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What is a CPL file and how to generate it

Following the previous post in which we explained what is a list of materials and how to export this file from the main PCB design software was described, in this post we continue explaining other file required when you want to assembly your PCBs in pick and place machines that is the CPL file.

CPL is the acronym of Component Placement List. It is possible to export it from any printed circuit board design software and contains the exact position in coordinates of each component of the bill of materials related with the layout of the PCB. Depending on the software not always is called as CPL file. In some software is named Parts list, Centroid file, XY file, Position file, Pick and Place file or Placement report. The format of the file is typically an excel file (.csv or .xls) but it is possible to find it as text file (.txt) in which a table with parameters is shown.

Main parameters of CPL files are:

  • Component Reference Designator that is the name of each component that will compose the electronic circuit. As commented in the previous post, these designators are denoted with a letter and a number. The letter indicates the type of component, L for inductors, C for capacitors, R for resistors, D for diodes, T for transistors and U for other integrated circuits, while the number differentiates components of the same type.  This designator is the name that relates the BoM file with the CPL file. 
  • The X and Y coordinates of the center of each component with respect the board’s origin (0, 0), typically located at the lower left corner of the top side. Instead of the center of the components there are software in which you can change that location to the center of one of the pads, the symbol origin or a customized point. That selection will be included in the exported file so the company that will mount the PCB is able to mount it correctly. 
  • The layer in which the component will be placed, top or bottom. Depending on the software this information will not be provided and the software exports two different files, one for the top and one for the bottom.
  • The angle or orientation of the components with respect the PCB top side in the range of 0 to 360º.
  • The output units of the coordinates, imperial or metric.
  • Some additional information already contained in the BoM could be included, depending on the software.


Below some description of how to export the CPL from the main PCBs design software in the market is shown. In some of them the process is very easy to follow and find, since it is integrated in the software while in others it is more complex and tedious since you will have to use scripts.


Altium Designer

In Altium Designer it is very easy to export CPL files. You have two options to go to the dialog that will allow you to export the file.

  • In the first one, you need to go to the File » Assembly Outputs » Generates pick and place files from a PCB. 
  • The second option is to double-click to Generates pick and place files under Assembly Outputs in the Outputs region of an OutJob (*.OutJob).


Once you have opened the dialog, you can select the information you want to add (additionally to the mandatory one), exclude parts that cannot be required by the pick and place machine and the format in which you want to export the file, csv or text. You will also have to select if the placement origin of each component if it is the center of the component, the coordinates of pad 1 or a user-defined reference point.

Generar Lista de Materiales (BoM) en Altium Designer. Fuente: https://www.altium.com/documentation/15.1/display/ADES/((Bill+of+Materials+(BOM)+))_AD
Generate Components Placement List (CPL) in Altium Designer.
Source: https://www.altium.com/documentation/18.0/display/ADES/WorkspaceManager_Dlg-PickPlaceSetup_Form((Pick+and+Place+Setup))_AD



Eagle allows you to create the CPL files by using Eagle’s user language programs (ULPs). For this task, the ULP you will have to run is mountsmdl.ulp after selecting the file with the PCB you want to export from the Menu tab. The software will create two different files the .mnt (mount top) and .mnb (mount reverse) for the top and bottom layer respectively. The file will be exported in text format.



Kicad allows the user to create a .pos file with the positions of each component that is defined in the BoM file generated previously by the software. You have to go to PCBNew and there click on File » Fabrication Outputs » Footprint Position (.pos) File. Different files will be generated depending on the sides of the PCB, one if you only have a bottom side or two if you have top and bottom layers. The .pos file can be open with Excel and saved as .csv in order to send it to the company that will mount your PCB in a format that can be easily read for them.

Generate Component Placement List (CPL) in KiCad
Generate Component Placement List (CPL) in KiCad.


Mentor Graphics pads

To generate the components placement list in Mentor Graphics, you will have to go to PADS layout and use a VB script to export it. There are different variations of this script that will allow you to slightly change the information is provided by the exported file.



The procedure for creating a CPL file for Orcad is very easy in comparison with other PCB design software previously described. There are two ways to create it. The file will be exported in text format.

  • In the first one you will have to go to Menu » File » Export and Placement. There, you can select the placement origin for the components, symbol origin, body center or pin 1.
  • In the second option you will have to go to Tools » Reports » Component Report.



In DripTrace you will be able to export your CPL file from the layout and selecting Export » Pick and Place format. You will have to select what will be the placement origin of each component between center of the component or origin of it.

 2019-01-09 09:01
 Help    Engineering   
What is a BoM file and how to generate it
Which one is the best PCB design software?
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