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I am planning to develop a CNC drilling machine for a college project. The idea is to export the hole coordinates and drill size directly from a .brd file on Eagle, which will later be read by an MCU for processing. We're trying to define which format to use: gcode or gerber. Any suggestion for a third option will be gladly welcome.

Which one is easier to work with or is better documented?

Also bear in mind that we want other students to be able to do the exporting from Eagle without much effort.

Thanks for your help.

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Gerber files are used for making boards, not for CNC drilling. Drilling requires Excellon drill files. Excellon drill files can be generated by Eagle, and would be be more convenient for users than any other format, as no file conversion would be required. They are quite simple.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I see, I misunderstood what gerber files were for. Thought we could use them only for the holes and drills layers. Thanks for the link, I'll check it out. \$\endgroup\$ – kirbuchi Aug 23 '10 at 18:30
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I agree with Leon - I didn't even know where was a choice. I thought all CNC machines relied on gcode. I know of gerber to gcode converters: http://sourceforge.net/projects/gerbertogcode/

I dont' know about the appropriate drill converter or even if you need one. I think Leon's right about the excellon drill files.

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Sounds like a cool project. The standard format for a drilling machine to accept is "Excellon file" format.

Most CNC machines accept

  • a G-code that is a slightly enhanced dialect of RS274D.

Most PCB design software exports information about a file in two formats:

  • drill files in "Excellon file" format, a variant of standard RS-274C. (This is the one you want).
  • layer files in Gerber file format, a variant of of RS-274X.

All three variants of RS-274 are very similar.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ For what I've been reading Excellon is much simpler than gcode so I think we have a winner :) \$\endgroup\$ – kirbuchi Aug 23 '10 at 20:02

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