Eurocircuits Tips & Tricks – KiCAD native data direct import

PCB Services | eC Solutions
Eurocircuits Tips & Tricks – PCBA Visualizer
Eurocircuits Tips & Tricks – KiCAD native data direct import

We process over 400 data sets a day for our customers. Front end data preparation is a critical stage of the process to ensure that the data we receive reflects what the designer had in mind, that it is manufacturable and that all requirements are fulfilled.

There are many CAD systems available on the market which are designed to provide Gerber data required to make your PCB’s. However one of the problems we often see with the data provided and which leads to delays and back and forth communication is ambiguous data labelling and missing data, this will be the difference between getting what you want, when you need it or not.

We have worked in the past to provide Design Rule Templates for Altium and Eagle which is a simple and effective way to guide you to producing the most cost effective design layout. In addition to this we developed our PCB Visualizer interface to directly utilise the container format from Eagle (*.BRD), this is a structured output which removes any ambiguity regarding layer structure, board outline and many other features which may normally require us to get clarification from you, additionally, every required layer is included (if you knew how many times we receive data without the drill file for the holes).

You will now be pleased to know that we have opened these benefits to KiCAD users by providing the possibility to Upload directly to PCB Visualizer the . kicad-pcb files, this is an encapsulated file format containing all the data required, with logical layer naming and ordering ensuring no misinterpretation or additional clarification.

Your can find more information here on what KiCAD-PCB provides and how you can configure this output.

If you have any questions about this or any other service please feel free to get in touch and we will be more than happy to help. Try out our online chat!

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  • eC-placer: fast, accurate PCB prototype assembly solution./li>

If you would like us to produce a blog or white paper on a particular aspect of PCB manufacturing technology or PCB soldering, e-mail us at euro@eurocircuits.com

Interact with us

The best way to share ideas and knowledge is face to face.

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KiCAD – design rules

Eurocircuits Tips & Tricks – How to create a Panel

PCB Services | eC Solutions
Eurocircuits Tips & Tricks – PCBA Visualizer

Eurocircuits Tips & Tricks – Panel editor

The purpose of our Tips and tricks series is to help guide designers and purchasers to the best and most cost effective service possible saving time and energy doing things which we have created the tools online to do for you.One question which we are often faced is how to create Panels from your designs and this often comes in 3 forms:

I have a single PCB design but need it to be panelised

Eurocircuits’ Panel Editor

I have several different designs which I would like to be put into a panel

I have designed my own panel how do I define this in Visualizer

Eurocircuits’ How to create custom panel?

Of course our cleaver development team have provided excellent tools (panel editor) in our PCB Visualizer to make the Panelisation process very fast and easy.

To help further we have collected our experiences together to give advice to design the best layout for Panels and how to deal with Small or round PCB’s.

But did you know that we also offer 2 different ways to have your boards separated (V-cut and Break routing)?

If you have any questions about this or any other service please feel free to get in touch and we will be more than happy to help. Try out our online chat!

Blogs

Company news

Production

eC-tools

eC-equipment

  • eC-placer: fast, accurate PCB prototype assembly solution./li>

If you would like us to produce a blog or white paper on a particular aspect of PCB manufacturing technology or PCB soldering, e-mail us at euro@eurocircuits.com

Interact with us

The best way to share ideas and knowledge is face to face.

Come and meet us at

Eurocircuits meets students

Eurocircuits TIPS & TRICKS – PCBA Visualizer




Eurocircuits Tips & Tricks – PCBA Visualizer


We are 3 months on the way now with our PCBA Visualizer beta testing phase and we would like to share our experiences and some tips & tricks how to use our tool efficiently.

After launching PCBA Visualizer, the natural DRC DFM extension tool of our well proven PCB Visualizer for bare boards, we processed about 5 jobs per day for various customers. This has given us the necessary info to start building a professional verified component data base and improving the tools to complete your BoM and CPL analyses.

We have compiled our message in a video on Eurocircuits.TV

If you have any questions about this or any other service please feel free to get in touch and we will be more than happy to help. Try out our online chat! 

Blogs

Company news

Production

eC-tools

eC-equipment

  • eC-placer: fast, accurate PCB prototype assembly solution./li>

If you would like us to produce a blog or white paper on a particular aspect of PCB manufacturing technology or PCB soldering, e-mail us at

euro@eurocircuits.com

Interact with us

The best way to share ideas and knowledge is face to face.

Come and meet us at

Eurocircuits meets students

Blind and Buried Vias

Copper and the Board Edge

Copper and the Board Edge.

There are three options under our Advanced options heading which may be confusing:

  1. Copper up to board edge
  2. PTH on the board edge
  3. Round-edge plating.

Here’s how to sort them out.

Copper up to Board edge.

To avoid damage to the copper during the profiling operation we normally ask for a minimum distance between the copper features and the edge of the PCB.  This distance is:

  • 0.25 mm on outer layers with breakrouting
  • 0.40 mm on inner layers with breakrouting
  • 0.45 mm on all layers with V-cut scoring.

These figures are needed to accommodate industry-standard manufacturing and machining tolerances.  For V-cut scoring it is also necessary to accommodate the V of the cutter.

Sometimes it is necessary to run a copper plane up to the board edge.  In this case select “Copper to board edge”.  There is no extra charge for this but it alerts our engineers to set up a different cutter speed.

“Copper to board edge” should normally only be used for planes and large copper areas where any slight damage to the copper will not impact on the performance of the PCB.

Tracks must not be placed within the minimum distance of the board edge where they could be damaged.  Our engineers will raise an exception whenever they find tracks within the exclusion zone.

If we find pads within the minimum distance of the board edge, we will clip them back to restore the minimum copper-free space unless:

  • the pads are part of an edge connector (usually with a bevelled edge)
  • the pads are marked as “up to the board edge” in a separate mechanical layer
  • the clipping is more than 25% of the pad surface in which case we will send an exception to the customer.

NOTE.

Copper to board edge cannot be combined with V-cut scoring.

PTH on board edge.

Also called “castellated holes”.

 

These are plated holes cut through on the board edge and used to join two PCBs either by direct soldering or via a connector.  As the process requires extra steps, plated holes on the board edge are a cost-option.

Your data should clearly show the holes and the profile.  Ideally include the information in a mechanical layer.

TIPS.

  1. There must be enough spare space on the edge of the PCB for us to hold the PCB in the production panel during manufacture.  If you need castellated holes on all 4 sides, email us your design or proposed profile as early in the design process as possible.  We can then confirm that it is manufacturable or suggest any necessary changes.
  2. You must have pads on top and bottom layer (and on inner layers where possible) to anchor the plating securely to the PCB.
  3. As a general rule the holes should be as large as possible to ensure good soldering to the mother PCB.  We recommend 0.80 mm and above. Minimum end size possible is 0.5mm.
  4. All surface finishes are possible but our preference is for selective gold over nickel for the smaller sizes.

Round edge plating.

This means that most or part of the edge of a PCB or a cut-out is plated from the top side to the bottom side.

  

This may be to ensure a good ground to a metal casing or for shielding purposes.

To manufacture a board with round-edge plating we rout the board profile where the edge plating is required before the through-hole plating process.  This involves extra process steps so round-edge plating is a cost option.

TIPS.

  1. There needs to be a band of copper on each side for the plating to connect to.
  2. As we need to hold the circuit within the production panel during processing we cannot plate round 100% of the edge.  There must be some gaps so that we can place rout tabs.  If you need a very high percentage of edge-plating, email us your design or proposed profile as early in the design process as possible.  We can then confirm that it is manufacturable or suggest any necessary changes.
  3. Indicate clearly in a mechanical layer where you need round-edge plating.
  4. Selective chemical nickel-gold is the only surface finish suitable for round-edge plating.

Why you should supply us with Gerber X2 files.

The benefits of the Gerber X2 format

Perfectly understanding customer data and not losing any PCB design information in data transfer, are key issues to seemlessly produce and deliver quick turn around PCB prototypes.

In our BLOG section we already explained the history of the Gerber Format. We have written a white paper on which actions we need to perform once we have received your data to check them and make them production ready. And we have informed you that UCAMCO is no longer supporting the old Gerber RS-274D format.

Gerber X2 is todays” standard. Why should you use it?

X2 adds intelligence to the Gerber format by its use of attributes. When PCB Vislualizer processes your new job, attributes allow the software to put the layers directly in the correct position in the stack-up. Other attributes identify the via pads, the SMD pads and so on. This avoids manual interaction and offers extra info for DRC and DFM checks. UCAMCO”s Gerber X2 intro movie offers a sneak preview in the CAM-engineers environment where he uses a UCAM system reading in X2 and experiencing its benefits.

CAD systems – KiCAD, Pulsonix, Easy-PC, DipTrace and Altium – can all generate Gerber X2 files. UCAMCO cooperated with the CAD and other software vendors to validate their X2 output. We like the efficiency of X2, please use it as It will improve data transfer from you to us in a safe and practical way. 

All about the Gerber format on the UCAMCO website

Eurocircuits ULP for EAGLE users

Eurocircuits ULP for EAGLE users – start calculating prices directly from your board parameters.

Users of EAGLE version 6 or higher can install a ULP from Eurocircuits to allow fast price calculations for their PCB based upon their board parameters.

Board.jpg

The ULP transfers the basic PCB parameters to the Eurocircuits price calculation page and opens it with these parameters filled out in the appropriate fields. The user then only needs to fill in the non-Gerber details to complete the calculation. This can be performed at all times even if the final details of your design are not fully ready yet.

PCB_quote_service.jpg

Order_screen.jpg

To install the ULP download the zip file containing installer via this link. Extract the zip file and Double-click the eurocircuits-button.exe file and the installer will open this screen.

Setup.jpg

Information.jpg

The ULP installs a button in you EAGLE navigation bar.

ULP_navigation_bar.jpg

Using polygons in EAGLE

POLYGONS are needed for a number of different tasks in a PCB design:

  • As a ground plane under RF lines like microstripe or coplanar lines.
  • As a power plane (for example Vcc) and/or groundplane, to create a low resistance connections.
  • Generally to make a low resistance connection for tracks that carry a high current.

To define a valid POLYGON in EAGLE you must follow some rules:

  • The POLYGON outline must be a closed contour. The contour must be drawn in the correct sequence and with one line. It cannot be built up in sections. When you have drawn the complete closed contour, the outline changes from a solid to a dotted line.
  • A valid POLYGON should not overlap itself.

Use the RATSNEST command to calculate and display the surface of the Polygon. Type in the command Line “Ratsnest” or use the Command button.

Ratsnest.jpg

A Polygon which overlaps itself cannot be calculated. An Error Message will appear: “Signal contains an invalid Polygon”.

Signal_1.jpg

Signal_2.jpg

When you have solved the error use the RATSNEST command again, to calculate and display the surface of the POLYGON. Use RIPUP @ ; to switch back to outline mode.

RIPUP.jpg

Polygon options can be changed via the parameter toolbar

toolbar.jpg

Or, under Properties, right click on the POLYGON outline.

properties.jpg


Width
– specifies the thickness of the line used to fill the POLYGON.

TIP: Select the largest possible line width. Too fine lines create unnecessarily large files when you output the data for manufacture. In any case the line used to fill the polygon should never be less than the minimum line width in the layout.

Polygon pour – specifies the fill type. The preferred fill is a whole area (Solid) fill, but you can also select a grid (Hatch) fill. If you choose Hatch fill, make sure that you set a suitable value under Spacing. The combination of line width and spacing must leave openings large enough for production. You can find more information in our PCB Design Guidelines

The special type CUTOUT is used to define POLYGONS that are cut out (subtracted) from all other signal POLYGONS within the same layer. Cutouts are typically used to define restricted areas in polygons on inner signal layers. It is the only case where a POLYGON can be drawn with a line of width “0”. The CUTOUT option is only used to define the open space and therefore it does not generate additional data. Draw a Polygon and set the option in Properties to Cutout. Run again the command Ratsnest and the Polygon with open space is displayed.

cutout.jpg


Isolate
– defines the isolation distance between the POLYGON and all other copper objects that do not carry the same electrical signal or objects in the Dimension, tRestrict or bRestrict layer. Set the value to 0 if you want to use the isolation value defined in the DRC Rules. If there is enough space in the layout, we recommend a minimum isolation between plane and copper of 0.25mm. The soldermask window around a pad is typically 0.1 mm on all sides. An isolation distance of 0.25 mm compensates for any manufacturing tolerance when the soldermask is applied and ensures that there are no exposed areas on the copper plane which could short to an adjacent pad. For tight complex designs, we can accept smaller values. Check our PCB Design Guidelines for Soldermask to choose a tolerance.

Picture below shows the standard soldermask window around a pad – 0.1 mm on all sides.

soldermask.jpg


Rank
– set values in this box to prevent overlapping POLYGONS from creating shorts. The Rank value determines which POLYGONS are to be subtracted from others. A POLYGON with rank = 1 has the highest priority in the Layout, so no other POLYGON drawn in the layout is ever subtracted from it. A POLYGON with rank = 6 has the lowest priority. If it is overlapped by a higher rank polygon the overlap area is cut out from the lower ranked POLYGON. POLYGONS with the same rank are checked by the DRC to ensure that there are no shorts. The rank property works only for POLYGONS with different signals. Overlapping POLYGONS with the same signal names are simply drawn one over the other.

Thermal – determines whether pads and drill holes in the POLYGON are connected using Thermal relief pads, or if they are connected directly to the copper plane. This applies to vias as well if the via option has been activated in the design rules.

Thermal.jpg

The width of the thermal connectors should normally be set as half of the pad”s drill diameter, with a minimum value of the wire width of the POLYGON and a maximum of twice the wire width. The length of the thermal connectors is defined by the Thermal isolation value in the Design Rules” Supply tab.

Error.jpg

TIPS:
1. Don”t set too fine a wire width for the POLYGON, or the thermal connectors won”t be able to handle the current load. The DRC will warn if this is the case (see illustration).
2. This also applies to necked POLYGONS. The minimum width of the copper area (neck) is determined by POLYGON’S wire width.

Orphans – Determines if a POLYGON may contain areas (islands) which are not electrically connected to the POLYGON”S signal. If Orphans is set to Off, such un-connected areas won”t be drawn.