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Forum Index : PCB Manufacturing : PCB Design/Build Questions

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erbp
Senior Member

Joined: 03/05/2016
Location: Australia
Posts: 161
Posted: 12:57am 30 Jul 2018
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For a project I am currently working on I decided I needed to 'bite the bullet' and get a PCB manufactured as my requirements were really beyond what I could manage with just stripboard. I am using DesignSpark PCB 8.1 and got PCBGoGo to fabricate my first board. BTW they are amazing and together with using the DHL shipping option I have my 10 PCBs in my hot little hands (I'm in Sydney) in less than a week!!

However there are two questions that I have now that I have the finished boards. Fortunately neither of these 'issues' causes any problem with the board functionality - they will be perfectly usable, and I am 99% sure the 'issues' arose due to my mis-understanding of the correct way to do stuff.

1. I had added some text that I expected to print on the top side of the boards, but it didn't. When I added the text in DesignSpark, it went into the Top Documentation layer - this is the default setting. I was a bit puzzled at the time as to the difference between the Top Silkscreen and the Top Documentation layers, and not finding any clear explanation in the DS Help file, I assumed it knew what it was doing. I now suspect that the Documentation layers are just that - documentation only, and they do not form part of the manufacture process. Can anyone please confirm this and advise if/how you would normally use the Documentation layer(s)?

2. I had also intended that both top and bottom sides of the boards would contain a Copper Pour. There was no real electrical reason for doing so, it just seemed more appealing to me. So I found how to set-up a Copper Pour area on each side of the board, and in DS I could add the copper or remove it via the appropriate buttons. Again the DS Help file wasn't very helpful as I couldn't find anything about stuff you needed to do when creating the Gerber files to specify whether or not to include the Copper Pour, so I thought just having a Copper Pour area defined (and not set as a 'Keep-out' area) was probably sufficient. I did include the Copper Pour on the board prior to creating the Gerber file just in case. My boards don't have a Copper Pour on either side. As in this instance it was just for appearance, it doesn't matter - all the necessary interconnecting tracks, including the Ground Net are all present, but for a future board the Copper Pour may have more importance and so I would like to know how to request that it be included in the end product. Again, it is probably my fault - maybe there is a check-box hidden away somewhere that I didn't find, or perhaps I totally mis-understood how it is supposed to work. Any pointers on how to do this with DesignSpark PCB 8.1 appreciated.

Thanks,
Phil.
 
Grogster

Guru

Joined: 31/12/2012
Location: New Zealand
Posts: 7206
Posted: 02:31am 30 Jul 2018
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Yes, documentation layers are just for your or the manufacturer's information, and are NOT part of the PCB layout - or part of the silkscreen as you have found out! I don't bother with documentation layers. Mind you, Sprint Layout does not use them, so.....

Not sure about GP in DS, but in Sprint Layout, you just click the ground-plane button to turn the GP on or off, and job done. They have always come back with the full pour in place, so I suspect that there is something in DS you still need to set.

You can check your design using something like online gerber viewer. This will show your board like the PCB house will see it. Useful to confirm your layout.
Smoke makes things work. When the smoke gets out, it stops!
 
bigmik

Guru

Joined: 20/06/2011
Location: Australia
Posts: 2270
Posted: 03:17am 30 Jul 2018
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Hi Phil,

You are not the first..

My first iteration of MuP-Test had NO TEXT.. it was a long time before I discovered I had added the text to the DOC layer.. Damn.. I have no use for a documentation layer in any case.. That was using DEX PCB.

I was going to post the online gerber viewer (I use it all the time) but Grogs beat me to it.

Kind Regards,

Mick
Mick's uMite Stuff can be found >>> HERE (Kindly hosted by Dontronics) <<<
 
erbp
Senior Member

Joined: 03/05/2016
Location: Australia
Posts: 161
Posted: 03:39am 30 Jul 2018
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Grogs & Mick,

Thanks for your replies and confirmation about the Documentation Layer. I will make sure I remove it from any future boards I design so my text can't end up there accidentally. I think I can control this via the Technology File in DS.

Thanks also for the link to the online gerber viewer - yes, looks like it will be of great benefit. I used it just now to check the files I submitted to PCBGoGo and the Top and Bottom Copper layers just show the tracks, no copper pour - so definitely my stuff up. I will have a bit more of a play around with the functions for creating the gerbers now that I have a way to review the results, maybe I can figure out the Copper Pour stuff.

Cheers,
Phil.
 
erbp
Senior Member

Joined: 03/05/2016
Location: Australia
Posts: 161
Posted: 05:39am 30 Jul 2018
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OK, resolution to my Copper Pour problem.

So, I checked all the settings and options in DS that are associated with creating the output gerber files - couldn't find anything specifically referencing the Copper Pour. Opened up my pcb design and did the copper pour - copper now covering both top and bottom copper layers. Now re-extracted the gerber files, and then used the on-line gerber viewer to view the copper layer files. Presto, both now show the copper pour.

So although I was certain I had poured the copper on the board before I created the original set of gerbers that I sent off for manufacturing, obviously I had not, since as noted in my previous post those files show tracks only - no copper pour. I am claiming a 'Senior's Moment' as the explanation for this.

Anyway it's good to know there is nothing tricky in getting a board with a copper pour - just make sure you have poured the copper BEFORE creating the gerbers. At least now I know to use the online viewing tool to check what is actually in the gerber files before I submit them.

Thanks Grogs & Mick.

Cheers,
Phil.
 
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