Gerber File Readme Generator

Teaser PicCircuit boards are wonderfully cheap to had made (even with the "president's ill-conceived tariffs).  Having custom circuit boards made is really open to everybody.  But there are a lot of steps between finishing a circuit board design and having it ready to send to a fab house.  I've developed a piece of software to make the process a little easier.

When the board design is finsihed, Gerber files must be generated.  A file is required for each layer of the circuit board.  Top and bottom copper - 2 layers.  That doesn't seem so difficult.  Actually, your board layout's CAM processor generates many more layers:  the silkscreen layers showing the labeling of the board, the soldermask layers, paste layers if you're having a stencil made, the Excellon drill file, various layers showing routing and Vscores.  The list gets pretty long.

The pcb fabricators like each of these layers to be the board name plus a particular extension for each.  I like to include a readme text file listing the board parameters, including the name of the file for each layer.  This gets pretty tedious!  I have created the Gerber File Readme Generator to make this process a breeze.  Enter in a few parameters, click a few boxes, and the file is written to disk.  A very tedious task is done in a few seconds.

[Link to program at end of article]

The main screen is shown below.  If you click the [file name] button at the upper left, the program will search for Eagle BRD files and allow you to click one to set the name.  In the file selector box, you may choose to view Eagle BRD files, Gerber file names (a few common extensions are included) or all files.  The file name, minus extension will be entered into the program.  Alternatively, you may just type the file name (no extension needed).

 

Main Screen

 

Enter the board size in the next box.  This is a free-form entry box, and doesn't check against the board files.  Include the units, 100mm x 47mm for example.

The number of layers should be entered into the next box.  Since I only make 2 layer boards, I didn't set the program up for more.

Click the appropriate check boxes under the Notes section and click the additional options on the left side of the screen and the program will make a pretty good guess at what layers you'll want to include. File extensions are pretty consistent among Chinese fabricators and are becoming increasrly common across the boardReview the checked layers on the right, add any notes and you're ready to click [Write File] at the bottom of the screen to write the file.  Well, almost ready....  

 

Main Screen - filled in

 

If this is the first time you're used the program, you'll need to set up your name, contact and shipping information.  Click the gear symbol at the upper right of the screen to open the screen for this information.  Once you've saved it, there's no need to enter it each time.

 

contact info screen

 

The resulting Readme file is shown below.  It can be edited in Notepad if needed.  Otherwise, create a ZIP file and copy the needed Gerber and Excellon files into it, along with the Readme file and you're ready to order boards.

 

Readme File

 

A couple comments.  I didn't include an option for Vscore.  This allows you to score a straight line across the circuit board material so that smaller boards may be snapped apart.  Vscoring leaves a rough edge instead of a smooth routed edge, and must run across the full board.

One of the options is "Board Outline Included on All Layers" - I include the outline of the board on all of the Gerber layers just to prevent confusion.  It only needs to be on one of the layers rather than all of the layers, but doing so can (and has) resulted in delays when the fabricator overlooked the one layer where I had the outline and put a hold on the job until it was clarified.

This program was written in Visual Basic 6.  Newer versions of Windows may require a file, comdlg32.ocx, be installed.  I've included this file with the program file.  Search the web on how to install it in your version of Windows.  Gerber File Generator will run from any folder without any installation being required.  Unzip and put all of the files in the same directory.

 

Gerber File Generator Download

 This is a link to my shared Dropbox file.  I believe it will work.  If not, please send me a message.

The site is not allowing me to upload the file.


Posted: 4 months 2 days ago by Jon Chandler #18048
Jon Chandler's Avatar
Do me a favor if you read this article. Leave a comment, any comment to let me know somebody is reading what I post here. If this is useful to you, let me know or even if it's not.

It's disheartening to spend a few hours writing something, and not get one comment in return. As a reminder, this is not my website, I'm just a contributor.
Posted: 4 months 2 days ago by Jon Chandler #18049
Jon Chandler's Avatar
Looks like I can add the zip file here. This is the same file as in the article, but stored on this site instead of mt Dropbox.

Jon
Posted: 4 months 18 hours ago by hop #18050
hop's Avatar
I loved it! And I like how you wrote the app in VB6!! I have not done that in years, but OMG did I write a lot of apps in that platform.

I do all my stuff in webapps now, mostly, or in Linux. Only because I try to stay in the platform for coding that I use for my embedded stuff. I had no idea you were proficient in code sir! NICE JOB!

Fact is, your tutorial assumes I am further along this genre of design than I am at. My lack of analog electrical training has kept me from even designing my own boards. It SEEMS like it is .... peel a layer back, and a dozen more layers are there to solve. Things like how large the ground plane should be, etc etc.

Like ALL your tutorials and guides though, I certainly saved it all because I know that sometime soon I will catch up and need that info.

Sorry I'm the only one here so far that offers that praise though. You deserve SO MUCH MORE!!!!
Posted: 3 months 4 weeks ago by Jon Chandler #18051
Jon Chandler's Avatar
Thank you for your comments as always.

Praise is nice, but I'd be happy for ANY sign of life here! Articles are getting read - I can see that by the number of hits - but some kind of feedback would be nice. Thanks, a comment or even "This is lame, I could do it so much better" would let me know that somebody is really reading this stuff.

Jon

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