Sunday, August 28, 2011

GerbV and Gerber Illustrators

This weekend I came across a Gerber Illustrator called GerbV (thanks to Addidis). FYI: this is available for Mac's on MacPorts, and as gerbv on linux/ubuntu. Im currently using it on Windows Vista.

So this little program can convert all your Gerber files into a nice pretty image on your screen, which you can later export as a png to post on your website or share around. Unfortunately, there isnt a very good how to manual for this program, but it is easy to work with. You just have to know the order the layers go in, and what colors you should be using. For this post, I am using Laen's PCB boards for the colors (Purple silkscreen and Gold pads).

Once you load the program, you have to import your gerber files (.ger extension), and the drill file (.xln). The other drill file (.dri) isnt recognized, so you have to generate the (.xln) file. EAGLE does this by default using Laen's CAM file, so you dont have to worry.

Now that you have your gerber files loaded, you should see them in whatever order you loaded them as, and a preview on the right. You'll have to move the gerbers around (using +/-) to get them to the correct order. This Color Datasheet will show you the order the gerbers should be in, as well as the colors of each layer. If you happen to have the colors worked out for standard Green boards ( or some other variation thats popular) please let me know, and I'll link to the datasheet or site that its on.

This gives you a nice pretty image of your board, so you can see what it will look like before you spend the money to make the board. This is very useful to catch any mistakes you've done on the board. And believe me, mistakes do happen. Take for instance one of my previous boards (I posted pics awhile back), the pad sizes were too small because of a software glitch, and two resistors share the same via. Had I used this program, I would have caught those errors, and saved myself a lot of money in re-spinning the boards.

I hope you've learned something from this. Its helped me a lot, and I hope it helps you.

Thanks Addidis.

Now for the update on the SMD soldering station: I've gotten my 1000W Hot Plate (yes Im aware I overpaid by 10 bucks), and still waiting for my Antex USA XS25 Soldering Iron in the mail. Im prepping to build an exhaust fume hood in my apartment so that the solder fumes dont stagnate in the apartment. Also working on an IR sensor to flip the hot plate off when the temperature hits just right. Both DIY instructions can be found on Instructables. Thanks to BikeNomad and Jimk3038 for the how-to's.

Also working on a new board which has everything to do with my smart-home project, which is a smart gas sensor board. Its got a gas sensor and a microcontroller to regulate the correct temperature for the on-board heater. If this board works out, then I'll probably throw this into the pile of 'Patents to do' so that when I post it online for the world to use, I get credit as the original designer. Dont want people going around sharing my hardware and not giving me credit, especially if I start selling this stuff in the future.

Well I think this post has gone long enough.

Peace, Pot, Microdot.

1 comment:

  1. gerbv is nice for previewing and checking gerbers -- I always give my gerbers a final check in gerbv before sending them off to Laen for the order.

    For pretty pictures of the board, however, I think gEDA/pcb's “photo mode” export is hard to beat.
    Here's an example of a board exported using gEDA/pcb's photo mode.

    Won't help you if you're using Eagle, since gEDA/pcb can't import gerber files, but I myself can't imagine having my designs locked up by a closed-source tool, so I use gEDA for all my work.

    Additionally, the experimental pcb+gl branch of gEDA/pcb supports interactive 3D rotation of the board along with Z-axis separation of layers for a really slick effect. (It doesn't support component models yet, but that has been discussed on the mailing list.)