PCB Design Output Data that a Manufacturer Requires


PCB is the backbone of all major electronic devices and is also responsible for making devices compact and efficient. A PCB manufacturer can achieve perfection only if the PCB designer provides a design data file or artwork, that completely describes the board specifications. So, let’s check out what are the different PCB design output data that a manufacturer requires.
Design files, otherwise known as artwork, are the prime communication bridge between fabricators and designers. A manufacturer can check the manufacturability of a PCB by running some advanced design for manufacturability (DFM) checks. For PCB manufacturing, the fabricator requires detailed Gerber or ODB++ files, or IPC-2581 imports/exports.
A PCB designer’s prime goal is to provide detailed documentation to ensure that the PCB manufacturer avoids any guesswork that could lead to undesirable outcomes in the board functionality. Hence, design data files are the bridge between manufacturers and designers.
PCB Design Output Files for Fabrication
Design files are the prime communication channels between fabricators and designers. Initially, Gerber files ruled the industry since its introduction in 1980. Towards the middle of the 90’s, the intelligent format ODB++ came into existence, soon followed by the open and neutral IPC-2581 .
Here is a list of the different files you can send your manufacturer for fabrication:

Gerber files
IPC-2581
IPC Netlist
Drill files 
BOM (Bill of material)
Pick and Place files
Fab drawing
ODB++ files (OPTIONAL)

What is Gerber?
Once the layout design of a PCB board is completed and ready for the fabrication. The design is converted into a standard file format called Gerber files which can be used by the PCB manufacturers to manufacture PCBs. 
The Gerber files are generated for each of the layers of the PCB. The PCB manufacturer produces as many as 30 or more layer files to define different aspects of manufacturing.

Gerber data of a PCB on gerber viewer

List of Gerber file for manufacturing

Aperture definitions
TOP- Top layer – This defines the top copper layer, traces and pads 
SMT – Solder Mask Top – Defines the area where soldermask should appear on the top layer
SPT – Solder Paste Top – Defines the solder paste applied to solder the components on the top layer
BOT – Bottom layer 
SMB – Solder Mask Bottom
SPB – Solder Paste Bottom
SST – Silkscreen top – Defines the labels on the top layer of the components
SSB – Silkscreen bottom – Defines the labels on the bottom layer of the components
AST – Assembly top – Assembly instructions of the top layer
ASB – Assembly Bottom – Assembly instructions of the bottom layer
FAB – Gives details of...

Top