ZofzPCB – Enhancing the design Process

Fromthe Circuit Mechanix magazine:

Circuit Mechanix Mar 2016 - Cover

ZofzPCB – Enhancing the design Process

PCB’s are becoming more complex and a critical part of almost all modern systems. Design tools have a huge
array of features to get the design how the designer wants it. Verifying manufacturing information against the design is critical as mistakes can occur in the translation on rare occasions. It’s surprising that EDA vendors haven’t addressed this gap in the process.
Recently I was introduced to ZofzPCB – a gerber viewing and verification tool that I hadn’t heard of before. Unlike other 2D gerber viewers, ZofzPCB lets the designer see the PCB’s manufacturing data in a 3D
format, it enables the designer to split the board apart and view the inner layers and how they’re connected. More importantly, by importing an IPCD- 356A netlist from the design into ZofzPCB an error check of the gerber files can be carried out. While gerber errors from design systems are rare, they do happen and the cost in lost time and materials is expensive to say the least.

Using the netlist data, ZofzPCB can generate an accurate view of the finished PCB. It’s guesses the component likeness from the netlist, so custom components are not
represented well. I haven’t even got to the best part yet – ZofzPCB is free!
ZofzPCB has been created by Rafal Powierski, when asked about his reasons for creating a program of this complexity for free he said:
“I have an interest in physics. I wanted to build an electromagnetic simulation program that could check PCB designs incorporating many of high speed interfaces, like DDR2, HDMI and PCIe. My previous experience was SDRAM running at 75MHz. This technological step was terrifying, so I needed a PCB high-speed test/check program The planned to get the 3D PCB information from the PCB Gerber data. With painting or overlapping drawing elements “flattened”, that is converted to simple positive shapes. The PCB needed to be
displayed, that was an opportunity to do something in Direct3D. The 3D Gerber viewer was a first step, which is already a useful standalone application. I placed it on-line, for free download. For the next step, the 3D EM solver needed to be created.”

What Rafal has created is an
independent tool that can allow the
verification and examination of the
actual PCB manufacturing data in a
way that hasn’t been available before. If there is comparable tool in the market that has this kind of functionality it’s not widely known about and probably carries a hefty price tag.
Having tested this and found that it picked up errors between the design and gerbers, ZofzPCB can easily save hours fruitlessly checking gerbers manually on 2D gerber viewers. It’s also fun and interesting playing with the different 3D view functions and seeing how all the inner layers of a design connect.

To try out ZofzPCB for yourself visit https://www.zofzpcb.com and have a look. Try it out and see what you think, while it won’t verify your design is correct, it will give you a greater idea of what you’re really designing and the confidence that what your design tool
has generated is what you designed in CAD.
Circuit Mechanix © 2016


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