SMT, PCB Electronics Industry News

Revision I1 of the Gerber Format Specification is now online

Feb 25, 2013

Often called “the backbone of the electronics industry”, the Gerber format is the bare board industry's CAD-to-CAM data transfer standard. In keeping with the format's importance in the industry, its long-standing custodian and developer, Ucamco, has recently overhauled the specification document, making it clearer than ever. By investing considerable time, money and effort in the ongoing improvement of the Gerber Format, and with no financial return to itself, Ucamco continues to provide the PCB industry with one of its most crucial tools, free of charge. Ucamco calls on the design community to play their role, and review their implementations of the format in light of this revision.

Following months of intensive work, Ucamco is delighted to present the latest Gerber Format Specification. While the Format itself remains unchanged, the Specification has been thoroughly revised for clarity and ease of use.

To this end, Ucamco analyzed no less than 10,000 real-life Gerber files from clients in Asia, America and Europe, taking in everything from the simplest jobs to the most complex wafer testers. Where the analysis indicated frequent poor use of a Gerber construct, Ucamco worked to make that part of the Specification clearer.

Three professionals were then engaged to review the Specification and flag where it was unclear to them. From outside of the PCB industry, each reviewer brought a different viewpoint to the process. They had no experience with Gerber, which was essential to the clarification process, because if a non PCB professional can follow the Specification, it follows that PCB professionals will find it crystal clear. The first revision was carried out by an independent consultancy with expertise in geometric software. The resulting document was then reviewed by a newly hired Ucamco programmer, and then it was the turn of another external consultancy with deep knowledge of PDF, which boasts an outstanding specification.

Following this, the document was restructured and its drawings and texts were improved. All outdated, superfluous and rarely-used features were deprecated and moved from the main part of the specification and gather these into a separate legacy section towards the end of the document.  

The resulting Specification is easier to use than ever before, enabling designers and CAD software developers to use the Gerber Format to describe their PCB images fast, in clear, unequivocal terms. Used properly, Gerber archives standardize the data transfer language so that CAM Engineers no longer have to pore over designs and interpret the CAD designer's intentions, or carry out painstaking manual work so that their CAM systems can use the data.

In short, this revision helps designers to move towards practices that guarantee top quality data, as Karel Tavernier, Managing Director of Ucamco, underlines: “With this new revision, we provide the means for the PCB design community to communicate with manufacturers whatever their manufacturing processes and products, wherever they may be in the world and whatever their language, in a clear, standard way that leaves absolutely no room for doubt”. He urges the design community to review their implementations and set-up’s in light of the new revision. Hazardous and outdated practices such as the use of the obsolete Standard Gerber Format or pad painting must be avoided. They  can jeopardize the quality and timely delivery of the final product. It is in the designers' own interests to take the guesswork out of the equation by ensuring that their manufacturing partners receive clear and unequivocal data. After all, if poor or wrong data results in scrap, the responsibility is firmly with whoever created the data, not with the manufacturer who has to decipher it.
“We have played our part
”, he concludes, “Now it's up to the designer community out there to use this specification to eliminate any erroneous and outdated design practices they may still be using”.

To download the Gerber Format Specification visit our download page at

Ucamco (formerly Barco ETS) is a market leader in PCB CAM software, laser photoplotting and direct imaging systems, with a global network of sales and support centers. Headquartered in Ghent, Belgium, Ucamco has over 25 years of ongoing experience in developing and supporting leading-edge photoplotters and front-end tooling solutions for the global PCB industry. Key to this success is the company's uncompromising pursuit of engineering excellence in all its products.

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