Yes. Match the layer descriptions from your PC house to the purpose of each of your RS-274-X files. Include a short text file showing the names and purpose of each of your files. Share all the info you can with them. See this, from my favorite PCB house for example:
Proof each of your re-titled files using a Gerber Viewer like 'Gerbv' before you press the 'send' button. Correct any unintended offset and scaling issues before the files go to the vendor.
- I have another PCB program that uses .gbr on everything, then a drill.drl= ?
It's confusing because Gerber files are kind of dumb, they're just a bunch of coordinates in ASCII text format. A related but different format is used for drilling. Way back when computers were new and exciting, their numerical nature (as opposed to analog) caused some things to be called "numerically controlled", NC. So that's your NC drill. Sometimes people will call it a "tape" because guess what? Back then, they used punched paper tape to hold the numerical data. Of course, no one does THAT anymore, but why is a movie captured on a cell phone called "taping"? :)
So because gerber files are dumb, YOU need to be smart, or at least very clear. Since they're just a bunch of coordinates, there's nothing special *in* the Gerber file that indentifies it specifically as being top layer copper or bottom silkscreen, for example.
So you either rename the files *OR* supply a seperate ASCII text file explaining the mapping to the vendor. Since the vendore is the guy building the board, and he's probably used to a particular way of doing things, to ensure success, you have to work with him and work it out.
On your CAD tool, there should be a way to determine the name of each gerber output file.
Next time, it's best to have all this crap set up clearly from the start. Have a in-house standard naming convention for your CAD tool.
Also, I hope you followed their manufacturability guidelines and didn't use 4 mil lines everywhere just because you could, even though you could have used 10 mil tracks. And make very sure you understand how they want the bottom layer data. Usually you DON'T mirror the gerbers, but you DO write in reverse on the bottom layers!
Put targets on your layout, and use plenty of text notes to make sure everything is crytstal clear.
Did you indentify each layer in text outside the PCB area on your design?
The Gerber format itself, AFAIK, does not specify how the filename base or extension should be constructed. That said, there are some de facto standards that have arisen.
lists some of the common ones. Sounds like your board house prefers the Protel style, which is indeed quite widely recognized.
It's often helpful if the filename base includes the layer description, e.g., MyProject_TopSilkScreen.gto, MyProject_TopCopper.gtl, etc., and also include a ReadMe.txt that matches names to layers. More information is generally better than too little...
Some online board houses will also accept your files as a zipped bundle and then as you online to specify which file goes where in the stack.
You can use any filename and extension on your Gerber file. It's just a text file, human readable. If it makes your board house happy, rename to their convention. Easy to write a batch file to do the renaming.
-- I have another PCB program that uses .gbr on everything, then a drill.dr= l?
"Right reading" was the term I came across many years ago. So, you'd put reverse text on the bottom layer, because somehow registration marks don't seem to mean much to those viewing the "human readable" output.
Nah. This is one of those things that sounds like a lot of work but goes very quickly and easily. It's almost more trouble to describe the process than to just do it. :)
Gerber has always worked great for me, from a number of different PCB editors.
My experience runs a little counter to that. I caught a vendor placing features on a board that I had clearly decided against. Then I caught a layer misalignment of > 1 cm in two directions. Checking is good.
My father did PCB fab back then, and did PCB layouts with tapes and donuts. At 4x or 5x or whatever scale works we4ll here ...
Next step was to put the large-size drafting page with tape/donuts on a large light table, to be photographed with a "large format" camera - an old-fashioned beast with bellows between the lens and the the film.
Next, the film gets placed on top of a photo-resist-coated copper-clad board. Then, irradiate from a cluster of "blacklight" fluorescent lamps with peak wavelength around 360 nm.
After that, dunk the boards in a solvent that removes other-than traces, donuts, etc. , then dunk the boards in etchant.
Only thing remaining to do then is to drill the holes - which a "good drill tech" can do 50 per minute with the proper tool. I like to think I can do 57 per minute, but I "got that far" just as this was being obsoleted by PCB manufacturing processes that did not need a human drilling holes, also by surface-mount technology obsoleting need for most of the donuts and the holes in them.
Nest step was "stuff-and-solder". After that, clean the flux from the boards if they were "wave-soldered". I got work back around 1986 doing that, but more recently that is done more by machines than by humans.
First time I send work to a new fab (*) I ask for the layer separations - which is done by CAM350 or similar software - to be emailed back to me for checking, to make sure their system and my .PCB files are on the same page. Thereafter I send the .PCB file with a reasonable expectation that it will come out right. So far it has.
(*) It's not that I change fabs at all often. But if I get jerked around - as I was by CustomPCB - I'm not hanging around. I'm there to get a product, not a life experience. Have been with pcbcart for over three years, no glitches whatsoever.
My first photolith project was ca. 1979 and it wasn't nearly that nice. It was 1:1 so any um 'imperfections' were easy to see in the copper. I thought my local Bishop Graphics store was a wonderland!
There was a company in my area that had four expensive 'stat cams'. They'd do a photo-reduction and/or reversal for a few dollars. I was a customer for PCB and front panel artwork. The shrunk artwork always looked so much more *professional* than the source drawing!
It pains me to realize those great machines probably got tossed into a landfill a decade ago.
The 'Po-boy' version was heated ferric chloride in a pyrex tray, as you know. Yellow Fingers!
Off-center holes still make me cringe. I made plenty of them.
At Xerox we had our very own wave solder machine. It was a 'production' unit we used before assembly was shipped off to China.
I'm not a big fan of sending out live design files, when derivative files will work (ie. send out gerbers rather than .MAX files, or PDFs rather than .DOCX or .INDD files). It hides information and and gives you more control.
It tends to move some of the potential mess-ups to someone else's area of responsibility. Going through the extra steps of generating gerbers and doing DRCs by another program, checking netlists manually, etc. adds a lot to the confidence level, IMHO.