PCB visualization challenges
Visualizing PCB boards prior to production can be challenging. Process, test and manufacturing engineers, and quoting and costing professionals often receive zip files of board designs in proprietary formats, and the free software that comes with their machines can’t always handle the different file formats or import the data. Transferring the data to a readable format can be cumbersome and costly.
Since most tools can read and display Gerber files, manufacturers often pick out pictures of the individual layers and then combine the layers together when they fabricate the board. However, that data is based on images and pictures, doesn’t include intelligent data and can’t be filtered or edited. Without intelligent data, it is difficult for them to identify potential problems before production.
A new graphical viewer with intelligent data
Siemens is excited to launch a free tool to help address this challenge—the Siemens Online PCB Viewer. The PCB Viewer is a graphical viewer that extracts intelligent data from a zip file and makes it easy for manufacturers to visualize the board, no matter what program was used to design it. Unlike other viewers which are limited to 2-3 formats, the PCB Viewer allows you to graphically display layout board files from 20+ tools or formats including Gerber, PADS, ODB++Design, Altium and more.
Manufacturers simply load the board on the platform to see its dimensions, component density, and complexity. They can quickly count layers and components, measure distances between components and see the component footprint on the board which helps them identify the optimal component to fit it. They can also see how many nets there are, which affects test strategy, and gain an understanding of some of the challenges they might encounter during the manufacturing process.
The intelligent data sets can be utilized for full navigation, such as searching for specific components or nets and to view the properties of individual components—for example, if the component is a resistor or a capacitor. The intelligent data facilitates a smooth handoff to manufacturing and enables a more precise manufacturing process.