Altium to Gerber: Converting PCB Designs Made Easy

Altium is a popular software used for designing printed circuit boards (PCBs). One of the most important steps in the PCB design process is converting the design into a format that can be used by manufacturers to create the physical board. This is where Gerber files come in.

Gerber files are a standard file format used in the PCB manufacturing industry. These files contain all the information needed to create the different layers of the board, including the copper traces, pads, and drill holes. Altium has the ability to export designs into Gerber files, making it a valuable tool for PCB designers.

By using Altium to generate Gerber files, designers can ensure that their designs are accurately translated into the physical board. This improves the efficiency of the manufacturing process and reduces the risk of errors or miscommunications between the designer and the manufacturer. Additionally, Altium’s user-friendly interface and advanced features make it a popular choice among PCB designers.

Altium to Gerber Conversion

What is Altium?

Altium Designer is a powerful PCB design software that is widely used in the electronics industry. It allows engineers and designers to create and edit schematics, layout PCBs, and generate manufacturing files.

What is Gerber?

Gerber is a standard file format used in the manufacturing of PCBs. It contains the information required to create the copper layers, silkscreen, and solder mask layers of the PCB. Gerber files are generated by the PCB design software and sent to the manufacturer for production.

Why Convert Altium to Gerber?

Altium Designer generates a variety of manufacturing files, including Gerber files. However, there may be situations where you need to convert Altium files to Gerber files. For example, if you are working with a manufacturer that requires Gerber files, or if you need to share your design with someone who does not have access to Altium Designer.

Converting Altium files to Gerber files is a straightforward process. Altium Designer has a built-in feature that allows you to generate Gerber files directly from your design. Once you have generated the Gerber files, you can send them to the manufacturer for production.

In conclusion, Altium to Gerber conversion is a necessary step in the PCB manufacturing process. It allows you to share your designs with others and work with manufacturers that require Gerber files. With the built-in feature in Altium Designer, converting Altium files to Gerber files is a simple and straightforward process.

Preparing for Conversion

Check for Errors

Before converting your Altium files to Gerber format, it is important to check for errors in your design. This will help ensure that the converted files are accurate and ready for manufacturing. Some common errors to look out for include:

  • Unconnected nets
  • Overlapping polygons
  • Missing or incorrect drill data
  • Incorrectly placed components

To check for errors, use Altium’s built-in Design Rule Check (DRC) tool. This tool will scan your design for errors and provide a report of any issues found. Once you have fixed any errors, run the DRC tool again to ensure that your design is error-free.

Set Up Design Rules

To ensure that your converted Gerber files meet your specific design requirements, it is important to set up design rules in Altium. These rules will dictate things like minimum trace widths, clearance between traces, and more. By setting up these rules before conversion, you can ensure that your Gerber files will be ready for manufacturing without any additional modifications.

To set up design rules, navigate to the Design Rules menu in Altium and select the rules you want to apply. You can also create custom rules to meet your specific design needs.

Export Altium Files

Once you have checked for errors and set up your design rules, you are ready to export your Altium files to Gerber format. To do this, navigate to the File menu in Altium and select Export > Gerber Files. This will bring up a dialog box where you can select the layers you want to export and set other export options.

It is important to note that Gerber files are typically exported as a set of individual files, one for each layer of your design. Make sure to keep these files organized and labeled correctly to avoid confusion during manufacturing.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your Altium files are ready for conversion to Gerber format and manufacturing.

Converting Altium to Gerber

Using CAM Processor

To convert Altium files to Gerber, you need to use the CAM Processor tool. This tool is available in Altium Designer and is used to generate output files for manufacturing. To access the CAM Processor, go to the File menu and select Fabrication Outputs > Gerber Files.

Selecting Output Options

In the CAM Processor, you can select the output options for your Gerber files. These options include the layer stack, board outline, drill files, and solder mask layers. You can also choose the units, resolution, and format for your Gerber files.

It’s important to select the correct options for your specific manufacturing process. You should consult with your manufacturer to ensure that you are using the correct settings.

Generating Gerber Files

Once you have selected the output options, you can generate your Gerber files. Click on the Generate Outputs button in the CAM Processor to create the Gerber files.

After generating the Gerber files, you should review them to ensure that they are correct. You can use a Gerber viewer to check the files before sending them to your manufacturer.

Overall, converting Altium files to Gerber is a straightforward process using the CAM Processor tool. By selecting the correct output options and reviewing the files, you can ensure that your design is accurately represented in the manufacturing process.

Post-Conversion Verification

kicad gerber

Opening Gerber Files

After converting your Altium design to Gerber files, the next step is to verify that the converted files are accurate and error-free. To do this, you will need to open the Gerber files in a Gerber viewer or CAM tool. There are many Gerber viewers available, both free and paid, that you can use to open and view your Gerber files.

Checking for Errors

Once you have opened your Gerber files, the next step is to check for errors. The most common errors that can occur during the conversion process include missing or incorrect drill holes, missing or incorrect apertures, and incorrect layer order. It is important to carefully review each layer of your design to ensure that all the necessary elements are present and correctly placed.

Adjusting Design as Needed

If you find any errors or discrepancies in your Gerber files, you may need to adjust your design in Altium to correct them. For example, if you discover that a drill hole is missing from your Gerber files, you will need to go back to your Altium design and add the missing hole. Once you have made the necessary adjustments, you will need to regenerate your Gerber files and repeat the verification process to ensure that all errors have been corrected.

In conclusion, post-conversion verification is an essential step in the process of converting Altium designs to Gerber files. By carefully reviewing your Gerber files and making any necessary adjustments, you can ensure that your final product is accurate and error-free.

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