How do I open a .PCB file?

What is a .PCB file?

A .PCB file is a printed circuit board design file created by various PCB design software applications. It contains the layout, design, and manufacturing information for a printed circuit board. PCB files are used in the electronics industry to design and manufacture printed circuit boards for various electronic devices.

Common PCB Design Software

Software Developer File Extension
Altium Designer Altium .PcbDoc
Eagle Autodesk .brd
KiCad KiCad .kicad_pcb
OrCAD Cadence Design Systems .pcb
PADS Mentor Graphics .pcb

Why would you need a .PCB file viewer?

There are several reasons why you might need a .PCB file viewer:

  1. Collaboration: If you are working on a PCB design project with a team, you may need to share and view PCB files created by other team members.

  2. Manufacturing: When you send your PCB design to a manufacturer, they will need to view and analyze your PCB file to ensure that it meets their manufacturing requirements.

  3. Inspection: Before sending your PCB design for manufacturing, you may want to inspect it for any errors or inconsistencies. A PCB file viewer allows you to view and analyze your design without the need for the original PCB design software.

  4. Archiving: If you need to archive your PCB design files for future reference, a PCB file viewer ensures that you can still access and view these files even if you no longer have access to the original PCB design software.

Benefits of using a .PCB file viewer

  1. Cost-effective: PCB design software can be expensive, especially for small businesses or individual users. A PCB file viewer provides a cost-effective solution for viewing and analyzing PCB files without the need for the original software.

  2. Compatibility: Different PCB design software applications use different file formats. A PCB file viewer that supports multiple file formats ensures that you can view and analyze PCB files created by various software applications.

  3. Ease of use: PCB file viewers are generally easier to use than full-fledged PCB design software. They have a simplified user interface that focuses on viewing and analyzing PCB files rather than designing them.

How to open a .PCB file

There are several ways to open a .PCB file, depending on the software you have available and your specific requirements. Here are some common methods:

1. Use the original PCB design software

If you have access to the PCB design software that was used to create the .PCB file, you can open the file directly in that software. This is the most straightforward method, as the software will have all the necessary tools and features to view, edit, and analyze the PCB design.

2. Use a dedicated PCB file viewer

There are several dedicated PCB file viewers available that support various PCB file formats. These viewers are specifically designed to view and analyze PCB files and often have a simplified user interface compared to full-fledged PCB design software.

Some popular PCB file viewers include:

  • Gerbv: A free, open-source Gerber file viewer that supports various PCB file formats.
  • ViewMate: A free PCB file viewer that supports Gerber, drill, and aperture files.
  • FreePCB: A free, open-source PCB design software that includes a PCB file viewer.
  • OZDRAW Gerber Viewer: A paid PCB file viewer that supports various PCB file formats and includes advanced features such as 3D rendering and measurement tools.

To open a .PCB file in a dedicated PCB file viewer:

  1. Download and install the viewer software on your computer.
  2. Launch the viewer software.
  3. Click on the “Open” or “File” menu and select the .PCB file you want to open.
  4. The viewer will display the PCB design, and you can use the available tools to view, measure, and analyze the design.

3. Use a CAD software with PCB file support

Some CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software applications, such as AutoCAD and DraftSight, support PCB file formats. If you already have one of these software applications installed on your computer, you can use them to open and view .PCB files.

To open a .PCB file in a CAD software:

  1. Launch the CAD software on your computer.
  2. Click on the “Open” or “File” menu and select the .PCB file you want to open.
  3. The CAD software will import the PCB design, and you can use the available tools to view and measure the design.

4. Convert the .PCB file to a different format

If you don’t have access to the original PCB design software or a dedicated PCB file viewer, you can convert the .PCB file to a different format that is supported by the software you have available.

There are several online file converters that support PCB file formats, such as Zamzar, Convertio, and FileZigZag. These converters allow you to upload your .PCB file and convert it to a different format, such as PDF, DXF, or Gerber.

To convert a .PCB file to a different format using an online converter:

  1. Go to the website of the online converter you want to use.
  2. Click on the “Upload” or “Choose File” button and select the .PCB file you want to convert.
  3. Choose the output format you want to convert the file to.
  4. Click on the “Convert” button and wait for the conversion process to complete.
  5. Download the converted file to your computer.

FAQ

1. Can I edit a .PCB file in a PCB file viewer?

Most PCB file viewers are designed for viewing and analyzing PCB files only and do not have editing capabilities. If you need to edit a .PCB file, you will need to use the original PCB design software or a compatible PCB design software that supports the file format.

2. Are there any free PCB file viewers available?

Yes, there are several free PCB file viewers available, such as Gerbv, ViewMate, and FreePCB. These viewers support various PCB file formats and provide basic viewing and measurement tools.

3. Can I view a .PCB file without the original PCB design software?

Yes, you can view a .PCB file without the original PCB design software by using a dedicated PCB file viewer, a CAD software with PCB file support, or by converting the file to a different format that is supported by the software you have available.

4. What is the difference between a .PCB file and a Gerber file?

A .PCB file is a printed circuit board design file that contains the complete layout, design, and manufacturing information for a PCB. A Gerber file, on the other hand, is a standard file format used for representing PCB designs in a manner that can be easily read by PCB manufacturing equipment. Gerber files are typically generated from .PCB files and contain only the necessary information for manufacturing the PCB.

5. Can I share a .PCB file with someone who doesn’t have the original PCB design software?

Yes, you can share a .PCB file with someone who doesn’t have the original PCB design software by converting the file to a different format, such as PDF or Gerber, or by using a dedicated PCB file viewer that supports the file format. This allows the recipient to view and analyze the PCB design without the need for the original software.

Conclusion

Opening and viewing .PCB files is an essential part of the PCB design and manufacturing process. Whether you are collaborating with team members, sending your design to a manufacturer, or archiving your files for future reference, having access to a reliable PCB file viewer is crucial.

There are several methods for opening and viewing .PCB files, including using the original PCB design software, a dedicated PCB file viewer, a CAD software with PCB file support, or converting the file to a different format. Each method has its advantages and limitations, and the best choice will depend on your specific requirements and available resources.

By understanding the different options for opening and viewing .PCB files, you can streamline your PCB design workflow, ensure compatibility with different software applications, and maintain access to your PCB design files for years to come.