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How to convert design information from one file format to a different one

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(This page talks about converting files representing a PWB from one format to another file format. To convert that file to an actual physical PWB, see /techref/pcbfabs.htm )

There are tons of different CAD applications out there. ( ../pcbcads.htm ) If only it were easy to take information from one to the next, we could use each application for what it's best at. Why does each application need to have it's own slightly different email section ?

I'm listing the PWB CAD formats I'm most familiar with here. Feel free to add conversion tips for mechanical CAD and other CAD file formats. (Is there a file on about converting between other file formats -- enhanced text, music, etc ?)

scottz at asks: " How to convert dwg files to pdf format?
What software do I need and what are the steps?"

file view utilities

Protel to Orcad, Orcad to Protel, etc.

If you are switching from some other tool to Protel or back again, it would be nice if you could get all your schematics and PWB layouts into Protel and out again.

Protel to Orcad, Orcad to Protel, etc.

Converting your schematic into various file formats.

Converting your PWB layout into various file formats. [FIXME: should converting to ".pdf" files go here ?]

Gerber to Protel

Q: [Can] Protel ... import gerber files from another design and turn it into a protel pcb? -- Brad Marshall

A: Camtastic (now bundled with Protel) can view most any Gerber file then translate it into the particular Gerber format Protel PCB editor can read. See

  Importing Gerbers into Protel

BMP to Gerber; BMP to Protel

Q: I have a client who has a very old board ... [no gerber files] but he does have unpopulated pcb's. Does anyone know an easy way to generate Gerber files possibly with a scanner or something? -- Gary Allbee 2000-11-27

A1: Try Artnet . I have used them to scan films to make gerber files, then turned the gerbers into a circuit board. It worked well. They say they can scan actual PCBs. -- Vince Vlach 2000-11-28

A2: After scanning in the board, try this:

I photographed the board with a digital camera, processed the image to increase contrast and to scale it properly, and then imported the graphics file onto a mech layer in Protel using ...

[ the BMP to Protel converter produces polygons for the shaded areas of the BMP. ] ...

[Using that as a template,] I then placed parts and drew track to reconstruct the PCB. A net list was generated from the PCB and marked off against the schematic to find the few errors that were made in interpreting the image. In several places the actual PCB did not match the schematic, even though the board worked. That was not uncommon in the old days....

It is less expensive than doing a new design, but not a *whole* lot less.

-- Abd ul-Rahman Lomax 2000-11-27 07

I did it once this way. I had a only the film of a pcb and I had to do some modifications. ... scan ... Then I converted the bitmap with PCBLogo to a pcb-file. This looked already quite fine, but it wasn't exactly on scale. So I moved all the fills (PCBLogo converts to fills) to a mech-layer and draw the pcb on the copper layer and did the modifications. This PCB is now in mass production.

-- Edi Im Hof 2000-11-28

".pdf" to Protel

Often component manufacturers have a ``reference design'' in Adobe's ".pdf" format.

Yuri V.Potapoff on 2001-07-31 08:46:06 AM wrote:

Step 1st is to convert PDF file to BMP by Photoshop. Then you can use
Klipper utility from Desktop EDA (
This utility imports raster graphic file into PCB or SCH how array of fills
(or lines). You need only adjust the scale.
So you can get Gerber from Adobe' PDF file.
We use this method to restore very old project or to copy another's boards.
Then you can place footprints and generate netlist from connected copper.
If you will have netlist you can add new layers and route pcb with your set
of Desig Rules.
You can see an example on our site.

Best regards,
Yuri V.Potapoff

Protel to Orcad

Protel you first save the file in Orcad Schematic format)...
From: Andrew W. Riley III
Sent: Friday, January 05, 2001 5:28 PM
To: Multiple recipients of list proteledausers
Subject: Re: [PROTEL EDA USERS]: Protel to Orcad Schematic conversion

Mr. Gulley,

I am not sure about Express, but if you are attempting to import the
schematic into Capture;

The '.SCH' extension for OrCAD's schematic is for the older SDT version of
OrCAD (IV & 386+).  When opening '*.sch' files OrCAD expects to see the
config file "SDT.cfg" in either the same directory as the schematic or the
directories set by environment variables such as 'ORCADPROJ' in the
autoexec.bat - created by the installation of OrCAD SDT.
Though you should have one somewhere in your OrCAD (or sub-)directory, I
have included the "SDT.cfg" that comes with OrCAD 9.2 at the end of this
e-mail - just in case.  I believe that Capture wants the libraries
containing the parts used in the schematic.  With version 9.x of Capture, it
is possible to bypass the "SDT.cfg" file IF the SDT libraries are in the
same directory as the SDT schematic.
I have had to re-create symbols when I did not have the correct libraries,
but the rest of the schematic(s) made it through.

If I can be of any more help, please e-mail me at <drewmeister3 at>
or ICQ me at 100686794 so as not to clutter Protel's list with OrCAD stuff.

"Abd ul-Rahman Lomax" on 2001-06-18 03:15:52 PM wrote:

Subject:	Re: [PEDA] Importing Ocad

At 02:07 PM 6/18/01 -0400, Steve Smith wrote:
>Go to page 167 of the Protel 99SE manual and follow
>the instructions there.  They always worked for me.

Another already mentioned p. 167 of the 99SE manual (which is available as
PDF on the Protel web site).

However, those instructions relate to Capture v. 9 imports. Other versions
are more complex to deal with. My advice: using eCapture (see recent posts)
import OrCAD -- any version -- to eCapture and write as version 9. Then
import to Protel.

Versions earlier than Capture require the presence of libraries and
SDT.CFG. If you don't have the libraries, for these earllier schematics,
you have almost no hope of import. Some of the data simply is not there.

Abdulrahman Lomax

Orcad to Protel

Protel will load Orcad Capture version 9 DSN files. If you look at a OrCAD file with a text editor, you usually can see the version near the beginning.

If you have some earlier version of Orcad DSN file, use eCapture 9.2 from to load it in and write it out to version 9.

DXF to Protel

(see also microwave circuit layout tips #microwave )

import a DXF into an open PCB file. If you import the DXF into the database and try to open it then it does just stuff Protel. The DXF/DWG import into PCB is still not the most reliable of creatures even so. ... Usual Protel DXF import rules apply: everything MUST be in the positive quadrant and all must fit within the 100"x100" limits of the PCB.

-- Rob Malos on 2001-01-31 02:27:53 PM ....

Watch for the "scale bug". Sometimes Protel makes a file 24.5 times too big (or small ?). This seems to be a bug in the Imperial-->Metric conversion.

Sometimes when Protel doesn't want to import a DXF file, you can open it in Camtastic, then do "Open | Save" to create a ``new'' DXF file that Protel will accept. [tip from Darren Moore]

Protel to DXF / DWG

It's very easy to export Protel schematics and PWB layouts to Autocad DXF or DWG format. Then people can use freeware DXF / DWG viewers #dxf_viewers to view it, zoom in and out, etc., as well as importing it into most mechanical design packages to make sure the connectors, etc. on your board line up with the mechanical case.

While looking at the PWB layout, choose ``File | Export'', navigate to where you want the DXF file, type in an appropriate filename, hit ``Save'', then you'll get a dialog box. Choose DXF (or DWG) and you can change a few other options. Then hit ``OK'' and it's saved.

DAV: I prefer to export to ".dxf" format rather than ".dwg", because the exact same file in "" format is smaller than in "" format.

CadSTAR to Protel

"Steve Fallon" on 2001-08-02 10:33:12 PM wrote:

To:	"Protel EDA Forum" 
Subject:	Re: [PEDA] HELP. Converting old pcb

I recently wrote a converter to take old CadSTAR boards and convert them in
to ASCII Protel PCB 2.8. It works fine. It did need the CadSTAR board to be
in its ASCII .cdi format, but I guess I could write one for the default
binary .cdo.

Let me know if you want a copy.

Rgds Steve F

other conversions




See also:

file: /Techref/app/format_conversion.htm, 18KB, , updated: 2015/3/29 21:37, local time: 2017/3/27 17:39, owner: DAV-MP-E62a,

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