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How to export PCB to IDF and also include copper traces/shapes ?



  • Boss .

    No the PCB tracks are not included.

    IDF models the PCB as a flat sheet including holes, plus components to get a 3D height and position representation.

    3D view in DSPCB is a screen render using OpenGL, it is not a true 3D structure.

  • Brad Levy

    I just did a bit of experimenting.

    Once again, a little creative thinking turns up a way to achieve a net result not immediately obvious within the constraints of the DesignSpark tools.

    As Boss pointed out, the IDF output from DS PCB does not include the traces.

    But you can export an image of the board (including traces from whichever layers you choose) from DesignSpark PCB.

    And you can import images into DesignSpark Mechanical.

    And you can map those images to faces in DesignSpark Mechanical.

    So you map an image of the top side of the PCB to the front face of the PCB in DS Mech.

    And you map an image of the bottom side of the PCB to the back face of the PCB in DS Mech.

    You now have your 3d model of the PCB including traces in DS Mechanical!

    I'm not sure if I didn't have the IDF output settings in DS PCB correct, or if this is the way DS Mech behaves, but the board came in as a single plane (no thickness). No problem. I just extruded it to the proper thickness, which then gave me two faces (one front, one back) to map the images to.

    The exported images from DS PCB included some of the area outside of the board outline, and may not be the same scale as the board imported via IDF. You can easily scale the image in DS Mechanical though. And if you look at the image properties in DS Mech, and click on Advanced settings, you can select colors in the image that you want to hide (become transparent). Doing that allowed hiding the portion of the image that extends beyond the board, and hiding non-trace areas of the board.

    (This was experimentation, so I didn't download 3D models for the components to get accurate representations of them, though one certainly can.)

    Isn't life fun!


  • Boss .

    Very creative!

    I'm impressed....

  • John Lintern

    Thanks Brad thats great.... and very creative ! 

    I did an additional step and cut the non-copper areas from the exported images using GIMP.  I then saved the image as a PNG file so that the image only has the copper area, the rest is transparent.

    Using GIMP I used the "Select by colour tool" which in this case was the colour black....

    Then I inverted the selection (CTRL-I) and copied and pasted as a new image....



    I then imported the PNG image into DS Mechanical - the result is shown below...

  • Brad Levy

    Yep, looks good.
    People can use whatever workflow (Gimp, PhotoShop, PhotoPaint, or the Advanced options on the property tab in DS Mech) they choose for making the non-copper areas transparent. I just wanted people to realize that they can add the transparency within DS Mechanical itself if they aren't fluent in external image editors:

    If you click the ... to the right of Advanced settings, you get this dialog:

    You then just click on the eyedropper, then click on a pixel of a color you want to become transparent. (In this case, I'd click on the black.) You can uses the eyedropper again if you want to make more colors transparent as well.
    The only disadvantage to this built-in tool is that the portion outside the (green)board outline is transparent, but still there. Which makes selecting items behind it a little more difficult. Of course, you can set the colors of the copper traces and pads in DS PCB before exporting the image from there. And include the silk screen layer if you wish. And of course, if you use gimp or PhotoShop, you could add some "dirt" to the image to make it look more like a real board.
    (That was one of the things that set the first Star Wars movie apart from sci-fi predecessors. The ships weren't all pristine looking.)


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