You can take your PCB design from Fritzing and export it to a set of standard Gerber files for fabrication at a PCB factory.

DRC Check

First, run a Design Rules Check (DRC) to see if Fritzing spots any errors with the board that could cause problems in manufacturing. This will check for things like accidentally overlapping traces or elements that are possibly too close together.

Click File > Routing > Design Rules Check (DRC) and wait for the popup window and tests to run.

There were two errors found -- a wire (trace) and a via that are a bit close for comfort to some pads.

Remove the ground fill, move the offending elements a bit and then re-pour the ground fill.

Re-run the DRC and pass with flying colors!

You can download the full Fritzing file here:

Paper Test

The first step is to export the design as a set of PDF files and print the copper top file at a 1:1 scale on a sheet of regular printer paper.

This is a terrific reality check for scale and placement of your physical parts.

To do this, click File > Export > for Production > Etchable (PDF) and select a location to export the files. Since this creates a dozen or so files, it's good to put them in their own directory.

Note, due to a bug with Ground Fill and ratsnest wires, you will see a message pop up saying not all traces have been routed. If you're sure all traces have been routed it's safe to click Proceed.

Lay out your parts on the printed paper for a reality check!

The bottom layer copper mirrored view is also a good one to inspect before moving on.

Don't be alarmed by the copper view of some elements such as the mounting holes for the switches -- you'll verify the drill hole layer during the PCB ordering step.

Gerber -- Not Just For Babies

You're now ready to prep your board files for the PCB fab house! You verified your design using PDF files, but now you'll need to export Gerber files for fabrication. Gerber is the standard used in PCB fabrication, and is a set of ASCII text files that represent the different layers of the board -- typically:

  • Drill holes
  • Board outline (for milling)
  • Top and bottom silk screen printing layers
  • Top and bottom copper layers
  • Top and bottom solder mask layers

Export Gerber Files

To export your Gerber files, click on File > Export > for Production > Extended Gerber (RS-274X) and pick a location -- again it's helpful to create a fresh, empty, new-car-scented folder to store them together neatly.

Zip It Good

Some PCB houses prefer to ingest your Gerber files as a single .zip archive, so go ahead and pick all of the files you just exported and compress them into a .zip file named something like Pico_Keeb_gerber.zip

Upload and Verify

There are lots of places to have your PCBs made -- I'm a fan of both OSHPark and JLCPCB in particular, and I know people who like PCBWay a lot too. I'd recommend OSHPark for your first boards as they have terrific customer service and a great UI for helping you through the process.

Head to oshpark.com and then drag your Pico_Keeb_gerber.zip file onto the "Let's get started!" box. They'll ingest the zip, extract the files, and invite you to inspect the layers.

Hey look! The Drills layer looks correct, whew.

If you're happy with the board, you can go ahead and order (minimum of three boards) with the default settings, or if you don't mind waiting a bit longer, pick the After Dark option for that stylish black and copper look.

If you're in a real hurry, and don't mind "classic" green PCBs, you can get your boards made quickly and inexpensively at JLCPCB, just use the default options. The boards are made in 1-2 days, and DHL shipping to the US from China takes less than a week. I got five of the 21-key Pico Keyboard PCBs we'll look at on the next page in less than a week for $26.10 total, including shipping!

This guide was first published on Mar 03, 2021. It was last updated on 2021-03-03 10:15:41 -0500.

This page (Ordering PCBs) was last updated on Oct 15, 2021.

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