A new generation of data formats for PCB production is emerging that enable the exchange of data between CAD (development) and CAM (production). Würth Elektronik has already been successfully implemented and have shown to bring benefits for customers.
In June, Ucamco, the owner of the Gerber format, sent an open letter recommending ceasing use of the Standard Gerber (RS-274-D) format. Since the format of RS-274-D was developed in the 1960s, for the vector photoplotter, it is outdated technically and use of the format carries various risks.
As an alternative data format, Ucamco suggest using its successor, Extended Gerber (RS-274-X). However, Würth Elektronik considers it advantageous,
to go one stage further in the course of the conversion. "It is more advantageous, to switch to a more modern format. Two advanced
data formats, ODB++ and IPC-2581, are currently available," explains CAM system administrator Jens Kaufhold. These formats include
not only the graphical information for the individual layers, but additionally a lot of important extra information: All data for manufacturing,
testing and assembly are contained in one file.
The change to the next generation data formats has proceeded without problems at Würth. "The procedure in the changeover period still looks the same: due to the various possibilities available through these formats, we have converted some customers data from the old into the new format. This helps when comparing and fine-tuning data with our customers," Kaufhold says. After this transition period, the advantages are obvious: less consultation effort with the customer is required and it results in a more detailed data exchange between CAD (development) and CAM (production). One point must be mentioned. Transforming a poor layout to the new format will not make it better! The DFM work (design for manufacturing) and the effort required to optimize a design to production and quality criteria remains the same, regardless of the data format.
The question whether to use ODB++ or IPC-2581 remains. Basically, both data formats are suitable for exchange from CAD to CAM. "So far,
it has been shown that ODB++ has a larger share of the market to date. All popular CAD and CAM systems have interfaces for it. It must
be said, however, the IPC-2581 is fairly new, so we were able to gather less experience for this," Kaufhold sasd. "No matter what data
formats our customers want to use in the future, we are prepared for any case."