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Ucamco to Add Assembly to Gerber X3 Format

GENT, BELGIUM – Ucamco in November announced plans to extend its Gerber data transfer format to include components. The company is seeking comments on the proposed new specification, which adds component layers to the top and bottom of the Gerber file structure.

The new layers show component location, shape, fiducial locations and footprints, all data that fit with the Gerber format’s image files. These data are supported by a new set of attributes specific to the component layers and that provide non-geometric information about the component such as manufacturer part numbers.

The new layers are described using Gerber’s existing syntax and methodology, added the company in a statement.

The development would bring Gerber closer in line with competitive formats such as IPC-2581 and ODB++, which for years have incorporated assembly attributes.

In a press release, Ucamco managing director Karel Tavernier said, “While designs for bare boards are transferred using Gerber files, the associated component data are typically contained in separate, non-standardized drawings and pick-and-place and BoM files. The Gerber format lends itself perfectly to the transfer of component data, as well as bare board data, and so it is a natural step for the format to be used to describe the board in its entirety.”

Gerber X3 remains fully compatible with existing workflows, installed base and legacy software, he added. “The new component data are in dedicated files, separate from the bare board files, so if this data are not needed, these files can simply be ignored, and the manufacturer proceeds as before.”

By combining bare board and component data, the Gerber files could offer an integrated overview of the entire board. In turn, operators could visualize component placement to check for errors and set up assembly, generate manufacturing tools such as paste stencils, program pick-and-place machines, and assist in component procurement.

Ucamco said the draft was developed in concert with industry experts, including Jean-Pierre Charras, who developed a prototype X3 input/output for KiCad, and Wim De Greve, head of software tools development at Eurocircuits. The new draft specification is available at ucamco.com/en/news/towards-gerber-x3. – MB