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Ten Top Tips to help get your Printed Circuit Boards right - First time!

  1. Always prepare and include a readme.txt file with your Gerber and other CAM files. Please keep to the convention of using the file name "readme.txt". At minimum, your readme.txt file should include material, thickness, no of layers, weight of copper, a list of CAM filenames and what they contain and your contact information. You should also include the quantity of your job and reference your purchase order number. You can download a specimen readme.txt file here.
  2. Please inspect your finished Gerber files using one of the several free Gerber File Viewers available. Typically, PCB Layout software does not render ground planes in detail, this is left to the photo plotting stage when your PCB is manufactured. You will often find unintended copper "islands" and thin whispers of copper which don't do anything, but which look untidy and can infringe design rules.
  3. Please ensure your ground planes to not go right to the edge of your design. Try to avoid all tracks on ground and power planes. When it is essential to squeeze a track onto a ground plane, keep the track as short as possible. It is far better to add an additional holes to keep signal tracks on the ground plane very short rather than create a large discontinuity in the ground plane. Remember, Ground planes work because they have a very low AC impedance. By breaking the continuity of a ground plane, you can easily wreck its performance.
  4. Please try to avoid unnecessary changes in drill size. Changing a drill size during manufacture takes many, many times the time to add an additional hole. Ideally, you should create a short-list of popular hole sizes and as you define new parts for your design, stick to your short-list as far as possible.
  5. Please include an Outline Drawing as a Gerber file in your file set. Please do not include extraneous information such as component positions in this file. Ensure the Outline Drawing contains details of any cut-outs.
  6. Please always ensure internal cut-outs are included in your Outline Drawing and are also described in your ReadMe file. If your cut-out is large, you can sometimes include a sub-printed circuit board within the same design - which can save you a lot of extra cost. If you adopt this technique, the sub-printed circuit board must be designed within the same design - you can't include the sub-design as a separate set of Gerber Files. You must provide a 2mm routing allowance between the main PCB and the sub-printed circuit board. Note that there are additional tooling charges when merging multiple designs but usually the tooling cost for the merged design is lower than the sum of the individual tooling costs for each circuit. There are however no additional costs for repeat orders.
  7. Please try to place component legend text on areas of the PCB which are either totally copper-free or totally filled with copper. Although this is not always possible when dealing with tight designs, it improves the neatness and readability of text immensurable.
  8. Please try to stick to the file extension conventions as illustrated in our Specimen Readme.txt file. You will save both yourself and us time by keeping to these conventions and also minimize the risk of you, or us making mistakes.
  9. Please ensure all your files are contained in one single ZIP archive file, including your Readme.txt file. Do not include your purchase order or other files not relevant to manufacturing your job.
  10. For a really great and totally free Zip tool, try jZip. Please avoid including superfluous files in your ZIP archive to avoid possible confusion - for example solder mask files and solder paste mask files can look very similar so please don't include solder past mask files in your ZIP archive.

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Free Gerber File Viewer..

Gerber File Viewer

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Free alternative to PkZIP