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I am familiar with Proteus software and have designed my PCB with its ARES package. Now I want to order it and found a company that offers good price but they only accept PCB layouts in .PCB format. They said I have to design it with Protel ( I think they meant Altium Designer ?) but I am not familiar with it and don't want to buy a new software package and also it may be so time consuming to start designing from the beginning. Is there any way to convert the file made by ARES (.LYT) to .PCB ?

I am so sorry if I mentioned the formats incorrectly because I don't know much about softwares other than Proteus !

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I checked the available file importers for Altium and I don't see ARES or .LYT listed. Even if there were such an importer available, you would need an Altium license to be able to use it.

However, there are many many pcb fab shops available, and 90% (or more) of them accept either gerber files or ODB++ rather than design files for any particular design tool. And 90% (or more) of the design tools can produce one or both of these formats.

Gerber is the older and simpler format. But it does need some external documentation like the units (inches or mm) used, and requires more manual handling by the fab shop. ODB++ is more modern and allows more automated handling by the fab hsop, but not all tools seem to have complete support for it yet.

If your tool can't produce either gerber or ODB++ then it's time to start learning a new tool.

If your vendor won't accept gerber or ODB++, it's time to start looking for another vendor.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! Does Gerber make ".PCB" file formats? Is it available for Mac? I have heard it is free. Is that? \$\endgroup\$ – Aug Oct 23 '13 at 20:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Gerber is a file format. Most pcb design tools can make output files in gerber format. There is one file generated for each layer in your design. There is no consistent rule for how the files are named, so you need to tell your vendor which file corresponds to which layer in the stackup. With gerbers, you also need to specify the drill holes in a separate file, which is usually in the Excellon format. Your tool should have a process for generating all these files at the same time. \$\endgroup\$ – The Photon Oct 23 '13 at 20:37
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Having used Proteus a lot, it does allow you to create both Gerber and ODB++ files. To create Gerber files from your .PCB file, open the .PCB in ARES, go to the OUTPUT menu (Next to File Menu), and click on Gerber/Excellion Output. That should then generate the gerbers for you. You have options on which layers you want to export (for example, if it is a 2 layer board, you only need top/bottom copper, Proteus will see that and only tick those boxes), where you want your gerbers to go, etc. Each layer on a gerber file plus drill data are a separate file, so it is always better to create a new folder and put all these files in that. Most PCB manufacturers will then take these files direct, or put together in a Zipped format. Hopefully that helped!

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I've seen this claim that a board shop requires Protel design files before, usually from Australians, I think. I find it very hard to believe, as that requirement would seriously limit the shop's customer base - Protel (now Altium) is not a cheap CAD program.

I can see a shop accepting Protel design files if they also use Protel for an in-house board layout service. However, I suspect that such a shop would still have to produce Gerber files to create the PC board artwork, so should be able to accept Gerber files from outside customers. Can you provide a link to the shop with the "Protel only" requirement?

Gerber files seem to be the universal method to generate PC artwork. As The Photon says, if the shop won't accept Gerber files, you should have no problem finding someone that will. (but then you'll need to find out how to generate Gerber files and an Excellon drill file in Proteus...) ?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In my country, Protel is the only format for some shops while others accept a few more formats (including Proteus but very rarely Gerber). Oh, by the way most people use cracked version of Protel or Altium (it's a shame but true). \$\endgroup\$ – wmac Nov 14 '15 at 5:19

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