How PCB Files Aid PCB Design and Manufacturing

The world has continued to advance in technology. Therefore, traditional etching methods and conventional trace sketching are obsolete. For complete PCB design, proper planning is important. PCB files are very crucial in PCB fabrication. These files help manufacturers to know more about the circuit board design. Therefore, it is important to know more about PCB files and what it features.

What is a PCB File?

A circuit board file features circuit board design. Also, it is a model that offers connections to electrical components. A PCB file helps to create the layout used for printing the physical board. Designers generate PCB files at the time of PCB layout or design. Without PCB files, manufacturing can’t be successful. A PCB file contributes to the success of circuit board manufacturing.

Manufacturers require PCB files that comprise component placement and connected relationship of each part of the PCB. A PCB file features necessary details on layers and other things related to the PCB. Also, this file features information on every routing on each layer. There are details associated with the bottom and top silkscreens and hole sizes in this file.

After a design has been finalized, the footprints of the components are available in circuit board design program. A designed PCB is usually in the form of a PCB file or a Gerber file. There are also some file extensions and data files for PCB files.  PCB extension files are also important in PCB design. Also, you should note the file name when opening a PCB file.

How to Open PCB Files

These are detailed descriptions on how to open PCB files.

  • Download and install an application like P-CAD to open files.
  • After you download, double-click the PCB file and open it automatically with the already installed application.
  • If the PCB file doesn’t open automatically, right-click the file. Select “open with,” and choose the downloaded file. If you can’t find the application in the list, select “browse.” Look through the installed programs and choose PCBapp. After this, the file will open.

File Types Needed for Printed Circuit Board Manufacturing

Documentation aids circuit board manufacturing. It plays an important role in the manufacturing of high quality printed circuit boards. Also, designers need to be careful of recording the right details to build their final product. The design process might be complex.  Designing electronics may require some PCB files. Therefore PCB design files simplify this process. Below are some files requested for PCB manufacturing.

PCB file

Engineers and technicians offer PCB files when placing an order for PCB assembly. Gerber files and Eagle files are the most accurate and common files. Also, these files are ideal for PCB fabrication and testing. These files would also help to test the printed circuit boards after soldering.

Bill of Materials (BOM)

A bill of material is a document that contains the list of all materials and components needed for PCB fabrication. A detailed bill of materials is ideal for printed circuit board fabrication. This file comprises standard default information like manufacturer part number. Also, the BOM contains information like specification and reference silkscreen legend.

Centroid files

The centroid file is also known as ‘Pick and Place” file. This file comprises information about where to place every electrical component on the PCB. Also, this file is in an X-y coordinate format. The centroid file features information like reference designator, the X-y position, layer, and rotation. Also, the correct application of this file is important.

Gerber files

The gerber file is a file format run through a PCB design software in the computer. The PCB design software is important for running a Gerber file. These files comprise extensive detail about the several layers of the circuit board. This information is useful during printed circuit board production. Eagle or kiCad are the most common programs that can run these files. However, there are other software that can read these files. KiCad or Eagle is commonly used by electronic manufacturers.

Preliminary files

These files are useful when there are unfinished PCB layouts. Therefore, a PCB manufacturer creates a preliminary quote according to the existing circuit board files.  You can create a preliminary file based on early Gerber files.

Assembly drawings

This document is important when the space for all reference designators on the outline file isn’t enough. Also, assembly drawings are PDF files that give step by step guidelines on the assembly of the PCB layout design.

Benefits of PCB files to Gerber file and Drilling Data Conversion

Some engineers convert a PCB file to Gerber files or drilling files. This helps to prevent troubles in manufacturing. However, some electronic engineers won’t convert PCB file into Gerber file and drilling data before giving out the PCB file to the factory. These engineers design the PCB file and directly send it to manufacturers.

The Gerber file the manufacturer converted may not be what you require. This is because PCB engineers and electronic engineers perceive PCB in a different way. Converting the PCB file into a Gerber file can prevent some mistakes.

Gerber files are really important for PCB fabrication. These files are usually zipped in a single file and sent to the PCB manufacturer. You can generate the drilling data by different CAD software. Printed circuit board manufacturing can’t be successful without drilling data.

Gerber File Formats


This file format is the oldest. RS274-D was compatible with several photo plotters utilized in the 1970s. Other Gerber files have been developed due to the drawbacks of this format. RS-274X was originally formulated in 1985. This file features a parameter file and control code of the plotter.


This is a revised format that uses an embedded format. The apertures that define these layers enable for custom apertures and standard sizes. Also, RS274X format enables PCB designers to use multiple layer structures for single layers. This revised format removed the manual data entry. Also, it minimized the photo plotting errors. This format replaced RS274-D. Therefore RS274X is an improved version.

Gerber X2

This is the most recent Gerber format. Also, it is specifically designed for advanced CAM software applications. Also, this format allows some attributes assigned to features within the Gerber file. The X2 format is very compatible with the initial X1 format. Therefore, this allows designers to transfer design information to the Gerber.


ODB++ is a self-extracting input format. Most CAD programs can now input ODB++. Also, ODB++ eliminated additional room for any human error. The Zip features all designs and fab information.


The production of electronics requires a printed circuit board. However, for PCB manufacturing, a PCB file is of utmost importance. Therefore, for any PCB project, a PCB file is important. There are several documents used for PCB design. The BOM is an example of these documents. Also, the PCB file extension plays an important role in manufacturing.

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