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Converting hand drawn artwork to Gerber format for PCB mfg.
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Music Tech DIY  
Author Converting hand drawn artwork to Gerber format for PCB mfg.
decaying.sine
I thought I'd share some research I have been doing. The problem that I wanted to solve was how to convert my hand drawn or copied vector art that is produced in Inkscape and stored as an SVG file to Gerber format. The goal is to be able to send complex hand drawn work to a PCB manufacturer, especially drawings that are two sided and complex. This also permits through hole plating, which I have determined is prohibitively time consuming for DIY and solder mask, not to mention multiple layers.

I had hoped that you could simply send SVG or PDF files and the board house would figure it out.

As it turns out, it is not much more difficult than that. Gerber format is not a terribly complex format for the most part and tools exist to help with this process.

My process is hand draw or copy using Bezier curves in Inkscape, which is a free program. I find this software to be very intuitive.

I *believe* Adobe Illustrator can export in Gerber format. However, I have not been able to verify this since I have to buy this software sometime in the near future. It would be nice if someone would make a Gerber export extension in Inkscape, but this doesn't seem available yet.


pdf2gerb: http://swannman.github.io/pdf2gerb/
This program is pretty slick. The only problem for me is that it does not handle Bezier curves. If you use straight lines and circles then this is a good option.

PCBmodE: http://boldport.blogspot.com/2013/01/introducing-pcbmode.html
This is a very nice python program that seems to be in the same spirit and intent of what I was hoping to do. In order to get this going, you need to have python and various libraries some of which will probably need to be compiled with gcc. I only needed lmxl for my Mac OS X but I have a lot of stuff installed/compiled already. This program requires a json configuration file. I received a very nice email from the programmer who provided some recommendations on having success with my goals in mind, which basically was use the sample files as templates for your own work and adjust accordingly.

Cenon: http://www.cenon.info/
I tried Cenon by opening my SVG file and exporting to Gerber. It worked perfectly without error.

PCB board houses will want a set of Gerber files that are the various layers, silkscreen, etc. They will also want a drill file, e.g., NC Drill format file and related Gerbers. I am still working on how to do this correctly. It is not a complex concept but I haven't done this yet. pdf2gerb does this for you but there is the problem with Bezier curves in my stuff.

If anyone has ideas or experiences to add, I'd like to have some feedback or discussion.
diablojoy
Quote:
Cenon: http://www.cenon.info/
I tried Cenon by opening my SVG file and exporting to Gerber. It worked perfectly without error.

hmm that looks interesting
PCBExpress is the program i started with , I did many designs with it
early on and it will export DXF files so if Cenon can convert them to extended gerber it would be very useful for a lot of people thats if it works .
converting from PDF would also be a big bonus
decaying.sine
diablojoy wrote:
Quote:
Cenon: http://www.cenon.info/
I tried Cenon by opening my SVG file and exporting to Gerber. It worked perfectly without error.

hmm that looks interesting
PCBExpress is the program i started with , I did many designs with it
early on and it will export DXF files so if Cenon can convert them to extended gerber it would be very useful for a lot of people thats if it works .
converting from PDF would also be a big bonus


Cenon can import DXF.

It can also import PDF if you install Ghostscript. I just tried that and don't have it working yet though. I'll try a different version of GS.
glmodular
Too bad Cenon seems to be non-Windows.

I have methods for converting image files into Gerber, but it's a pain and not practical for anything larger than company logos. Thankfully I don't have to do it very often.

Tony
decaying.sine
glmodular wrote:
Too bad Cenon seems to be non-Windows.

I have methods for converting image files into Gerber, but it's a pain and not practical for anything larger than company logos. Thankfully I don't have to do it very often.

Tony


You could try something like this. http://www.andlinux.org/

The PCBmodE is really promising. That should run on windows once python is setup. I think it takes a little more effort to get it going, but the programmer responded within hours of me asking a question and was really excited some besides himself wanted to use it!
roman_f
i was looking for the solution for a while - found FAB 3000 software
asked for a demo, but didn't get any reply
roglok
Cool stuff, thanks for the roundup!

decaying.sine wrote:

pdf2gerb: http://swannman.github.io/pdf2gerb/
This program is pretty slick. The only problem for me is that it does not handle Bezier curves. If you use straight lines and circles then this is a good option.


In Illustrator you can convert Bézier curves into straight vectors using the Simplify command:

Object > Path > Simplify [check straight lines]

Accuracy depends on the amount of anchor points on your curve. You can add more using:

Object > Add Anchorpoints
decaying.sine
roglok wrote:
Cool stuff, thanks for the roundup!

decaying.sine wrote:

pdf2gerb: http://swannman.github.io/pdf2gerb/
This program is pretty slick. The only problem for me is that it does not handle Bezier curves. If you use straight lines and circles then this is a good option.


In Illustrator you can convert Bézier curves into straight vectors using the Simplify command:

Object > Path > Simplify [check straight lines]

Accuracy depends on the amount of anchor points on your curve. You can add more using:

Object > Add Anchorpoints



This is a good point. I know how to do this in Inkscape.
forbin
How does it work out the drill information? This always seems the bit i have problems with... I can really recommend using one of the free Gerber viewers (or a few) to make sure that there you are happy BEFORE you send files off to be manufactured. Have used http://www.graphicode.com/ which seems to work quite well. Will be fascinated to see the results though!
daverj
How are you defining the holes in Inkscape? The NC drill drawing format used for pcbs is extremely simple and can be created in virtually any programming language (BASIC, C, Java, etc...). It could probably even be created using a spreadsheet with a bit of work.

You just need a list of X/Y coordinates for each drill size and then a couple of header lines. It's all text based.
Luka
just fyi

illustrator cannot export gerber - i'm using cs6



Luka
thanks for your research brian

im going to try cenon
Memory_Leak
very interesting brian cheers smile
the bad producer
So if I'm right in understanding, the best way to do it is to draw your traces in inkscape (as those are the wavy lines we want, and how it looks aesthetically - I guess why else use inkscape to draw PCB's! hihi ), then transfer into cenon to get a gerber, at which point you could use a 'proper' PCB software to draw the via's, pads and drill holes into the gerber file... how does that sound?
diablojoy
Quote:
(as those are the wavy lines we want, and how it looks aesthetically - I guess why else use inkscape to draw PCB's!

ahh seems like an awful lot of effort just to get curvy lines. seriously, i just don't get it
each to his own i guess.
lightworks
Eagle maybe?
You can use the import-bmp.ulp to import a BMP file, set it to a cooper layer (top or bottom) and then place some vias where you need holes.
here is some tutorials on how to import bmp to eagle:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Adding-Custom-Graphics-to-EAGLE-PCB-La youts/step2/Run-importbmpulp-in-EAGLE-PCB-Layout-Editor/
http://learn.adafruit.com/creating-accurate-footprints-in-eagle/import ing-the-bitmap-into-eagle

edit: it's just an ideia, not sure if it will work well sad banana
decaying.sine
the bad producer wrote:
So if I'm right in understanding, the best way to do it is to draw your traces in inkscape (as those are the wavy lines we want, and how it looks aesthetically - I guess why else use inkscape to draw PCB's! hihi ), then transfer into cenon to get a gerber, at which point you could use a 'proper' PCB software to draw the via's, pads and drill holes into the gerber file... how does that sound?


That is the gist of it. However, I do believe there is a way to do drill in Inkscape. The PCBModE software should be able to do it, but this requires experience compiling things, tracing down library errors, etc, that may be less than desirable.

Like Dave was saying earlier, the drill files are really basic. They include various things like coordinates of drill holes, drill hole sizes, etc. I think it can be made in text and converted. I think Dave mentioned that and I believe I saw reference to that online.

@Luke. You are correct good sir. Illustrator does not export gerber. It does export dxf though and this can easily be converted to gerber. (I think hihi )
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