All you need to know about PCB Visualizer

PCB Visualizer gives you complete control over the critical transfer of data from designer to fabricator. You leave nothing to chance. A brief on-screen check gives you 100% confidence that the board we are going to make is the board that you want – confidence and peace of mind so that you can concentrate on the next design without worrying about the last one.

Customers from right across the electronics industry tell us that PCB Visualizer and PCB Checker are already powerful tools to verify PCB data before placing an order.  But there are always more features and more functionality they would like to make the software even more effective.   So we have a dedicated team of software and electronics engineers who are constantly improving the tools and adding valuable features.

To keep you up to date with all the new functionality in PCB Visualizer we have now created a dedicated project website which has all the latest information as well as hints and tips on how to get the best out of the software.

pcb visualizer website

PCB Visualizer – PCB Checker update 27-11-2012

Today we release an update for our PCB Visualizer and PCB Checker automatic analysis tools.

We have also doubled the processing capacity of our analysis software tool so that we can process more jobs in less time. Due to the rapid increase in the number of jobs we need to process in PCB Visualizer, the waiting times got too long to be comfortable.

From today you have the following added functions and features:

  • PCB Visualizer and PCB Checker are now available in English and in German
  • PCB Visualizer and PCB Checker can show the measured and the required values in both  metric (mm) and imperial (mil). All measurements are done in metric, and we show the imperial values for information only. Both settings are available behind the “settings” icon in the top bar of PCB Visualizer ( see picture below)
language-measurement setting

 

  • We added a vertical and horizontal ruler to the detailed view window. When you zoom in and drag a part of the layout to one of these rulers, you can  measure distances and sizes.
measurement ruler

 

  • PCB Checker checks clearances, minimum track widths, and annular rings on outer and inner layers, as these are the most frequent data issues. Additional checks are now built in for drilled holes :
    • Smallest final hole size for the chosen service
    • Minimum hole to hole distance
    • Overlapping drill holes
    •  overlapping drill holes.
    • overlapping drill holes.jpg
      overlapping drill holes
    • Embedded drill holes ( drill hole completely inside another drill hole)
overlapping drill holes.jpg
embedded drill holes
overlapping drill holes.jpg
extra checks

 

PCB Visualizer very much appreciated – but you want more

pcb checker sample

 

The feedback we received on PCB Visualizer has been very encouraging. The tool is very much appreciated by engineers, and gives major advantages over conventional Gerber viewers.

For example, you can:

  • Load all the data in a single .zip file
  • Input native CadSoft EAGLE V6 .brd files as well as Gerber data
  • See your PCB “live” as it will be produced instead of just a schematic visualization

And PCB Visualizer will:

  • Automatically detect and register all layers.
  • Check that your files and your order match up
  • Compare the measured values for key production parameters with those of your chosen service.

We definitely made something better than a Gerber-viewer, but you want more… your feedback is clear enough:

  • “Really good application to see the board before ordering.–Marking the problem in the image should be a good option to find the problem.–Could be a stand-alone application to check design rules?”
  • “Very impressive-Would be great if it could show you any issues or an example even of the issue that is flagged (just spent half day try to find an IAR issue – my own fault I know but a clue….)-“
  • “Nice tool to view the downloaded PCB. Unfortunately the errors are not marked!”
  • “Is it possible to show the exact location of the drill error, annular ring exception, etc.??”
  • “Mark the errors; e.g. make a circle around annular rings that fail the minimum ;-)”
  • “It shows me there is a problem with the inner and outer annular ring, but does not pinpoint where the problems are.–It would help if the problem areas were highlighted.”
  • “Please show the exact region where an error occurred.”

This is why we created PCB Checker, a new module within PCB Visualizer that does exactly what you asked for. It pinpoints each DRC issue on your board layout, showing the value measured and the value required for each occurrence in an easy to understand and graphical way.

PCB Checker flow

 

If PCB Visualizer has found that there are errors, a single mouse-click opens PCB Checker. Select the category of error you want to check and PCB Checker highlights every case. If you want, step through them, one by one, worst case first. Change your CAD data or choose another Eurocircuits service. Click the Modify icon next to the PCB Visualizer column, make your changes and your order is under way immediately. Of course, our engineers would have found the errors and reported back to you, but you could have lost a day or two – and won’t want to be distracted from your next project.

Every day our customers are using PCB Visualizer to get their prototype and small batch PCBs faster. Try it out yourself with your next order.

We developed PCB Checker to improve PCB Visualizer as you requested, but this is not the end of the story. Keep sending us feedback and we will keep developing.

PCB Visualizer – functionality extended

Eurocircuits launched PCB Visualizer beginning of July. This first release gave you the opportunity to view the data you uploaded into your shopping basket and check that it conformed to the board you wanted to order.

User reactions so far show that this functionality is highly appreciated.

We have received a lot of useful feedback and this has enabled us to make continuous improvements in PCB Vizualiser”s performance.

Today we take PCB Visualizer one step further.

Up till now the functions have included:

  1. A graphic presentations of the CAD data loaded with your order (extended Gerber or CadSoft Eagle V6)
  2. A comparison of PCB Visualizer”s analysis of your data with the order values you entered on the Calculate and order page and the specifications or your chosen pooling service.
  3. A galvanic plating simulation on the data you submit

All this information is based on the CAD data you sent, and is gathered through an automatic analysis tool.

These results are still available as “Pre-check data”.

What new functions have we added today?

When you place your order, the data goes to our front-end engineering department. Here it is evaluated by front-end engineers using powerful Computer Aided Manufacturing(CAM) systems. You can find more information on what we do in our blogs about  Single image preparation here.

At the end of this process, we now send the “Production data” back to PCB Visualizer.

PCB-Visualizer-Production data-Top

 

This means that you can now access two sets of data in PCB Visualizer.

  1. Pre-check data : showing the CAD design the way it was interpreted by the automatic PCB Visualizer analysis tool.
  2. Production data : showing the CAD design  prepared for production by our front-end engineers.

The Production data show you the printed circuit board as you will receive it. Differences between the two versions can be for instance:

  • Pre-check data shows a single circuit, but if you ordered a panel the Production data shows the panel as it will be delivered
  • Pre-check data shows the legend as you sent it, but the Production data shows a clipped legend (to avoid printing legend ink on the pads).
  • Pre-check data does not incluce slots and cut-out, but the Production data does.

Extra layers are created during the data preparation process. These layers are also available now in the Production data.

    • Top and/or bottom solderpaste for SMD boards
    • Drillmap with mechanical info ( dimensions) as well as drill counts ( plated and non-plated)
    • Rout layer showing routed outlines as well as slots. 
 
top solderpaste Drill map Contour routing

 

The top left part of the interface (Board explorer) shows clearly which version of the data is shown. You can readily switch between them.

Why is there a difference?  The PCB Visualizer analysis tool performs a high-speed mechanical analysis of the Gerber and drill data, but it has no interpretive power.  For that we rely on our highly experienced CAM engineers.

PCB Visualizer Production data are available for all orders placed since September 17, and can be accessed in Running orders as well as in Order history through your account.

Please keep sending your feedback so that we can improve the functionality of PCB Visualizer the way you want it.

Eurocircuits presenteert “PCB Visualizer” als Noviteit op HET Instrument 2012

U kan nog tot donderdagmiddag, 30-08-2012, voor de PCB Visualizer van Eurocircuits stemmen! Tijdens de week van 25-28 september is het weer zo ver en kan u ons vinden op HET Instrument 2012, in Amsterdam, Hal 1 stand B031. Deze beurseditie hebben we besloten mee te dingen naar de nominatie: “Noviteit 2012 van de branche Industriële Electronica (IE)”. Hiervoor […]

PCB Visualizer – your feedback

PCB Visualizer, one week after the beta release

We have recieved plenty of feedback. Thank you for your support !

During the first week after the launch we got a lot of praise, comments, questions and suggestions.
The praise was sometimes overwhelming – you can still see the smile on our faces 🙂

“Quite amazing” or “Great!” , “Very nice tool!,” Great tool!…

and sometimes more down to earth

“good”, “worked fine” or “everything seems correct”.

Very motivating for us to work even harder to improve and extend the PCB Visualizer functionality. The current version is still in beta phase which means that we work on stabilizing the software, improve its performance and further develop the analysis algorithms to increase the reliability and accuracy. It is important for us to continue to recieve your feedback about how you experience the PCB Visualizer. Our priorities for further development are based on your reactions.

pcb visualizer feedback

What we learned during the first week.

1. It”s not clear what to do when the PCB Visualizer shows errors – can you proceed with your order?

  • Whatever the result shown by PCB Visualizer, you can place the order. When the import of the files was successful and a red flag is showing in the order details, we advise to check your design and your order details to avoid that you will receive an exception further in the process.
  • PCB Visualizer shows errors but you think your data was not analysed correctly. Please let us know through the feedback form what information is incorrect. We will analyse the problem and look for a solution. You can place your order, the data will be analysed by an operator independent from the PCB Visualizer result.
  • Import failed  – PCB Visualizer works only based on Extended Gerber files as well as CadSoft EAGLE V6 files. All other file formats will result in an import failure. – However, you can place your order – older formats of CadSoft EAGLE as well as standard Gerber-files are still accepted.

2. From all our customers feedback, we learned that we need to improve on:

  • PCB Contour recognition – improve the success rate on contour recognition. We will publish guidelines how you can define contours so PCB Visualizer can detect the correct contour more easily .
  • Build-up recognition in case of single sided boards
  • Make the results of PCB Visualizer also available after an order has been placed. You will therefore also find it in your running orders.
  • Further extend the DRC functionalities. We show measured values now but not the location of the errors.
    We will build this functionality into a DRC check module that you can run after the PCB Visualizer is shown.
    We will keep you informed about the progress.
  • Endless “ data loading – please wait” – message. PCB Visualizer is not always loading as expected. This behaviour seems to depend on operating systems
    as well as browsers. Make sure that you are using the latest versions of your browser, that your internet connection bandwidth is sufficient and
    that your firewall is not blocking .png images. We are exploring the reasons for this loading problem. When you are confronted with this, 
    try if PCB Visualizer works from another PC or another location.

3. What to do with the information in the plating section?

  • When we raise the red flag in the plating section of PCB Visualizer it does not mean that we cannot produce your boards.
    It means that the copper distribution over the surface of your board will not be even.
  • The values give a degree of inbalance of copper distribution over the board.
  • We do have possibilities to influence the plating when we construct the production panels and also during the production process,
    but the variation of copper thickness on your tracks and in the holes will be higher when the plating indexes are lower.
  • Designing your board with the plating indexes in mind will result in a higher reliability of your boards.

top plating index

 

PCB Visualizer-release 1-beta

pcb visualizer graph
 

Today sees the release 1 of our PCB Visualizer project. What we want to do is to enhance customer value and customer convenience by providing faster, clearer and more comprehensive feedback with on-screen interactive possibilities.

Release 1 gives you the functionality to view the data you have uploaded and to check that it conforms to the board you want to order. Is this the right data? Is all the data in the package? Has the CAD output worked correctly?

To use PCB Visualizer, follow the normal “Calculate and order” procedure: fill out the boxes, calculate the price, and attach the data. Then “Add to basket”. Immediately you will see your job in the Shopping basket. The new Visualizer columns will show a spinning wheel and “Processing”. Within a few seconds (depending on the size of the data), the text will change to “Visualizer”.

A red flag in the Status column means that there is an issue with the data.  Click on “Visualizer” to review it and avoid an exception when the order is placed.  A green icon means that the automatic checks we have run so far indicate that the data matches the order.  An exclamation mark (!) indicates a non-critical difference between the data and the order.  It also warns that the system could not complete an automatic analysis. If this happens place the order as usual and our engineers will run the checks interactively.

Click on “Visualizer” and you will immediately see an image of your finished PCB with your selected solder-mask colour, the build-up, a birds-eye view and an interactive viewing area.  In the viewing area left click to zoom in and right click to zoom out or use the scroll wheel on your mouse.  Click and drag to pan around the image.  Click on the layers in the build-up to see each layer individually.

pcb visualizer main screen

 

On the left you can see three functions: Import, Plating and Order details.  If you see a red flag then there is an issue under that heading.

Click on Import and you can view each layer with pan and zoom facilities as above.  You can also view combinations of layers using [CTRL] select.  This is useful if you uploaded your data as an EAGLE V6.2 BRD file.  You can combine the separate EAGLE V6.2 data layers (place, value and shape) to see how your component legend (or silkscreen) will look.  In a later release it will be possible to build your own legend and save it for the order.

Click on Plating to view the copper density distribution of your outer (plated) layers.  The measured figure for the plating index tells you whether the copper distribution is within the limits demanded by good plating.  A red index means that there is a potential problem of over- or under-plating.  For more on this topic go here.

pcb visualizer plating

 

Click on Order details to confirm that the data provided matches your order.  Typical issues may be that the board size in the order is wrong, or the order calls for one component legend but there is data for two – or none, or the minimum hole size is too small for the chosen service.  You can also review every part of your order.  Is the board thickness correct?  Have I chosen the right surface finish?  Does the board need UL marking?  …..

pcb visualizer error

 

To return to the full colour board view and build-up screen, click on the text “Order details” or any of the sub-headings.

If you need to correct your order, close PCB Visualizer and click on the Modify button on the left of the screen.  Make the necessary changes and put the order back in the basket.  PCB Visualizer will then check it again.

pcb visualizer basket

 

How to get the best out of PCB Visualizer Release 1?

PCB Visualizer Release 1 is the first release of the Input Processor and Data Analysis stages. We will introduce modifications and refinements, based especially on your feedback (see below).

It is important to understand that the data input and analysis is entirely automatic. It is based on sophisticated algorithms that have been tested on thousands of data sets over the last 8 – 10 years, but a few simple rules will ensure that you get the best out of PCB Visualizer.

  1. Input only Extended Gerber (RS274X) and Excellon drill files with embedded tool sizes, or EAGLE V6.2 data. Of course, if your job uses standard Gerber with a separate aperture table or Excellon files with a separate tool list we can still accept it.  Just input your order via the normal Order process, not via the basket.
  2. Use clear layer naming to ensure that you get the right build-up displayed. See our guidelines.
  3. Remember that PCB Visualizer is showing the raw Gerber and Excellon data layer by layer.  The drill data is combined into the overall view, but no other mechanical features like slots and cut-outs.  These will be added by our engineers later in the front-end engineering process.  And the data will not be panelised unless you have uploaded panelised Gerber files.
  4. At this stage we have not yet run an in-depth Design Rule Check, so there may still be data issues later on (but PCB Visualizer will soon help with those as well, see “Next Releases” below).  More on the checks we carry our on your data

Feedback

When you close PCB Visualizer you will see a feedback form.  Please take a moment to share your feelings and remarks with us so that we can improve the Visualizer program.  Did it work properly on your job (give us the job number so we can tweak the algorithms if necessary)?  Did you find it useful? What additional functionality would you like? …..

pcb visualizer feedback

 

Next releases

We will continue to add functionality including more interactive options.

At the Input Processor/Data Analysis stage new functionality will allow you to modify your order on the fly, correct the build-up, and build customer delivery panels on screen.

The next step will be to provide feedback and interactive functionality at the Single Image stage, that is after our engineers have processed the data (see more information on how we process your data here).  You will be able to see the real in-depth DRC values for the job.  Where our engineer has raised an exception and proposed a solution you will be able to view the exception and accept or reject our solution without the need to go back to your CAD system or re-upload the data (unless we have been unable to provide a solution and you need new data).  More information on repairs.

These are our plans but we will also respond to your feedback and to your suggestions for new functionality.  Our goal is that PCB visualizer will enhance customer value by providing a faster design feedback and DRC verification service, customer cost where Design For Manufacturability checks flag areas where the designer can change to a more cost-effective class, customer convenience by providing a fast visual check without the need to open his CAD or Gerber files, and customer communication by illustrating the engineer’s report and any subsequent discussions with interactive graphics.

pcb visualizer main screen

 

 

   

See the Eurocircuits PCB Visualizer in action

PCB Calculator, now integrated with PCB Visualizer

We created a new PCB Calculator, the smartest tool we ever made.

There is more then just a new calculator page :

  • There are now 4 services, defined by their base materials. All (except PCB proto) combine both poolable and non-poolable options in a single menu with clear indications which is which.
  • Our Classification table has been updated to the new services and gives more freedom (space) for your design.
  • You can calculate your prices fully manually as before.  But you can also use PCB Visualizer/PCB Configurator to analyse your data and fill out automatically many of the process parameters needed for pricing.
  • Smart menus guide you to optimum manufacturability and best prices, with clear explanations on-screen.
  • Prices are presented with a matrix of alternative quantities and deliveries. You can use the standard matrix or add your own requirements.
  • Standard delivery times for orders over 50 dm² have been reduced.

Farewell to our calculate and order page that was used over 250.000 times to place an order, and welcome to the new Eurocircuits PCB Calculator, smarter, easier and faster then before

pcb configurator