Following are some of the highlights of GerbTool Version 14.0. For additional information, click on the brochure graphic to view the GerbTool Version 14 brochure (1.8MB PDF).
Advanced Tool Table Support
Advanced tool table support provides you with a means for accommodating not only features such as feeds & speeds (as detailed below), but also allows for more advanced drill tool designation for drill charts, as well as mask feature size for automatic plugging/tenting layer generation. You can also define, in more detail, whether a tool is to be Plated or Unplated, whether or not it has a canned repeat pattern associated with it, and even what color is to be used to denote a specific tool’s usage on-screen. Mixed tool tables that allow for both Drill and Mill tools within the same table can now be defined, providing support for more modern Drill/Mill machines such as the Excellon 2000 series (which are equally as good at drilling as they are milling).
Multiple Tool Tables
Now GerbTool provides you with the support you need to accommodate designs such as Blind and Buried Vias, whereby there may be a different table used for each drill file. Additionally, fabricators now have more flexibility to accommodate plated versus non-plated drill layers with completely separate tool tables, while also maintaining yet another table for milling purposes. If necessary, you can load, save, and merge tool tables to accommodate a particular job and/or process flow. Fabricators can now have standardized tool tables that are built around their shop floor tooling, and map a customer’s tool information to their standard tables with ease.
NC Feeds and Speeds
Fabricators require control over their tool tables so that they can accommodate a wider range of material usage within their shop floor. The main features needed to accomplish this are the “Feed” and “Speed” commands found within Excellon and most other NC formats. The Feed rate allows you to control the rate at which a tool travels (or cuts) through the board material. This rate is either increased or decreased depending on the number of panels in a stack-up or the type of material being used for a given job. The Speed rate controls how fast the spindle of the NC machine turns in terms of RPM. Like the Feed rate, Speed also increases or decreases based upon a wide range of requirements that are geared towards material, stack-up height, etc.
NC Plunge and Extract Rates
Just like Feed and Speed rates, “Plunge” and “Extract” rates allow a fabricator to further tailor their NC output to the specific material and stack-up requirements they might have. As its name implies, the Plunge rate allows you to control how quickly the spindle head travels downward into the material. Likewise, the Extract rate lets you control how quickly the spindle head travels upwards and out of the material.
NC Compensation Index Tables
Compensation index tables have become more popular, and provide a fabrication shop with some amount of flexibility out at the shop floor. Using the index table, you can control the built-in compensation offset and adjust it to something different than the actual tool radius. This feature can be used to adjust for situations where a little extra material needs to be left on a board profile to accommodate for a finish sanding pass or whatever else the shop may need to do. Use of the compensation index also allows the NC operator to make minor adjustments at the machine, rather than sending the job back to CAM for reprocessing.
NC Tool Linking
Most of today’s modern NC machines support fairly large tool carousels. This allows a fabrication shop to load a large number of tools of the exact same size so that a job can be continuously drilled from start to finish, without having to stop the machine to make tool changes due to wear. By linking tools together, a shop can take advantage of built-in wear indicators and have the machine automatically change to the next available tool of the same size, regardless of what tool position it may be in. Should a shop be using older equipment that does not have automatic wear indicators and tool changing, then this feature can be used in conjunction with the Maximum Hit feature, thus allowing GerbTool to accommodate for wear and change tools to the appropriate position.
Older equipment in smaller shops is still a common occurrence. This equipment will often lack bit breakage indictors and automatic tool changing features. GerbTool provides users of small and large shops the ability to support older, less sophisticated equipment through the use of features such as Maximum Hits. When this feature is used in conjunction with the Tool Linking feature (above), GerbTool can simulate the wear prediction and automatic tool change features of today’s more modern NC machines. You simply apply the limit at which you want the machine to stop, and change to a fresh tool that has been preloaded into the tool carousel.
Tool Reordering for Export
Many shops have specific needs when it comes to tool size-to-tool number, and tool number-to-tool export order. Now you have the option of changing the export order of your tools to accommodate specific shop processes. As an example, your shop may always load tool positions 1, 2, and 3 with .026, .032, and .063 tool sizes – but during export you want these tools ordered so that the .032 tool is first, the .063 is second, and the .026 is last. GerbTool will now accomplish this task with ease through the use of the Tool Export Order field inside the Tool Table dialog box.
User-Defined Break Tabs
Break tabs have become a science with many companies; engineers can spend countless hours designing a tab so that it breaks in a particular way to minimize secondary clean up and/or de-burring processes. Using GerbTool’s new break tabs, you can now create up to 5 different tab variations: simple break, stitched break, double stitched break, crown break, and crown break with drill stitching. Few other tools on the market offer this level of robustness. In addition, these tabs can be placed on linear mill segments, arcs, circles, compensated mill paths, and non-compensated mill paths. GerbTool will automatically handle the transposing of a single tab to any of the aforementioned conditions. Additional benefits include break tab libraries that allow you to define tabs once, save them, and then import them into many different jobs; this, in turn, reduces tooling timing by minimizing the amount of manual entry required.
Enhanced Interactive Milling
Interactive milling has grown in popularity for specialized situations like scoring patterns and “zero clearance” paths. Each of these involves fairly straightforward paths that run in a north-south and east-west type pattern on the panel, usually around things like sub-panel arrays where you have just a simple rectangular shape. GerbTool helps take you a step further with interactive routing by not only handling your straight cut needs, but also those that involve arcs and circles. During the placement of any linear path, you can toggle between linear segments and arc segments “on the fly”. Additionally, while in the arc mode, you can create tangent arc paths that offer smooth, flowing curves and contours -- a definite advantage to those working with flexible circuitry. Look for robust stand-alone arc and circle capabilities as well, with four different variations.
Drilled text has long been a staple among the fabrication community for the purposes of panel numbers, part numbers, job numbers, etc. Recently, increased use has been appearing within the assembly world with job and/or part numbers being placed within the sub-panel for automated identification purposes while the job is being auto-inserted on the line. Now GerbTool design or fabrication users can make full use of this feature and take advantage of the automated, “canned” routines that are a native part of Excellon and Sieb & Meyer NC controllers.
Designs are becoming more and more complex, and the requirement for specialized NC features has increased. Using the Operator Message feature, CAM operators can now include warnings and notices to the NC operators out on the floor, allowing for increased communications between departments and better preparation for job constraints on the part of shop floor operators. Messages can also be used for just general status indicators, tool changes, break tab routing, etc., so that, as an operator comes back to periodically check a machine, they can see on the system terminal what exactly the machine is doing from a more intuitive point-of-view.
Operator Stop Command
As with the Operator Messages, CAM operators can now even force a stop within any given program to get the attention of the NC operator. Stop commands are also popular for some of the older machines that do not have automatic tool change capabilities for tool wear, and require the job to be manually stopped to change the tool out. A wide variety of uses can be applied with the Stop and Operator message commands, as the two tend to go hand-in-hand.
MCM/LTCC Layer Stack-Up
Now MicroChip Module (MCM) users can perform Netlist Generation on their ceramic/foil-based designs with our new support for MCM/LTCC layer stack-ups. Here you define the make-up of the board based upon the order of your conductive layers, and then what layers will represent insulation between each conductor. Unlike competitive systems that are limited to just Gerber layers representing insulators, GerbTool allows you to specify Gerber or NC layers as insulators, accommodating a wider array of data input from various CAD systems.
GT-Reader Internet Browser Plug-In
In version 13, WISE Software released a viewer product called GT-dbV, which is a simple database viewer designed to allow existing GerbTool users to share their work with co-workers or partners through GerbTool’s native GTD database file. In this release of GerbTool, we take the database viewer to the next level by offering a Web-based browser plug-in module: “GT-Reader”. GT-Reader is similar to Adobe’s Acrobat™ PDF viewer. Like the PDF viewer, GT-Reader allows you to load any GerbTool GTD file directly into your Microsoft® Internet Explorer window; you can zoom, pan, query, and even annotate using the Redline features. GT-Reader is especially useful to larger corporations that have intranet-based data archive systems that use HTML, Java, and other Web-based means for accessing job and design data.
Enhanced Information Queries
WISE Software began to offer Information Queries in release 12 of GerbTool; with version 14 we now offer 25 additional checks within the Information Query section of the Analysis feature. These queries are used primarily for a broad overview of any given design for quoting purposes. All queries are reported back on a layer-by-layer basis. Some of the more popular checks include Minimum Air Gap, Minimum Trace Width, Hole Counts, Board Size, and Conductive Layer Count. Fabricators and Designers should both find these new features particularly useful for the purposes of quoting new jobs and putting together a design summary prior to submitting a job to production.
Embedded Passive Support
Embedded passive technology is an emerging segment within EDA, although the technology itself has been around for some time. Only within the last year has it become cost-effective for more users to look at leveraging embedded passives within consumer-based volume production. Two of the key driving factors behind this emerging market segment are “High Speed Design” and “Miniaturization.” GerbTool is the first commercially-available CAM product to offer DfM analysis features for the embedded passives market. Initial support is provided for the one area that seems to be suffering the most amount of “pain” from the lack of viable design and verification tools within the EDA industry: discrete embedded passive resistors. Two main application technologies are supported as well: screen printed passives and etched passives. WISE hopes to use the embedded passive support to assist users in areas where their CAD systems are failing them today.Click here to view the Embedded Passive Analysis brochure (PDF)
Embedded Passive Alignment Checking
None of the major CAD vendors support the concept of embedded passive devices today, so designers are left to manually create these devices and place their information within a given layout. Once placed, there is nothing within the CAD system that is going to verify the passive device because, to the CAD system, only the conductive pads are intelligent; the information that actually defines that passive “mask” is just that – a mask. This places a great deal of pressure on the designer to ensure that a device is constructed properly and that the passive mask objects are aligned correctly with their respective conductor pads. The margin for error is amplified greatly. One of GerbTool’s primary checks is to verify that a passive mask layer is aligned properly with its respective conductor pads; as virtually all the other checks are useless without the device first being aligned. You benefit not only from the alignment check itself, but the fact that GerbTool is capable of correcting an alignment error.
Termination Bar Overlap Checking
Once a passive mask has been checked for proper alignment, GerbTool then offers further verifications to determine things such as whether the passive mask is overlapping and making adequate contact with the conductor location or termination bar. You can specify your minimum desired overlap amount. Once GerbTool has verified that there is an error condition, you may then automatically correct the problem with GerbTool’s AutoFix feature. If the passive mask is not overlapping at all, GerbTool is even smart enough to adjust the height of the passive mask while extending it to achieve proper overlap of the conductors; this helps to ensure that the resistor value is maintained, as the value is determined by the area of mask that falls between the conductor edges.
Termination Bar Extension Checking
As mentioned previously, there are two main types of passive application: screen printed and etched. In the screen printed world, the passives are placed on a conductive layer after the layer has been manufactured, using either a resistive ink or ceramic-type material. In an etch type situation, the resistive material is applied to the backside of your copper prior to lamination. The manufacturer will then use a secondary etch process to come back and etch away additional openings within a copper trace to expose the resistor material underneath. GerbTool accounts for these two different methods of passive application, specifically in the case of how far the conductive termination bar extends above and below a passive mask. For screen print passives it must extend a minimum amount beyond the mask; in etched passives, it must remain a minimum amount inside the passive mask, otherwise the secondary etch process would not completely break the trace and a short would occur. You need only worry about the amount of termination bar extension you want to achieve, and GerbTool will take care of the rest.
Termination Bar Width Checking
Checking the width of the conductive termination bar is as important as checking minimum trace width; you need to ensure that there is adequate material to provide not only good contact for the screen printed passive device, but good adherence of the termination bar to the board material as well. As with all of the other embedded passive checks (and some that are not listed), GerbTool simply requires that you specify the minimum-required termination bar width, and that’s it. Once an error has been identified, you can make quick work of it using the AutoFix feature, while maintaining a fully documented list of the occurrences in the Analysis section in the GerbTool Navigator bar.
Update Internal Net Names
Part of the netlist comparison process involves the updating of internally-generated GerbTool net names with those contained within the user’s external netlist. WISE listened to user feedback and has expanded the update net name feature so that it will function regardless of whether errors exist. The one caveat is, should any errors exist, only the “correct” nets will have their names updated. Nets that contain errors will be left alone in order to help facilitate the troubleshooting process. This feature enhancement should provide you with the best of both worlds.
Importing Databases, Internal versus External Netlist
Many users are importing intelligent databases into GerbTool simply for the purpose of comparison against potential changes (in which case GerbTool would need to see the netlist as “external” net information). Other users are working from intelligent data simply to bypass the prospects of working from Gerber data (in which case they want to see the net information as “internal” and eliminate the need for any further netlist generation processes). As to benefit both sets of users, GerbTool now offers an option during the import of an intelligent database that allows operators to assign the incoming netlist as either internal or external. This new feature enhancement provides you with the maximum flexibility when working with intelligent data sets and netlist comparison features.
Import Netlist Only (ODB++ & PADS ASCII)
Further than just assigning the netlist from an intelligent database as either external or internal, some users have requested the ability to import only the netlist information, and not the rest of the “graphical” data that would come along with the database. These users are looking to simply do a netlist comparison against their Gerber data only, and since their CAD system does not natively produce IPC-D-356, their only viable alternative is to obtain netlist information from a CAD database or other intelligent source. Users will now have the option, during Import Netlist, to select an intelligent database like ODB++ or PADS ASCII. When these files are selected, only the netlist information is extracted and placed within GerbTool as “external” net information. This streamlines the process of comparing Gerber data against an intelligent database by eliminating the need to read in the database first, export IPC-D-356, then throw the database away and continue on with the Gerber files. Now you just read your Gerbers, prep them, and, when ready for comparison, read your netlist from the intelligent data source.
Some users find intelligent data sets cumbersome and would rather just take everything back to non-intelligent draws and flashes. At the same time, there are also specific reasons why you might want to remove all netlist information from a design and start over from scratch. You will now benefit from our new Explode Net feature.
Similar to the Explode Nets, some users do not want to disturb existing net name information when they have to regenerate a netlist; instead they would like GerbTool to maintain the original names that were generated during their first netlist process, or the ones that they applied from their external netlist.
Net Compare, Check Pad Sizes
Newer IPC-D-356 netlist files have the option of including the “testable” pad size within it; users asked for an additional comparison option that looks at the testable pad size and orientation, and validates it against the physical design data. If differences occur on either side, a violation warning is issued. Similarly, an independent test probe location, which is different from the default centroid of the pad, can be specified. Should this probe location not fall within a testable pad, then an additional violation marker is created. You benefit from a more robust validation of your external netlist information, which in turn helps assure the quality of the board during production.