First stage of a three-phase test plan is successfully completed.

Whenever a new technology is discovered, someone has to be first to try it. The PCB design and manufacturing business in particular expends a great deal of time and money to refine a process based on a new technology. Someone has to work out the kinks, discover misplaced assumptions, experience delays in first manufacturing runs; the list goes on. But when someone is the first to succeed, everyone learns by example – that is, if the initiator is willing to share their experience.

The IPC-2581 Consortium was organized by a group of companies committed to promoting the IPC-2581 standard for industry-wide adoption of an open, global, neutral format for transferring PCB design data to manufacturing. Within the IPC-2581 Consortium, a technical work group was created to validate the accuracy and completeness of IPC-2581 data produced by PCB CAD vendors. This group comprises a good cross-section of industry leaders providing expertise in the various domains that the IPC-2581 standard will support.

The first activity of the technical work group was to create a validation plan based on the three major areas of PCB production: bare board fabrication data, assembly data, and test data. Once the plans were put in place, an aggressive schedule was set for each of these three phases.

The first phase of the test plan was to validate bare-board fabrication data contained within the IPC-2581 single-file format. Phase I testing compared the IPC-2581 fabrication data against today’s existing export data formats (artwork, NC drill and NC route) for accuracy and completeness. Cadence and Zuken provided initial test cases from internal designs, followed by real design data from IPC-2581 Consortium members NVIDIA and Fujitsu. Tools provided by ADIVA, DownStream Technologies, EasyLogix, and Wise Software consumed the IPC-2581 data and ran comparisons against the artwork, drill, and route data.

At IPC Apex Expo in February, the IPC-2581 Consortium’s Technical Team was pleased to announce successful completion of Phase I, and demonstrated its progress to the IPC-2581 Standards Committee. Samples of the test data in IPC-2581 format can be downloaded from the Consortium website at

DownStream Technologies, EasyLogix and Wise provide free viewers (which can also be downloaded from the Consortium website) to view the sample design data.
The IPC-2581 Technical Team is diligently working on the next phases of validation – defining the details of required data, validation of that data, and working with the tool developers that will create and consume IPC-2581 data.

The IPC-2581 Technical Team also provides another benefit to the standard by identifying enhancements and new technology to be considered for adoption into the IPC-2581 standard. As the Technical Team continues to collaborate, we have a strong voice for the development and growth of the standard to meet the ever-changing challenges of the PCB and manufacturing industry.

Consortium membership, now at 27 companies, is growing with recent additions such as Polar Instruments, Qualcomm, Velux and Screaming Circuits. By sharing our experiences and our findings, the IPC-2581 Consortium is paving the way to broad adoption of the standard throughout the PCB community.

Visit the Consortium website to see the progress of the validation project. More important, join this design and supply chain company–based Consortium to support an open, neutral, global standard for efficient PCB design data transfer to manufacturing.

Edward B. Acheson is product engineer at Cadence Design Systems (; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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