How to Upload PCB Data

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Introduction to PCB Data Upload

Uploading PCB (Printed Circuit Board) data is a crucial step in the manufacturing process of electronic devices. It ensures that the design files are correctly transferred to the PCB fabrication house, enabling them to produce the physical boards according to the designer’s specifications. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of uploading PCB data, covering various aspects such as file formats, design rules, and common pitfalls to avoid.

What is PCB Data?

PCB data refers to the collection of files that contain all the necessary information for manufacturing a printed circuit board. These files include:

  • Gerber files: These are the industry-standard files that describe the copper layers, solder mask, silkscreen, and drill holes of a PCB.
  • Drill files: These files specify the location, size, and type of drill holes required for the PCB.
  • Pick and Place files: These files provide information about the placement of components on the PCB.
  • BOM (Bill of Materials): This is a list of all the components required to assemble the PCB.

Why is Uploading PCB Data Important?

Uploading accurate and complete PCB data is essential for several reasons:

  1. Ensures accurate manufacturing: By providing the fabrication house with the correct files, you minimize the risk of manufacturing errors and delays.
  2. Saves time and money: Accurate PCB data reduces the likelihood of costly revisions and rework, ultimately saving time and money.
  3. Facilitates smooth communication: Clear and well-organized PCB data helps the fabrication house understand your design intent and requirements, leading to better communication and collaboration.

Preparing PCB Data for Upload

Before uploading your PCB data, it is essential to ensure that all the necessary files are prepared and organized correctly. Follow these steps to prepare your PCB data for upload:

Step 1: Generate Gerber Files

Gerber files are the backbone of PCB manufacturing. They contain the information needed to create the copper layers, solder mask, silkscreen, and drill holes. Most PCB design software, such as Altium Designer, KiCad, or Eagle, can generate Gerber files. When generating Gerber files, keep the following points in mind:

  • Use the correct file format: The most common Gerber file format is RS-274X, also known as Extended Gerber.
  • Include all necessary layers: Make sure to include all the required layers, such as top and bottom copper, solder mask, silkscreen, and drill files.
  • Use a consistent naming convention: Adopt a clear and consistent naming convention for your Gerber files to avoid confusion.

Step 2: Generate Drill Files

Drill files contain information about the location, size, and type of drill holes required for the PCB. They are typically generated in the Excellon format. When creating drill files, consider the following:

  • Include all drill sizes: Ensure that all the necessary drill sizes are included in the file.
  • Specify the drill units: Clearly indicate whether the drill sizes are in metric or imperial units.
  • Use a consistent naming convention: As with Gerber files, use a clear and consistent naming convention for your drill files.

Step 3: Create Pick and Place Files

Pick and Place files provide information about the placement of components on the PCB. They are used by the assembly house to automate the component placement process. When creating Pick and Place files, keep these points in mind:

  • Include all component information: Provide complete information about each component, including its reference designator, package type, and orientation.
  • Use a compatible file format: Ensure that the file format is compatible with the assembly house’s equipment. Common formats include CSV and TXT.
  • Specify the coordinate system: Clearly indicate the coordinate system used for component placement (e.g., absolute or relative).

Step 4: Prepare the Bill of Materials (BOM)

The Bill of Materials is a comprehensive list of all the components required to assemble the PCB. It should include the following information for each component:

  • Reference designator
  • Manufacturer part number
  • Description
  • Quantity
  • Supplier information

When preparing the BOM, consider these tips:

  • Use a spreadsheet format: Organize the BOM in a spreadsheet format, such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, for easy readability and data manipulation.
  • Include alternate part numbers: If applicable, include alternate part numbers to provide flexibility in component sourcing.
  • Verify component availability: Before finalizing the BOM, check the availability of components with your suppliers to avoid potential delays.

Design Rule Check (DRC) and File Verification

Before uploading your PCB data, it is crucial to perform a Design Rule Check (DRC) and verify the integrity of your files. This step helps identify any design issues or inconsistencies that could lead to manufacturing problems.

Running a Design Rule Check

A Design Rule Check is an automated process that checks your PCB design against a set of predefined rules. These rules ensure that your design meets the manufacturing capabilities of the fabrication house and adheres to best practices. To run a DRC, follow these steps:

  1. Set up the design rules: Define the design rules based on the fabrication house’s specifications, such as minimum trace width, clearance, and hole size.
  2. Run the DRC: Use your PCB design software’s built-in DRC tool to check your design against the defined rules.
  3. Review and address violations: Carefully review any rule violations flagged by the DRC and make necessary adjustments to your design.

Verifying File Integrity

After generating your PCB data files, it is essential to verify their integrity to ensure that they are complete, accurate, and free of errors. Here are some steps to verify your files:

  1. Check file formats: Confirm that all files are in the correct format (e.g., RS-274X for Gerber files, Excellon for drill files).
  2. Inspect file contents: Open each file in a viewer or editor to ensure that the data is accurate and complete.
  3. Compare files with design: Cross-reference the generated files with your original PCB design to verify that all layers and components are included.
  4. Use file verification tools: Some PCB design software and fabrication houses provide file verification tools that can check your files for errors and inconsistencies.
File Type File Format Key Aspects to Verify
Gerber Files RS-274X Inclusion of all necessary layers, accurate data
Drill Files Excellon Inclusion of all drill sizes, correct units
Pick and Place Files CSV, TXT Accurate component information, compatible format
Bill of Materials Spreadsheet Complete component list, alternate part numbers

By thoroughly verifying your PCB data files, you can minimize the risk of manufacturing issues and delays.

Uploading PCB Data

Once your PCB data files are prepared and verified, you are ready to upload them to the fabrication house. The upload process may vary slightly depending on the fabrication house’s specific requirements and platform. However, the general steps are as follows:

Step 1: Select a Fabrication House

Choose a reputable PCB fabrication house that meets your requirements in terms of quality, lead time, and pricing. Some popular options include:

  • PCBWay
  • OSH Park
  • Seeed Studio

Consider factors such as the fabrication house’s capabilities, customer support, and reviews from other designers when making your selection.

Step 2: Create an Account

Most fabrication houses require you to create an account before uploading your PCB data. This allows you to manage your orders, track progress, and communicate with the fabrication team. To create an account, visit the fabrication house’s website and follow their registration process.

Step 3: Prepare your Order

Before uploading your files, you will need to specify the details of your PCB order. This typically includes:

  • PCB quantity
  • PCB dimensions
  • Layer count
  • PCB thickness
  • Copper weight
  • Surface finish
  • Solder mask color
  • Silkscreen color

Make sure to carefully review and double-check these specifications to avoid any mistakes.

Step 4: Upload PCB Data Files

Once your order details are specified, you can proceed to upload your PCB data files. Most fabrication houses provide a web-based interface for file upload. Follow these general steps:

  1. Select the appropriate file type (e.g., Gerber, drill, Pick and Place)
  2. Choose the files from your computer
  3. Provide a brief description or note for each file
  4. Verify that all required files are uploaded
  5. Submit your files for review

Step 5: Review and Confirm

After uploading your files, the fabrication house will typically review your data to ensure that it meets their manufacturing requirements. They may provide a file analysis report or a visual representation of your PCB for you to review. Carefully examine this information and address any issues or concerns raised by the fabrication house.

Once you have reviewed and confirmed that everything is correct, you can proceed to place your order. The fabrication house will provide you with an estimated lead time and cost for your PCB Production.

Common Pitfalls and Best Practices

To ensure a smooth PCB data upload and manufacturing process, keep these common pitfalls and best practices in mind:

Common Pitfalls

  1. Incomplete or missing files: Ensure that you include all necessary files (Gerber, drill, Pick and Place, BOM) for your PCB.
  2. Inconsistent file naming: Use a clear and consistent naming convention for your files to avoid confusion.
  3. Incorrect file formats: Verify that your files are in the correct formats (e.g., RS-274X for Gerber, Excellon for drill files).
  4. Design rule violations: Failing to adhere to the fabrication house’s design rules can lead to manufacturing issues and delays.
  5. Outdated or unavailable components: Using components that are outdated or no longer available can cause procurement delays.

Best Practices

  1. Communicate with the fabrication house: Maintain clear communication with the fabrication house throughout the process to address any questions or concerns.
  2. Keep your design simple: Avoid unnecessary complexity in your PCB design to reduce the risk of manufacturing issues.
  3. Use a version control system: Implement a version control system (e.g., Git) to track changes and revisions in your PCB design files.
  4. Conduct thorough reviews and tests: Perform comprehensive design reviews and tests to catch any issues early in the process.
  5. Plan for contingencies: Build in extra time and budget for potential revisions or unexpected challenges.

By following these best practices and being aware of common pitfalls, you can streamline your PCB data upload process and minimize the risk of manufacturing issues.


1. What are the most common file formats used for PCB data upload?

The most common file formats used for PCB data upload are:

  • Gerber files (RS-274X): Used for copper layers, solder mask, and silkscreen
  • Excellon files: Used for drill data
  • Pick and Place files (CSV, TXT): Used for component placement information

2. How do I ensure that my PCB design meets the fabrication house’s requirements?

To ensure that your PCB design meets the fabrication house’s requirements, follow these steps:

  1. Obtain the fabrication house’s design rules and specifications
  2. Set up your design software with the appropriate design rules
  3. Conduct a Design Rule Check (DRC) to identify and address any violations
  4. Communicate with the fabrication house to clarify any specific requirements or concerns

3. What should I do if the fabrication house reports issues with my uploaded PCB data?

If the fabrication house reports issues with your uploaded PCB data, take the following actions:

  1. Carefully review the reported issues and the fabrication house’s feedback
  2. Make necessary corrections or adjustments to your PCB design files
  3. Re-generate the corrected files (Gerber, drill, Pick and Place, BOM)
  4. Verify the integrity of the updated files
  5. Re-upload the corrected files to the fabrication house for another review

4. Can I request a physical prototype of my PCB before placing a full production order?

Yes, most fabrication houses offer Prototyping Services. You can request a small quantity of your PCB (often as low as 1-5 pieces) to physically inspect and test your design before committing to a full production run. This helps identify any issues or improvements early in the process, saving time and cost in the long run.

5. How long does the PCB fabrication process typically take after uploading the data?

The PCB fabrication lead time varies depending on the complexity of your design, the fabrication house’s workload, and the shipping method. Typical lead times range from 1-3 weeks for standard orders. However, many fabrication houses offer expedited services for faster turnaround times, usually at an additional cost. It’s essential to communicate your timeline requirements with the fabrication house and plan your project accordingly.


Uploading PCB data is a critical step in the manufacturing process of electronic devices. By following the guidelines and best practices outlined in this article, you can ensure that your PCB data is accurate, complete, and compatible with the fabrication house’s requirements. Remember to:

  1. Prepare and organize your files (Gerber, drill, Pick and Place, BOM)
  2. Conduct a Design Rule Check and verify file integrity
  3. Communicate clearly with the fabrication house
  4. Review and confirm your order details before submitting
  5. Plan for contingencies and allow sufficient time for revisions and production

By streamlining your PCB data upload process and collaborating effectively with your fabrication house, you can bring your electronic designs to life efficiently and successfully.