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38 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I JANUARY 2020 Pay Attention to Your Gerber Files In many cases, the Gerber files you sub- mit for manufacturing will be the gold stan- dard by which the manufacturer creates your PCB. Most of the higher end PCB layout tools do a pretty good job of creating Gerber files that do justice to the layout, but there are cer- tainly exceptions. Utilizing a Gerber viewer to display your files before submission can help you to iden- tify potential issues ahead of manufacturing (Figure 1). This practice can even limit your need to troubleshoot a completed design and use the blue wires to make it work. Common issues discoverable using the Gerber viewer include: • Overlapping thermal connections on adjacent pins (isolating intended connections) • Drilled holes in an unintended copper feature (like through a trace) • Oversized or missing solder mask clearances (potential to create solder shorts or unsolderable situations) Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should Sometimes, you need to zoom in to see it. Many PCB layout tools are creatively accom- modating and will let you do nearly anything digitally, but the consequences can be stagger- ing during the transition to manufacturing. For example, we see many submitted designs that are virtually unbuildable due to the blind and/ or buried vias in the design. Blind and buried vias are one sure way to drive up the cost, extend lead time, and increase yield loss. We recommend that you do not build blind or buried vias into your design unless absolutely necessary. It goes without saying for this audience that comments like, "I was able to draw it, so you should be able to build it," are only made in jest. PCB manufacturing must still adhere to the laws of physics, and that makes some things impossible to build at any cost. Conclusion At the end of the day, it comes down to tak- ing your time, checking your work, and apply- ing thoughtful design concepts to your PCB Figure 1: Gerber viewer.

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