DXF Import and Export in NI Ultiboard

Publish Date: Feb 03, 2012 | 1 Ratings | 1.00 out of 5 | Print | Submit your review


Ultiboard 12.0 offers enhanced import and export capabilities for industry standard files for the electrical and mechanical design of your system. Once a board layout is finalized, the user can create and export DXF files of all the board layers to use in other CAD tools and simulators for further design and board validation. This is important for electromagnetic and mechanical design in CAD tools like Autodesk or Solidworks.. The option to import DXF files is now also made more accessible in Ultiboard to help include physical data that cannot be drawn in Ultiboard. This tutorial is a step-by-step guide to how to use the DXF import and export functionalities in Ultiboard.

Table of Contents

  1. In this Tutorial
  2. Introduction
  3. Importing a Board Outline from AutoCAD into Ultiboard
  4. Exporting design DXF files from Ultiboard
  5. Conclusion

1. In this Tutorial


Importing a Board Outline from AutoCAD into Ultiboard

Exporting design DXF files from Ultiboard


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2. Introduction

DXF is a standard data file format intended to help users of different CAD design tools exchange information from one tool to the other. Importing DXF files in Ultiboard with high accuracy provides the user with the options of including electromechanical part footprints such as screw through holes for mechanical fixation of the board into a chassis. It is also possible to import electromagnetic designs developed by high frequency simulators like AWR-Microwave Office (e.g. patch antennas).

Exporting DXF files from Ultiboard is simple and accurate to verify and manipulate the physical design in different tools.

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3. Importing a Board Outline from AutoCAD into Ultiboard

This is example shows the steps needed to import an AutoCAD exported DXF file into Ultiboard.

  1. The first step is to export the board outline shape from AutoCAD. It is important to know the dimension units used in both AutoCAD and Ultiboard since DXF files are dimensionless. Figure 1 is a snapshot of the board outline designed in AutoCAD WS. The design includes through holes for mechanical fixation of the board. For the purpose of demonstration, the board outline has a low level of complexity; however, complicated mechanical design footprints can be exported from AutoCAD and imported into Ultiboard.

Figure 1: Board Outline in AutoCAD WS

In this board outline design, the outline is intentionally left open at the bottom to demonstrate how Ultiboard automatically fixes this error when importing the file. Here’s another snapshot showing this error.

Figure 2: Intentional Board Outline Error made in AutoCAD

Save the design as a DXF file on your computer.

  1. Open the Ultiboard design to which you want to import the DXF layers and select File»Import» DXF. Select the DXF file in the Open dialog.


Figure 3: Importing a DXF file into Ultiboard

  1. Once the desired file is selected the following dialog box opens in the Ultiboard environment


Figure 4: DXF Import Dialog Box

Make sure of the following:

  • The layer mapping field is a list of all the layers contained in the DXF file and which layer in Ultiboard they should be mapped to. In this case, only the E-text layer is imported and mapped to the Board Outline layer in Ultiboard.
  • The Scaling field indicates the unit system in AutoCAD. In this example, the board outline in AutoCAD is designed with 1 DXF unit equaling 1 mil.
  • For this specific example, you do not need to convert any polylines to polygons so leave the checkbox unchecked.

Click Import to finish the process.

  1. The board shape is not closed, so shows the Board Outline Problem dialog. The message prompts you if you want Ultiboard to automatically fix this problem. In this case, set the maximum gaps to be closed to 50 mils and click Fix.


Figure 5: Board Outline Problem dialog box appears when the imported board outline is not a closed shape

The open edges of the imported board outline are automatically fixed as shown in Figure 6.



Figure 6: Automatic fixing of open edges

  1. The final layout with the imported board outline is show in Figure 7

Figure 7: Final layout with the imported board outline

Following the same simple steps other shapes and areas in DXF files can be imported into Ultiboard and mapped to any of your PCB design layers. Whether being a microstrip patch antenna or transmission line, a company logo, a layout of mechanical parts, or even shapes of combinations of curved and straight lines to be printed on the final PCB, Ultiboard offers you an effective approach to include them in your design and rapidly prototype your PCB.

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4. Exporting design DXF files from Ultiboard

The DXF export functionality is easily accessible in the Ultiboard environment. This feature is used in cases where the PCB design needs to be transferred from one tool to another for additional validation purposes.

To export a DXF file of the design in the previous example, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Open the design in Ultiboard and go to File/Export
  2. The following window will open. Select DXF and click Export

Figure 8: Export dialog box in Ultiboard

The DXF Export Settings window will open. This is where you specify which layers you want to export and the units of conversion (DXF is a dimensionless standard, so you need to specify what dimension unit is equal to one DXF unit). Select the layer(s) you want to process and click Ok

Figure 9: Export Settings in Ultiboard

  1. Specify the directory where you want to save the DXF files and the DXF file will be saved on your computer.

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5. Conclusion

Ultiboard is an optimized environment for engineers who need to rapidly prototype printed circuit boards, it allows for comprehensive design manipulation of common prototyping tasks such as component placement, trace routing, and design rule checking. Ultiboard is also used to import and export of industry-standard file formats such as Gerber files and DXF files to facilitate the design transfer to the manufacturing process and to allow layout exchange with other CAD tools for design completeness.

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