Many SOLIDWORKS engineers have a requirement to convert their 3D layout design to Gerber for manufacturing of PCB. MEMs, and RF circuits. DXF is the most popular CAD format in the world, so it would make sense to simply export a DXF from SOLIDWORKS and convert it to Gerber -- What could go wrong?
Note: This article is relevant for SOLIDWORKS and all other 3D modeling software tools (such as Inventor, Sketchup, Rhino, AutoCAD, ProEngineer, etc.).
Gerber Format Requirements:
The Gerber format is very old and stubborn (first released in 1980), and has it's own set of rules which must be followed to ensure a successful conversion from DXF.
All boundaries must be closed and continuous.
Each boundary must be defined as either Dark or Clear (i.e Paint/Scratch).
Unfortunately the DXF files generated from SOLIDWORKS violate both of these rules, and have caused conversion nightmares for almost all SOLIDWORKS users who wished to quickly generate Gerbers from their 3D layout designs.
Lets quickly review both Gerber rule violations of the SOLIDWORKS DXF and then provide a solution.
Gerber Rule #1: All boundaries must be closed and continuous.
Solidworks exports their DXF as individual lines/arcs which are not continuous (required to form a closed boundary when performing file conversions). For example a square in a DXF file should be a single closed 0-width polyline; Solidworks will export their DXF as 4 individual line entities (see below).
Gerber Rule #2: Each boundary must be defined as either Dark or Clear (i.e Paint/Scratch).
Solidworks exports their DXF as individual lines/arcs which are not continuous (required to form a closed boundary when performing file conversions). For example a donut in a DXF file should be two circles with something to indicate the inner circle will be clear; Solidworks will just export 4 arcs total without any indication the interior circle should be clear (see below).
If you were just going to attempt to convert either DXF example above to Gerber it would result in outlines only (no boundaries detected or filled).
Make sure you have a Gerber conversion tool which has the ability to join those individual lines/arcs to continuous boundaries - using the "Join" option (for RULE #1); and has the ability to detect islands/holes in complex boundaries using the "DeEmbed" option (for RULE #2).
Here's a screen capture in ACE Translator 3000 with the option to use Join and DeEmbed for each required DXF layer.
Note: Actually checking all DXF Import options for each layer would give you the best results.
Using the above settings for any SOLIDWORKS generated DXF will give you the best possible results when converting to Gerber. Both ACE and FAB are capable of easily converting any SOLIDWORKS DXF to Gerber.
Try it yourself with a free trial. Click below for more information about ACE and FAB.