GerberPlot - Gerber to HPGL Plotter Conversion Program
Author: Ashley Roll.
Current Version: 0.6 (beta). (Windows Platform)
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Several years ago I was trying to produce PCBs by plotting directly to the copper surface and etching. I plotted using a Roland DXY-1200 plotter. I found the HPGL (plotter command language) support from my CAD program to be woeful, so I decided to write a utility to translate Gerber files to HPGL plot commands.
I had some initial success with the method, but I have since abandoned it as I moved on to needing to produce professional quality PCBs for customer prototypes. However the software is available for all to use.
PLEASE NOTE: I am no longer actively developing the software, however several people modified the code to support more features when they needed it.
I would like to thank the following people for their modifications and extending the program to support new features.
- Pete Talbot, November 2005
- Christian Lachapelle, July 2003
This program takes into account the pen width when plotting and filling areas so that the PCB comes out as needed. Try to keep most of your tracks about the size of the pen as this works out neater as it only does a single stroke for them, if they are wider it has to fill them in and it doesn't do corners that well.
I also allow the maximum speed of the pen to be set, keep it low otherwise long lines will not be formed very well.
It would probably be a good idea to test plot onto paper or OHP film so you know where it will place the design and if it is going to be ok. This particular ink tends to run in paper a bit so it will look much better when done on the PCB or OHP film.
I find that I have to tape the PCB down with masking tape to stop it moving about on the plotter and to stop it sticking up too high if it doesn't sit flat.
I'm using a "ceramic tip" disposable plotter pen (0.2mm) which I took the ink out of and cleaned with methylated spirits. I then got a Red Staedtler Lumocolor OHP pen and cut part of its ink cartridge out and placed it in the plotter pen. This is a MESSY job.
I find that I have to soak the tip in some methylated spirits before I use it to get the ink flowing again.
6/1/01 - I just tried to make a PCB and the etch started to disolve the ink away and so it failed.. I suspect the etchant was too old (it has been sitting in a bottle for a month or so) which made it take soo long to etch it had time to disolve the ink. So make the etchant up fresh each time to the full strength as directed on the bottle.
I simple scrub the board with a "Scotch-Brite" pad and some cream kitchen cleaner and dry it.
Source Code and Modifying the Program
If you find that there is a problem, or the program does not support your Gerber files or you would like to modify the program for some other reason, please contact us.
I am happy to provide you the full source code (Visual Studio project, C++) for you to work with on the condition that you do not distribute the code further and that any changes you make are clearly documented and returned to me so that all users can benefit.