How important is good data in your PCB gerber file?

How many times have you placed an order for PCBs only for the manufacturer to come back to you with a query of some type or other.

If you can honestly say “Never” to this question then you are without doubt one of the lucky ones.

What happens when the manufacturer has a query on your data?

Answer:  He puts the order on hold.

Result:  Loss of valuable production time and therefore more heartache for you the customer due to a delay in receiving your boards or the unthinkable “You receive the boards and guess what there not what you thought you ordered”.

How can this be avoided?

While there can be no guarantees you are definitely on the right path if you make sure that the data package you supply to the manufacture is complete and all information necessary for manufacture is supplied in a clear concise format.

Firstly, make sure you have a look at the manufacturer’s minimum manufacturing tolerances or specifications and make sure your design is above these tolerances. This information should be readily be available on their website.  It a waste of your time and the manufacturer’s time if you place an order that is outside their ability to manufacture.

Secondly, make sure you include all information necessary for the manufacture of the boards in the data package you provide.

If sending gerber files please provide a separate gerber file for each layer of your PCB and whatever soldermask, silkscreen, peelable mask etc  you require.

Send a separate gerber file for the board outline including any cutoutsslots required. Also a Drill file in excellonsieb meyer format with drill sizes and clear information about Plated Non Plated holes.

Make sure your gerber files are labelled clearly and correctly so that the manufacturer knows what layer is what.  If you are ordering a Multi Layer board make sure the manufacture knows the correct order of the layers and also any specific layer build requirements that you have.

If you have the room it is a good idea to put some “readable” text on the Top and Bottom layer of your PCB for extra insurance.  If there is any doubt about the layer build from the names of the gerber files then the decision can be helped by the text on the layers. Put simply, when viewed on the cam station the text on the gerber layer “Top.gbx” should be readable and the text on the gerber layer “Bot.gbx” should not.

A Readme.txt file is also a useful addition to any manufacturing package. This text file could contain a list of the gerber files detailing what each of them is required for.  It could also contain details of any specific requirements such as cutouts, slots etc as well as information about the order such as Board size, quantity required, lead time, thickness required, finish and so on.

This is the first in a regular slot on PCB builds and manufacture from our very own CAMmeister.  If you have any subjects you’d like us to cover feel free to send them to us at [email protected].  It’s all about realizing your designs quicker.