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Gerber X2: New Paradigm in CAD-to-CAM Communication
Friday, June 13, 2014 | Ucamco

Ucamco is delighted to present X2, its ground-breaking second extension for the Gerber format. Available for download at www.ucamco.com, the Gerber X2 specification gives the PCB industry its first Gerber standard for image meta-information, with clear, unequivocal information that further clarifies the CAD-to-CAM communication process.

Developed by Ucamco with the support of Eurocircuits, LPKF and AT&S, a draft version of Gerber X2 was made available in November 2013, and PCB CAD and CAM professionals were encouraged to review and comment on it.

Ucamco Managing Director Karel Tavernier explains, "As Gerber's stewards, we at Ucamco put a great deal of work into ensuring that Gerber continues to support fast, unequivocal CAD-to-CAM communication. X2 is a natural consequence of our commitment to this and to ensuring that Gerber remains a powerful and dynamic format that moves with the times. As Gerber is the de facto standard for PCB CAD to CAM data transfer, we put the draft up for review by the user community. Anyone who knows Ucamco knows that we work closely with, and listen carefully to, our industry, and that we would not be so arrogant as to have committed to the new spec without this consultation."
 
The comments and suggestions that Ucamco received over three months were carefully reviewed and incorporated as appropriate into the final version of Gerber X2. This offers a series of simple, clear attributes that can define parameters such as:
  • Gerber file function: Top copper layer, top solder mask, etc.;
  • Part: Single PCB, customer panel etc.;
  • Object function: SMD pad, via pad etc.;
  • Drill tolerances;
  • Locations of impedance-controlled tracks;
  • Filled vias; and
  • An MD5 checksum for added security.
Altium, global leader in Smart System Design Automation, has been quick to recognise the value of X2 and will support it in an upcoming version of Altium Designer. By Q4 2014, Graphicode's widely-used and highly-respected GC-Prevue viewer will also support X2.  
X2 will boost productivity most and bring maximum benefits when used with fully X2-compatible software, which is forthcoming from several CAD vendors. Significantly, by Q4 2014, X2 will be supported by Graphicode's widely-used and well-respected GC-Prevue  viewer. But it is upwardly compatible. Older software not supporting X2 will still generate the correct image, so nobody is forced to buy anything. Similarly, the attributes' use is not mandatory: they can be used wholesale, partially or not at all, whatever suits the implementation best. X2 was also designed for straightforward implemention: It consists of just five new commands and a clear list of standard attributes.
 
Gerber X2 delivers the best of all worlds: accessibility, simplicity, performance, and tried and tested formats that work for everybody. It's a great combination that gives designers a clear and simple method for ensuring that their manufacturing partners have the data necessary for efficient, reliable manufacture. In short, X2 represents a gentle revolution in CAD-to-CAM communication.
 
But don't take our word for it: Download the File Format Specification document with the X2 sample archive and put it to the test--try it for compatibility, simplicity and value in use, and see just how much it could do for you, your business, and your productivity.

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