Import old Gerber files - but how to proceed then?

Hi friends

I am old but still a KiCad rookie, so please forgive me if I ask a foolish question - up to now I only used it for drawing schematics.

I found a zip archive containing Gerber files that were created using UltiBoard in 2002. It is a simple double-sided THT PCB. I tried to have it fabbed but it was rejected due to unspecified errors.

BTW I also have the PCB artwork in PDF format, but I don’t think this is helpful.

I need to convert the files in the zip archive to current Gerbers. I managed to open the important layers in Gerber Viewer, so I can see them, but I have no idea how to transfer them to the PCB Editor. I think converting them to modern Gerber files should be easier, then.

Any help is greatly appreciated!
Thanks a lot

Start here:

Having some artwork in PDF format is useful for verifying whether your results are plausible.

Gerber files are not designed to be editable. There are programs to edit gerber files, but that is pretty specialized software usually used by PCB factories.

What about the schematic? Do you have that in a “displayable” format?

I don’t know a lot about gerber files, but I suppose it is very stable format and old gerbers should be easily opened by any modern software (as you opened them).
From what you said it looks that you have only gerber files (and pdf PCB view). What about drill files - without them PCB can’t be manufactured (except home made PCB that you then drill it using small drill markers in copper - may be it was made that way so no drill files were generated).

In FAQ you can find information how to easily promote you to be allowed to post files at forum. About your PCB we know ‘it is simple …’ but simple for someone can mean 10 elements at PCB and for someone other any 2 sided PCB = simple PCB (300+ elements not a problem).

I think you rather need to do a new project based on this old one than ‘to convert the files in the zip archive to current Gerbers’.

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Thanks Paul & Piotr

I tried your tips without remarkable results. It seems that the missing (?) drill file really might be the problem. It isn’t that important for me to have the PCB re-engineered for manufacturing it, perhaps I will try to use the PDFs and my toner transfer method to DIY it. Redrawing the PDF schematic in KiCad seems a bit too cumbersome to me.


may be you can create an empty drill file and provide it to the fab with the gerber.
Then they should manufacturing the PCB, but without any hole. And you will need to drill them yourself.

I suspect that you we will a message, from their support team, asking if it is really what you want or if your files are corrupted

Hi Robert,
Just curious - what are the approximate dimensions of your (PDF) PCB, and the level of complexity of the circuit.
KiCAD has some great tools to backward engineer circuits - I would suggest not dismissing things prematurely without further resesrch/investigation.

Nice idea, thanks, Bertrand. However this is a double-layer, plated-through design. When drilling myself, there will be no vias or plated-through holes, and then I don’t think it makes sense to have it fabbed.

Hi Docara,

it’s 76 x 110 mm, I’d say of low to medium complexity - 3 x DIL 8, 4 x DIL 14, 1 x DIL 40 chips and 1 x 40-pin LCD. Never more than 1 track between IC pads.

I won’t abandon it right away and keep trying - although doing it using the toner transfer method and providing the vias using thin wire still is an option. I’m sure, however, that I won’t try to redraw the diagram in KiCad…


Meh, you could be done inside of an hour with the schematic editor. As for layout, you already have a placement that works so time is saved there.

What does the thingy do BTW?

Antoher idea could be to import the gerber as graphics (I’m not sure exactly how, but it can be done). And then to add manually all the via and pad. So you could produce the missing drill file.
It’s à lot of work, but it should be feasible.

Well meant, but none the less a bad idea.

With the FAQ article I linked to earlier, you re-create most of the PCB in 5 to 10 minutes, and then you have a fully editable normal PCB. And after replacing the (faulty) pads with normal footprints, you also get your holes back, and thus can create drill files. Positioning of the footprints also relies on the snap positions of the end of tracks, and you won’t get those if you convert to graphics. I also touched briefly on re-entry of the schematic, and just having ERC / DRC to verify the PCB has been converted properly is worth the extra effort in my view.

Hi friends

Thanks for all your information.

Hovever I picked the path of least resistance and ordered the PCB from Eurocircuits. They converted the old Gerbers for me to current ones free of charge, so I think the old ones were not too far away from being useful. I expect to have it in the mail by end of next week and will report then about how it went.