DFX to Gerber?

What a mixed up strange world.
The local PCB shops won't touch a simple job for less than $2000 NRE + board costs, but several shops in China can knock out a panel for $99 -
almost flat rate.
But (of course) they need a particular file format - which I don't have.
Not surprising, I guess. The last circuit board I had made was 20+ years ago - done with tape and stickies on film and photo reduced.
I've been all over the net tonight looking for a DFX to Gerber translator - which are avialable - Free Download!, but cost big bucks to license. (trial copies work - but leave out some items)
Is there anyone in the house translate a few dxf files to gerber?
Or? Know of a PCB prototyping house that's affordable and can translate?
A single double-sided board - 5-12" x 6" - with silkscreen - less than 1000 holes.
It's not a commercial product - just something I wanted to play with.
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Richard

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I think I can do it with CATIA Richard. You'd think the board maker would have this capability. Did you ask?
JC
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Never mind. I can write out machine instructions for a bunch of machines but can't output Gerber's file format. You might try these guys. I believe they offer file translation as a service.
http://www.graphicode.com
JC
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John R. Carroll wrote:

According to their web site they are pretty confident they can. I'll send them a note and get started!
Thanks.
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Richard

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John R. Carroll wrote:

THOSE shops, the ones that have layout capability seem to be the most expensive. The local guy was really nice, but said he couldn't even look at it for less than $1500 to $1800 NRE. I read that as his 'staying in business money' - or maybe 'don't waste my time' money?
So far, the three I've actually talked to just insist that it has to be in Gerber. I don't think the actual people have a clue what that means. It's just what the company wants - so that's what they say.
The china shop? Beats me. I haven't spoken them yet. (what a hoot!)
But at the bottom of the page they want Gerber 274 files and NC drill file(?).
http://www.goldphoenixpcb.biz/special_price.php
I'd get 4 boards from a panel. With the heavier copper plate option they would come to $35 to 40 a piece. Which I can live with for 4 boards. (It's not like anybody else would be interested in an 8 Mhz XT core at this late date)
Remove the mighty X from my return address.
Better yet, I'll CC this to the address(es) I have for you, John. Sending to both UBU and non-ubu. One of 'em outta get through!
If that works, I'll send you the files.
Would you prefer DFX or DWG for import? I made version 13 of both. But they bulk some.
And, hey John, whether it works or not, thanks for offering.
--

Richard

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What I think I can write out is RS274-X. The NC drilling code is a piece of cake. At least I'm familiar with that. Circuit board layout is beyond my experience but I have the module.

UBU is a black Lab. I put that in thinking a munged address would decease SPAM but apparently that's old hat.

No prob. I've got a new 64 bit box to finish seting up and an injector body and fuel manifold for a third stage TKUS workhorse engine that has suddenly decided to give me a little grief again. It's really been one of those days...
I'm getting to old for this stuff but there has been so little money put into rocket engine development since the shuttle that most of the people that knew how to do this work are either dead or retired and the young bucks that are coming in are great designers but have little experience with the manufacturing side of the business.The machine shops that used to build prototypes are long gone, mostly because they couldn't find kids that wanted to be anything but investment bankers and we live in a country that seems to feel that makin' stuff is beneath us. Idiots.....
JC
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John R. Carroll wrote:

That's the stuff they want! I'd offer a wooden nickle if you might be willing to give it a try!?!

It's kind of a cross between jigsaw puzzles and psycho self abuse... You definately go blind.

Big Belly Laugh that would make Gunner jealous!
Just wait till those new kids start trying to build Saturn V's again!!!
'No Sir, no idea why it blew up! The Computer Analysis said it was fine!"
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Richard

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I will, but Winston seems to have a better solution for you.

That isn't going to happen unless the Ruskies get sideways on us. The work here is the third generation of a design proposed for heavy lift back in the seventies. The stuff I'm doing is for land and sea based interceptors.

We've had pretty good luck so far. I'm lucky to be working with a bunch of really smart guys.
JC
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John R. Carroll wrote:

I dunno, John.
They keep saying we are going back to the moon (someday real soon now).
We aren't going to do that with small efficient rockets. Takes raw brute force. And LOTS of it.
But you probably know more about that than I do.
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Richard

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cavelamb himself wrote:

Mostly to avoid problems. Everybody in the business uses a laser photoplotter to make the master artwork. All decent PCB CAD software can produce "Gerber" files, which are actually a variant form of "G code", ie RS-274D. It is a modal code, where an X and Y coordinate specify where to do "something", which is to either draw to or flash an aperture at that location. The aperture wheel is turned by a tool selection (D) code, and selects the size of the spot projected on the film. All newer machines are raster instead of vector, but the code is the same.
Anyway, if you give them a Gerber file, and their plotter accepts it and makes a plot, the chances of your saying "Oh, no, the board came out half the size it was supposed to be!" is extremely low.

The drill file (also known as an Excellon file) is ALSO a variant of RS-274D. One of them is leading zero suppressed, the other is trailing zero suppressed, both have the decimal points suppressed. (I forget which is which on the leading/trailing.)
Jon
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Jon Elson wrote:

I've had a number of gerber files plotted by my local photoplotter service from some commercial software and the PCD package that I wrote myself. They have said that due to the variations and the number of PCD packages out there, that is is often useful to have a printout of what the end result should look like. They said they frequently had to alter settings in their gerber to raster software in order to get the correct result.

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cavelamb himself wrote:

(...)
Your fastest, cheapest way is probably to re-capture using a freeware schematic / PCB layout tool. http://www.expresspcb.com /
Their pricing formula is: $55 + ($0.65 * NumberOfBoards * BoardAreaInSquareInches) + ($1.00 * NumberOfBoards) + Shipping.
(Plus tax, inside California)
If shipping is ~12 bux,
Boards     1    89.45 2    111.9 3    134.35 4    156.8 5    179.25
Standard 2 layer layout size is limited to 12" x 14". As you know, it's silly to buy just one board.
Their fab shop is captive and they probably won't release the Gerber to a competitor.
--Winston
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Winston wrote:

Unless the Chineese take off for Thanksgiving Day... (hey, it's a global village, remember? It could happen!)
This one looked pretty good to me. http://www.goldphoenixpcb.biz/special_price.php
I downloaded Eagle CAD, but I'm not too impressed with it. (And it doesn't seem to make Gerber files either, so WTF?)
Besides, it's a bit of a job drawing that mess out. Even if you already know where everything goes. So I'd rather not, if I can get away with it.
Here is a pic of the board. http://www.home.earthlink.net/~cavelamb/proof.htm#cpu It's not real big, but way too much to hand drill at home!
--

Richard

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cavelamb himself wrote: (...)

Shore it does. Real RS274X and 40 other flavors. Select 'board' then 'CAM'. Select your post processor and layers. Click 'Process Job' You are off to the races.

You're a brave man, Richard. 2 layers?
--Winston
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That sounds a like what I'd have to do. It also sounds like you actually know what you are doing.
JC
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John R. Carroll wrote:
(...)

I've done that stuff, once or twice. :)
--Winston
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Winston wrote:

No Guts, No Gory!
(or was that gLory??)
I think it's done, Winston.
Except for the probably painful redrawing in Eagle. But maybe these guys at Graphicode will come through.
Getting enough metal in the grounds is the real challenge. I have a magic trick for that - should it be needed. But it's a pretty small board, so maybe not.
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Richard

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You can drill that by hand no problems, probably take 15 to 20 minutes. Get some HSS 3mm shank pcb drill bits and whack them in the drill press on max rpm. I find they blunt very quickly using FR4 fibreglass board as the drill speed is not high enough. If you can get it try using phenolic board, its cheaper and drills way easier. I've found the carbide drillbits a too brittle for hand use in a drill press, they do cut superbly though.
To line up the two sides print to overhead film on a laser and lay them back to back, line up the pad holes and run some tape down the side of the two overhead films. Have the taped bit an inch or two from the edge of the pcb to minimise the error due to the thickness of the pcb that will be placed between them. Expose one side, then the other. It takes a littke care but I'm pretty rough and have not had too many problems. Increase pad and track sizes as much as practical - makes it more robust for homeshop manufacturing.
For outsourcing it maybe look at www.pcbcart.com I found them inexpensive, quick & good quality. For a Chinese company their email communications were fast and intelligible.
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Den wrote:

You are a braver soul than I, Dan. I wouldn't even consider that short of end of the world conditions!
The mechanical aspects aside, the next step after drilling is replating with another 2 ounces of copper. Or hand solder both sides of every via? Pass!
The tracks on this one are pretty much maxed out at .013. Making them .015 eats up the clearance between pads right quick.
The pads started off as .050 circles, but were soon squished .8 width and 1.25 height (nice pretty ellipses!) to compromise between solder pad size and trace clearance.
The link that Don Foreman offered looks like a winner to me.
I downloaded their PCD program and played with it some last night. Not too bad. Not great, but not too bad. (ok, I'm spoiled rotten)
It will taks some time to get it up and running for real because the library didn't include any of the CPU or mempry parts. Those have to be made properly in order to take full advantage. But I did get all my parts on the board with it.
I think I'll stick with them and give it a try.
Might even get a Happy Meal out of it! :)
--

Richard

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Yeah, I sometimes make the tracks as wide as possible & neck them down between the pads. I'm not sure hpw much of this you've done, but IC sockets are cheap, especially for one offs or low volume stuff. They make it easy to solder both sides if needed (pseudo vias) and also for fault finding/debugging. Maybe instead of replating just tin or hand tin with solder the tracks that need to be heavier or alternately use heavier weight copper cladding to begin with. Have fun!
<<snipped>>
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