What is DXF File?
DXF is a standard text file that can be built by some graphical software such as AutoCAD or SolidWorks.
This file can determine 2D and 3D dimensions and characteristics of an element.
You can download the 3D format (.step file) and 2D format (.DXF file) of lots of electronic elements from this website: www.3dcontentcentral.com.
In Altium Designer, the 2D DXF file can be used as the footprint of the element and the .step file can be used as its 3D file.
In order to build Altium Designer library, there is no need to draw footprints anymore. Instead this can easily be done by exporting the DXF file to Altium Designer.
This tutorial teaches you how the DXF file can be exported to Altium Designer.
First, you need the Drill file to do this. In order to build this file, you can use a software such as Proteus and get its Gerber output.
You can also download the file below and go to the Gerber file entering section in Altium Designer.
Getting a Gerber output from Proteus
Firstly in the PCB section of this software you need to place an element. Go to the package mode section from the left part of the page as shown in the picture below.
In the opened window, you can place elements. For example you can use axial 45.
Place the new device as the picture below.
Then enter the output menu and click on Gerber/Excel on Output.. .
A window opens up and checks the PCB errors. Click on close at the end.
Click on yes in the next opened window.
Then you need to choose the sub-layers that need to be exported as shown in the picture below.
Entering the Gerber file in Altium Designer
Open the Altium Designer and in the File menu go to new -> CAD Document.
A window as per below opens up.
In order to enter the Gerber file, go to File->Import->Quick Load.
Enter the Gerber file address and then press OK.
In the next page that is about setting the dimensions of the file, press OK.
Close the log file that shows the import report.
You’ll see a picture like the one shown below.
To set the layers, go to Tables and choose Layers.
Specify the copper and non-copper layers.
In case of choosing more than two layers (up and bottom), the Layers Order window opens that lets you choose the placement of layers.
After that, go to Analysis menu and choose PCB Design Check so that the software can check the board.
In the opened window, choose the items to be checked and then press OK.
You are almost done and the DXF file can be imported to Altium Designer.
Finding the DXF file and its 3D format
In the previous section of settings, importing the file was checked. We use the www.3dcontentcentral.com website to download the DXF file.
As shown in the picture below, go to the website and log in.
We want to enter the SD Card footprint. So we search for its name and find the intended shape.
We download the .step file in the 3D section based on the picture below.
In the 2D part, we can download the DXF file. Note that after determining Units and View, you should click on Update Preview.
Uploading the related file to SD card
Open the Altium Designer software and go to File->Import and then choose DXF/DWG.
Set the measurement unit as shown in the picture below and then click on OK.
Then, as the below picture shows, set the DXF layer name (Silk Bot).
Then go to File menu and in the “Export” section choose the “Export to PCB option”.
In the appeared PCB file, press shift+C to clear the filter. If you can’t see part of the footprint, press ctrl+A and then click on “Move Selection” as shown in the above picture in order to move the footprint. This can also be done in the CAM file.
In order to place the 3D format, go to Place menu and choose “3D body”.
Do the settings in the opened window and then click on “Embed Step Model”.
If you compare the 3D format with the imported DXF file, the DXF file is twice as big as the footprint!
In order to solve this problem, we need to delete the imported DXF file and import this file again (In the CAM Document in the edit menu and selecting clear).
To import again, choose the “custom” option as the picture below.
Set the scale on 0.5.
Now, from the File menu, choose the Cam file and click on “Export to PCB”.
After placing the 3D format, you should have something like the picture below.
If the .step file that is a pink hatched shape almost as big as the footprint does not appear, press the L key on keyboard. This way you are activating the mechanical layer. Look at the picture below:
After selecting all objects of the footprint and pressing the F11 key, you can change the layer from Bottom Overlay to Top Overlay.
Finally, after pressing the “3” key on the keyboard and seeing the 3D representation of the design, place the .step file on the footprint.
Author: M.R. Beygi