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Autotrax RS-274X Gerbers

Autotrax to Gerber Produces RS-274X gerbers with Excellon Drill files
Requirements Gerbers generated by this conversion utilize:
  • Draws
  • Flashes
  • Aperture Macros
  • Circular interpolation
  • Future version will also require Polygon Area Fill
  • Suitable for "PCB FILE 4" (Autotrax) files
  • Produces ".ZIP" folder of Gerbers with standard extension names
  • Includes a "File_ID.diz" with an Index of the zip folder
  • Includes a Bill Of Materials (BOM) with position and rotation data
  • Includes time/date/filename of the .PCB original file as a comment
  • Tents vias - that is vias are covered with soldermask
  • Uses original Autotrax vector font, so PCBs match your screen design
  • Expands soldermask (2 thou each side)
  • If SMD are present, makes pastemask with contraction (2 thou each side)
Known issues and workarounds Doesn't TraxPlot make Gerbers?
The Gerbers produced by TraxPlot are a very old version and are not accepted by most manufacturers.  It's not worth trying to use them.

Some PCBs contains large numbers of "fills" eg for a groundplane Our conversion "paints" fills to avoid overflowing the aperture table.  (Protel lacks this)  But the resulting files are still large

Some PCBs contain large numbers of cross-hatched tracks, eg for a groundplane
The resulting files are large - either design the PCB more efficiently, or just get the manufacturer to accept the larger file

Defining the PCB edge
Normally the PCB outline is drawn on the Keep-Out layer.  You can draw it on other layers if your PCB manufacturer knows what you are doing - the converter will still convert the result.

Hole sizes
You should use just a small number of different drill sizes to minimize tool changes when drilling your PCBs.  The first few lines in the excellon drill file that is returned with your Gerbers lists all the tools, in size order.  Our conversion does not rationalise tool sizes - that should be done as part of the PCB design.

Making a Panel of PCBs
This is a pretty standard requirement.  Just use "Block Read" to read in multiple copies of the same (or different) PCBs into a new PCB file, zip it, and we will convert the whole panel as one Gerber.  You should have previously contacted your PCB manufacturer to find what spacing to leave between the PCBs (typically 300 thou, 250 thou, 100 thou or even 20 thou).  On the other hand, most PCB manufacturers step and repeat a single design for no cost.

Is there another way to make RS-274X gerbers from Autotrax files?
The best accepted way (other than our conversion), is to import the .PCB file into PFW V2.8 and save to Gerber format.  However, PFW V2.8 often misrotates pads when exporting back to Autotrax format.  If you do chose to use those re-exported files you must examine carefully all component pads afterwards.

Can Later versions of Protel can also import Autotrax and save as Gerbers?
Somewhat Imperfectly.:-) While V2.8 "just" misrotates pads and does not reproduce the Autotrax vector style text strings, later versions actually lose via connections to power planes.  Years ago, a manufacturing company called Hartec took a PCB that we had designed, mis-converted it in this fashion, manufactured a bunch of reject boards and then blamed us, as the designer, for the fault, losing us a customer.  Thanks for the Politics, Guys.

Viewing Gerber files
Use a Gerber file viewer - there are many of them available.  CAM350 is good "paid-for" one, and is widely used in the PCB industry for setup.

How to check which Gerber file belongs to what PCB file
We try to make it easier - if you convert a zip file containing "ColesKbd.pcb" our converter produces "ColesKbdGb.zip" with each of the Gerber files having the date and time of the original .pcb file.  However, using a Gerber viewer is the correct method to check.

Why convert to Gerbers
Gerbers are pretty much the standard for PCB manufacture.  However, a number of manufactuers do accept PCB FILE 4 format files directly.  Just a warning - a few accept PCB FILE 4 format files and then misconvert them for you - pretty much all PCB manufacturers use Gerbers internally in their production process.

A layer appears in the Gerber that is not needed
The converter generates gerber layer files for each layer used in the PCB, for instance if there is a bottom side component legend it will generate a ".gbo" file to contain it.  Also it generates, for instance, a .gtp (top layer paste mask) if surface mount pads are used on the top layer.  If you do not want a layer present in the final gerber file, you can delete just that layer file afterwards using a zip management tool. We used to recommend Winzip, but frankly check out others these days they are better, and many are free.

Confidentiality We are offering the conversion as a service. We treat all files sent to us as confidential, and the property of the designer, in the same way as files sent for PCB manufacture.
To convert Zip up your .PCB file, and email it to us at: enquire@airborn.com.au we'll convert your PCB to a Gerber file, as soon as we have time, and email it back
This page was last updated 8 July 2010