Ucamco recently announced that its Gerber Job Editor can now accept notes in Mandarin. This is a big step for Ucamco, the company that owns Gerber, which is the data transfer format used by most PCB designers. Other more “intelligent” data formats are making inroads in this area, but Gerber shows no signs of fading any time soon. I asked Karel Tavernier, managing director of Ucamco, to discuss the move to add Mandarin notes to the Gerber Job Editor, and what this means for CAM department users who may speak little or no English.
Andy Shaughnessy: Karel, Ucamco recently added Mandarin capability to the Gerber Jobs Editor. Would you walk us through this?
Karel Tavernier: Sure, but let’s take a step back. The Gerber Job Editor edits Gerber Job Files. That's a file that was first introduced two or three years ago, and it contains data about the job in a formalized, standardized manner. The data includes copper weights, solder mask, whether the job is ITAR, etc. These are all kinds of things that relate to the job overall, and not necessarily specifically to a layer. That's something that Gerber will offer to the workflow, and there’s no standard manner of transferring it. We put this in a separate sample JSON file. Why a separate file? Because plenty of CAD systems don't carry this data. Why should they? So, the ERP system contains this data. And asking the ERP programmer to understand PCB image data for simply defining a finish is not very realistic. A simple separate file is the way to go.
Shaughnessy: It’s two different languages.
Tavernier: Yes. So why a JSON file? Because it's simple and human-readable. A few CAD systems have implemented it; Eagle is one of them; KiCad and a couple of others have implemented it too. We also know of ERP systems that generate the Gerber Job File. We created the Gerber Job Editor, a standalone application to view, create, and edit Job files. It serves as a debugging tool for the developers of Gerber Job data, but more importantly, it allows users to exchange this information in a standardized manner even if your CAD system does not carry this data.
The Gerber Job Editor is freely downloadable. You define your job parameters with a nice interface, and this can then help you fabricate your job. Or, if the fabricator does not want to use the Gerber Job Editor, he can just look at the JSON file and he can read what's there. Unless he was Chinese, until now. Because we had forgotten that China is the most important country in the world for PCBs. So it's all been in English until now. We received many requests from Chinese users, asking if we could provide a Mandarin interface. Of course, the data remains in English, because it's standardized work, but the interface is in Mandarin.
Shaughnessy: So a Mandarin-speaker will at least know what’s in the file package.
Tavernier: Yes. The internal file data information remains in English. But the user interface can now be in Mandarin. Also, customer commands can be in Mandarin. People can add custom notes, as there are always things that are outside whatever standard we define. You can type it in any language. The Mandarin feature was released just a week or so ago.
Shaughnessy: The data itself stays in English, and I guess most of the manufacturers around the world have some facility with English if they’re handling an international order. But this sort of facilitates it, right?
Tavernier: Yes. If it's a Gerber Job File, then they can open the Gerber Job Editor and it will be in Mandarin. That helps because the people handling this data are also not necessarily the CAM operator.
Shaughnessy: The files might be opened by an assistant, or an intern from a university.
Tavernier: Yes. That’s right. Actually, the Job Editor will probably be used first on the low-end boards, because for the high-end boards, those OEMs have money to waste on inefficient data handoff from design to fabrication, but if you’re selling a board for $5, how much money can you really spend on data input?
To read this interview, which appeared in the August 2021 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.