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Wavebourn 22nd January 2013 11:40 PM

Convert PCAD .pcb files to Gerber - help is needed

My friend in Russia drew some PCB using his PCAD software, but he can't convert them into Gerber format that manufacturers want.

Who can help me, please?


DUG 22nd January 2013 11:51 PM

Generally, board layout programs generate the gerbers.

DUG 22nd January 2013 11:52 PM

More later, got to go

Wavebourn 23rd January 2013 01:12 AM


Originally Posted by DUG (
Generally, board layout programs generate the gerbers.

He said, he does not know how to do that.

DUG 23rd January 2013 02:41 AM

File Export Gerber

There is probably a setup menu for file names and what layers need to be generated.

I am assuming that it is this program:

page 75

He will not only need top and bottom copper but top and bottom soldermask (green "paint") if different or only one if they are the same. (no surface mount stuff)

Top and /or bottom silkscreen (lettering/text) (white "paint")

There need to be at least one layer with the board outside shape. With the program I use (OrCad), that information is on the "drill" layer.

There will also be a text file (or 2 or 3) of all of the drill locations in an X....Y.... format.
There may also be a separate file listing the drill sizes...mine includes that information in the previous mentioned text file...some are in a separate file.

I hope that gets him started.

Wavebourn 23rd January 2013 04:31 AM

Thank you Doug!

I will translate for hm.


dchisholm 23rd January 2013 05:33 AM


Originally Posted by Wavebourn (

Originally Posted by DUG (
Generally, board layout programs generate the gerbers.

He said, he does not know how to do that.

"DUG" posted a link to a PCAD User's Manual that walks you through the menus for generating "Gerber files" from PCAD. (That manual applies to the 2002 release - there are other versions of PCAD, and Altium (the program's owner) discontinued it about 5 years ago.) Even a cursory browse through that document's section on exporting Gerber files reveals a zillion options, preferences, and setups that must be navigated before the Gerber files can be generated.

A significant problem with "Gerber files" is that the name really specifies an electronic format and structure, not necessarily the file's information content. Various PWB etchers have different requirements for the files they accept. Just for example, some want a board mechanical outline in a completely separate file, while others want the outline shown on a particular layer - or ALL layers. Most want the "aperture list" integrated with each layer, but a few may ask for a separate aperture list. The PWB etchers I have dealt with have a web page, or downloadable document, giving the details of what they expect in the Gerber files they receive. This page or document should be used in conjunction with the PCAD (or other layout program) Gerber functions to create the files that give the desired results.

Some etchers are rather flexible with their file requirements while others are pretty rigid. Nearly all of them will offer to review files before committing them to fabrication; I occasionally noticed a few offering *.pdf or *.jpg "check prints" so the customer can compare at least a portion of what will be fabricated to what he expects to receive. It doesn't take a genius to generate acceptable Gerber files, but it does take some attention to detail. Perhaps as a result, in recent years several etchers have started to accept the "native" files created by popular PWB layout programs rather than requiring Gerber files - unfortunately PCAD, even before it was discontinued, wasn't an extremely popular program.


Wavebourn 23rd January 2013 06:19 PM

Thank you guys!
Now he says he needs some CAD debugger. Or somebody who can check.

dchisholm 24th January 2013 01:52 AM

"CAD debugger"? Not sure what that means.

There are at least half a dozen no-cost "Gerber viewer" programs, which can show the information contained in a Gerber file as its image equivalent. This allows you to verify that you selected a reasonable and valid set of options when you exported the Gerber file from a PWB layout program. As I noted above, even if the information in a Gerber file is comprehensible as an image according to the Gerber file format, it may not be the information required by a given PWB etcher.

I have done about a dozen fairly simple boards in PCAD-2002 but I don't claim to be an expert. With a lot of persistence I can usually make it give the results I want, or realize that it can't be done and adjust my requirements accordingly. Every time I do a board it seems like I spend half my time - and about twice as much time as what I think the PWB layout task should take - doing "library" work such as creating components, editing and harmonizing patterns. The "Design Rule Check" (DRC) tools are actually your friend, not (as a former employer believed) an inaccurate and useless feature that only impedes your progress.


marce 24th January 2013 06:07 PM

I'll check the Gerber files if you want.
Prefered Etended Gerbers (RS-274x). Will also requre Excellon drill files, again there are two formats, normal and extended, the latter being the best as the drill table is in the file. If not a drill table will be required.
Library work is an important part of layout, and as you have discovered takes a lot of time, try doing a part (schematic symbol and footprint) for a 700+ pin BGA, it can take a couple of days (or more), then a month or so laying out one board! DRC is a life saver...

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