerber file. But there may still exist some problems.

For example, I saw a question from Reddit.

Question
I've got so far to uploading a Gerber file on a PCB printing website but I still have to select parameters "layers" "dimensions" "thickness", which I'm not sure how to determine from the Gerber file.

Absolutely, the printing website in the question is not that smart.

But you can choose a smart one.

On PCBONLINE’s online quotation platform, everything’s so easy. PCBONLINE is a one-stop PCB manufacturer and assembler. They are good at advanced circuit boards. Their quotation system can analyze all parameters of your Gerber file accurately.

You don’t need to read the Gerber and input parameters on your own. All you need is to input the quantity of the board.

You can choose one of the three build-time options: 3 days, 48 hours, and 24 hours.

build-time

And you can choose one delivery service from the DHL, ups, and FedEx.

delivery

When you click the "Check out" button in the bottom right corner, you will jump to the active order page.

Here you can rest or do other things because PCBONLINE’s engineers are reviewing your request.

The audition can complete in half an hour. Then you can pay online. So far, PCBONLINE accepts Western Union, PayPal, and bank transfers.

You can track the PCB production stages by clicking the "Track" button.

Note
If you are a new user, once you register, you have $100 off coupons in your PCBONLINE account. You can use the coupons to reduce the payment.

    Here are the reasons to get PCB printed at PCBONLINE.

    • Our engineers at PCBONLINE will review Gerber files and BOM carefully.
    • We support from PCB prototypes to mass production.
    • We provide free samples for batch production.
    • We spare no efforts to avoid your possible economic loss due to design defects.
    • Our PCB and PCBA factories are ISO, IATF, REACH, RoHS, and UL certified.
    • After assembling the PCB, we process the functional test and thermal aging test to ensure PCBA quality.
    • Fast delivery is available all over the world.

PCBONLINE’s capability:

  • Layer: 1 ~ 42
  • Laminate: normal Tg/high-Tg/lead-free/halogen-free
  • Surface finishing: OSP/HASL/LF HASL/immersion ENIG/immersion tin/immersion silver
  • Board thickness: 0.15 ~ 3.2 mm
  • Max board size: 500 × 580 mm
  • Copper thickness: (inner finish copper) 1-4oz, (outer finish copper) 1-7oz
  • Min. line width/spacing: 0.0635 mm/0.0635 mm
  • Min. CNC drilling size: 0.15 mm
  • Min. laser drilling size: 0.075 mm
  • HDI stack up: 1+N+1, 2+N+2, 3+N+3

If you have any concerns about your Gerber files or your PCB design, you are welcome to contact us online or via email at info@pcbonline.com. We will try our best to consult you free of charge.

Conclusion

The above discussion may have sufficient information for those who want to know what is Gerber and how to generate Gerber files. It clear that PCBONLINE is a perfect site for ordering PCBs because it has good quality output, Gerber file consultation, and an instant quotation system.

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