How to Convert Gerber to PCB?

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gerber to pcb

There are many articles on how to convert Gerber to PCB on the Internet, but most of them simply list a few steps. This article aims to introduce the process of Gerber conversion PCB in more detail, so that engineers can have a clear understanding of this “reverse engineering” process.

How to Generate PCB from Gerber?

Altium Designer comes with a tool similar to CAM350 called Camtastic. It can complete reverse engineering from Gerber to PCB. Below is a video guide:

Step 1: Create a new Cam document

To do this, please click File » New » CAM Document:

Create a new Cam document in Altium Designer
Create a new Cam document in Altium Designer

Step 2: Import Gerber and NC Drill

Import Gerber and NC Drill to Altium Designer
Import Gerber and NC Drill to Altium Designer

This is a critical step. If you only import Gerber but not NC Drill, the netlist cannot be decompressed later. If there is an IPC Netlist, it can also be imported together, so that when the netlist is decompressed, the name of the netlist will be the same as the source design, and the system will customize the name of the netlist by default.

In Preference, you can define the file extensions recognized by CAM. If you want to import Allegro or Expedition’s Gerber, you can add the corresponding extension here for quick identification.

Define Gerber File Extensions in CAM Editor - Miscellaneous
Define Gerber File Extensions in CAM Editor - Miscellaneous

After the import is complete, you can view or edit the Gerber file in AD:

View or edit Gerber files in Altium Designer
View or edit Gerber files in Altium Designer

Step 3: Layer Mapping

This is also a critical step. Click Tables » Layers to open the mapping interface:

Layer Mapping from Gerber to PCB
Layer Mapping from Gerber to PCB

The Gerber layer on the left must map correctly to the PCB layer in the Type column. The mapping of the signal layer is particularly important: the top layer/bottom layer are mapped to Top/Bottom respectively; the middle signal layer is mapped to Internal; the internal electrical layer is mapped to Pos Plane/Neg Plane.

Besides that, the TXT file of NC Drill also needs to be correctly mapped to Drill Top/Bottom/Int.

Step 4: Layer Order

Once the layers are mapped, the Create / Update Layer Order dialog will pop up (also accessible via the Layer » Order menu):

Create or Update Layer Order
Create or Update Layer Order

Here, it is necessary to define the physical order of all signal layers (including Top, Bottom, intermediate signal layer and internal electrical layer). This step is also quite critical. If there are blind and buried holes, if the definition is wrong here, it will directly lead to errors in PCB export. Remember, the Physical Order of the Top layer is always 1, and the order of other layers follows the actual layer structure and so on. Numbers in Physical Order cannot be repeated.

Step 5: Extract Netlist

If there is no problem with the above steps, the netlist information in the PCB can be deduced through Gerber and NC Drill. Click the Tools » Netlist » Extract menu to get the netlist of the PCB:

Extract Netlist from PCB
Extract Netlist from PCB

Step 6: Export PCB

The last step is to export the PCB. If the Net List or other information is missing, the Export to PCB menu is gray and cannot be clicked.

Export to PCB from Gerber Files
Export to PCB from Gerber Files

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About Author

Aidan Taylor
Aidan Taylor

I am Aidan Taylor and I have over 10 years of experience in the field of PCB Reverse Engineering, PCB design and IC Unlock.

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