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Moving from PCB design to PCB manufacturing may seem like a significant challenge, but your design software will be there to help. With the right PCB design software, you can generate the Gerber files your manufacturer needs to accurately produce your board and help bring your next product to market. Altium Designer offers tools that easily integrate your design tools and data with your deliverable generation tools, helping you move to manufacturing quickly and easily.
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The only unified PCB design package with automated Gerber file generation tools and an integrated Gerber viewer.
Most designers have plenty of things on their plate, and they don’t have time to replicate their designs as assembly data. If you’ve ever sent a PCB to a manufacturer for fabrication and assembly, then you know that your manufacturer requires several pieces of detailed documentation. In days past, you would have to prepare documents manually or using specialized programs.
Enter Gerber files. These files are fundamental assembly files for any manufacturer. A Gerber file contains all assembly information for the layers that appear in your layer stack. This shows copper layers, solder mask, prepreg, drill holes, and other assembly information. Many applications can read this format thanks to its detailed specifications.
The ultimate goal in product development is preparing your device to reach the market, and this will inevitably require manufacturing your product. Moving to the fabrication phase successfully takes design software that lets you do more than just layout your PCB. With the right PCB design software, you can create Gerber file formats directly from your design data without an external program.
There are three Gerber file extensions, one of which is obsolete. The latest format is the Gerber X2 format, which is preceded by the RS-274X format, and the obsolete RS-274-D format. The Gerber X2 format contains layer stackup information, which was not contained in previous Gerber file format versions.
With successively more devices being fabricated on multilayer PCBs, your design software should interface with a deliverable generation tool that creates Gerber X2 files. This format is backwards compatible, meaning it can still be used with single layer or two-layer boards. Your deliverable generation tools need to interface directly with your layout and generate a bill of materials, Excellon drill files, sourcing information, and CAD documents for assembly. All of this will help your manufacturer build a product that meets your technical requirements.
Newer design platforms can take your design data and generate these deliverables for you. This saves you a significant amount of time and allows you to focus on your designs. These deliverables are also generated in a standardized format, reducing chances for errors and helping everyone stay within budget. Working with a unified design platform allows you to generate your deliverables directly from your design data within a single program rather than resorting to an external program.
Generating fabrication outputs in Altium Designer
Your manufacturer needs a number of deliverables to fabricate and assemble your PCB. Aside from Gerber file formats that show fabrication steps for each layer in your board, you’ll need to create a bill of materials that includes sourcing information for your components. You’ll also need to generate finalized drafts as CAD files and Excellon drill files.
The quickest way to create all of these files is to work with the right PCB design software. When you work with adaptable design software, these tools are built into a single interface and allow you to create deliverables in standardized formats. The right bill of materials generation tools will allow you to include sourcing information for all your components from any distributor. This integration of data within your design software ensures that your output files are accurate and secure.
While there are tools online that can generate deliverables for you, the right PCB design software includes Gerber and other deliverable generation tools. You’ll be able to generate all your manufacturing documentation at once without transferring your design data to an external program. You can rest assured that your design intent is accurately reflected in your manufacturing deliverables when these tools are unified in a single program.
Generating a bill of materials in Altium Designer
Unified PCB design software operates as its name suggests: your design, manufacturing, and management tools are built into a single program. This type of design software generates deliverables directly from your design data in a single program. Generating manufacturing outputs from your layout and component data is seamless when these tools are unified with your bill of materials and Gerber file generation tools.
Only Altium Designer gives you access to every design, management, sourcing, and deliverable generation in a single program. Other PCB design platforms place these features into different programs, forcing you to use an convoluted workflow or purchase extra features as add-ons. Altium Designer quickly builds Gerber files directly from your design data and automatically imports sourcing information into your bill of materials.
The powerful design interface in Altium Designer offers intuitive access to all of your production planning tools directly within a single design interface. If it’s your first time planning for Printed Circuit Board production, you won’t be left alone. Altium gives you access to an extensive knowledge base, webinars and podcasts with industry experts, the AltiumLive forum, and feature tutorials. Altium provides you with all the resources you need for success.
Designers need to consider much more than just their schematic and layout. Your design tools should make it easier to plan for production by integrating directly with your deliverable generation tools. Altium Designer is the only PCB design package that contains all these features in a single package. You’ll never have to incorporate an external package to create your documentation. Try working with design, production planning, and management tools in one program: try Altium Designer.