howto convert a BMP file to a gerber file for PCB fabrication
January 13, 2010 3:06 PM   Subscribe

What's the easiest way to convert a bmp of a simple one layer circuit board into a gerber file? Or...into a circuit board, I'd like to get them fabricated by a company, not sure which one.
posted by Charlie Lesoine to Technology (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know if there's a way to automatically convert a bitmap into a layout, but the Eagle PCB layout editor (free for one and two-layer designs) will let you import a bitmap so you can use it as a reference while drawing your layout. Generating the Gerber files from Eagle is then straightforward.

With regard to companies, and both have some fairly cheap options (especially if you don't need a solder mask).
posted by Behemoth at 3:16 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Never used the service, but as I understand it, you print your single-layer design using their printer driver, and from there it is fabricated at their shop. I assume you can view and then print with MS Paint or something similar.

You could probably use a commercial tool like GC-Prevue or Viewmaster, but these are quite expensive for any editing capabilities. Viewplot explicitly does BMP->Gerber conversion, but it's almost 500 euros.
posted by lalas at 3:55 PM on January 13, 2010

Seconding what Behemoth said, I know of no way to automatically convert a bitmap to a gerber. Gerber is something like a vector drawing, in that its a text file that lists all the shapes (their sizes and locations) on the board.

I see some software that claims to convert BMP to DXF, its $99, but many PCB programs will probably accept DXF and then allow you to save as a Gerber. I would warn however, that the most likely result is a grossly distorted/screwed-up Gerber file that the board shop won't like. I've been given DXF files before and while I could import them, they were screwed up for a number of reasons and I had to recreate the Gerber from scratch to get something acceptable.

Unless the board is very complex I would just redraw it in a PCB program like Eagle.

If it's a simple board and you care more about cost than cycle time, then I highly recommend BatchPCB. They're incredibly cheap (because they batch your design with a bunch of others on a large panel) and the quality is excellent.
posted by Long Way To Go at 4:17 PM on January 13, 2010

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