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 Manufacturing data: Gerber vs ODB++ vs IPC-2581

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cioma Posted - 26 Aug 2016 : 14:43:55
Pulsonix can generate manufacturing data in Gerber, ODB++, IPC-2581. I'd like to use IPC-2581 or ODB++ but I need to know if their implementation in Pulsonix is mature enough compared to Gerber (e.g. current open issues etc) and what format Pulsonix recommend using.
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jameshead Posted - 30 Aug 2016 : 09:17:55
it will be interesting to hear what some of the forum members think as well.

Currently I output a zip archive containing Gerber X2, Excellon, GenCAD and IPC-D-356 netlist and an ODB++ file. I've been outputting ODB++ alongside Gerber RS-274X since 2004.

The rationale is that the PCB Assember and PCB Fabricator are free to choose whatever format they are more comfortable using. Some fabricators give you a discount on the tooling charge if you give them ODB++.

I've been at the other end, in the mid 1990s, translating the original RS-274 format gerber data with aperture tables of hundreds of apertures and often having to guess the inch/mm, 2.3, 2.4, 3.3, zero suppression etc. into CAM software including Orbotech Image 5000, GC-CAM. It was horrible and the scope for making an error was immense and errors were made occasionally. Extended RS-274X gerber data was a great improvement and greatly reduced the number of errors. I changed jobs a shortly after the fabricator purchased two of the then new Valor Genesis CAM seats that use ODB++ as the native format and importing and editing this format into the CAM system was more time-efficient and easier.

Recently I've been recieving a few quries from fabricators when they've tried to import our Gerber data but I've never had any quries from fabricators that have used the ODB++. The only query I get about ODB++ is "what is it" from a few fabricators and assemblers that haven't come across it yet.

I always check the Gerber in GC-Prevue and the ODB++ in Mentor Graphics ODB++ viewer before it is sent out.

One thing I have noticed recently is a very small number of fabricators that have been passed our data for quote that have claimed to have been unable to read the Gerber X2 format they've been given. I know for certain in one case that the fabricator admitted to me that they were using a very early version GC-CAM that hadn't been updated for more than ten years and I suspect this is the case for the other fabricators since when I've asked them for details about the CAM software they use they've been very silent.

I wouldn't bother about outputting IPC-2581 format at the moment only because there aren't many fabricators and assemblers using it. The idea is a good one - an industry standard that's not controlled by a single company - but it's not prevalent enough at the moment to justify outputting the format. Hopefully that will change in time.

If you're a big company with a high design through-put that uses a couple of fabricators with a very close relationship then it's worth using the format but for medium and small sized companies it's not worth the time at present.
psxforum Posted - 26 Aug 2016 : 14:55:09
In terms of longevity and widespread use, ODB++ is the one to look at. IPC2581 will also give you a complete manufacturing output but is a more recent addition to the application, and is also less widely adopted by the manufacturers.

We know that many users have relied on ODB++ to manufacturer their Pulsonix boards for years so I would have no hesitation in recommending it, but it will be interesting to hear what some of the forum members think as well.