Major Major and Standard Standard

We ask for your bill of materials, Gerber and centroid files to assemble your PCBs. All those pieces of information are necessary to properly program our machines to place your parts. That’s pretty standard stuff, but did you know that when the Gerber format reference book was first published, Jimmy Carter was President of the United States, Russia was the “Soviet Union” and Voyager 1 was well inside the Solar System?

Use of the format has been going on even longer. Yeah. It’s been around a while. For some reason, it has been very difficult to get everyone to agree to and use a standard file format. Gerbers really don’t have enough information in them to do the job properly, but it is the standard. Hopefully not for too much longer. How many of you reading this were even born when Gerber was new?

There are a number of formats around that are better than gerber and Screaming Circuits will accept many of them. First, your CAD software probably will export an “ASCII CAD file”. This is a good format. Some export ODB++, which is one of the newer formats, again a good choice. One of the newest standards is the IPC-2581. It’s been around a few years and is now getting a lot of attention. If you happen to use Eagle CAD, you can also send us the Eagle “.brd” file.

IPC-2581 includes the best of ODB++ and GenCAM. It has all of the fab data, assembly data, netlist and BOM. Everything needed in one convenient file. My understanding of the format is that you can exclude portions of the data set that you consider proprietary. You can learn more about the format here. There’s more background information on the subject at PCD&F magazine.

Duane Benson
Where’s Henry?
I need an inductor.

3 thoughts on “Major Major and Standard Standard

  1. Dieter Bergman has been championong this format for years, now Mentor has got hold of Valor and control of the ODB++ spec, we again have incentive to achieve a global spec. Now all we require are the ability to output the format, free viewers and front end and assembly software that will import the format.
    Please support 2581.

  2. The IPC2581 Consortium ( is a great place to start. Our charter is “to accelerate the adoption of IPC-2581 as an open, neutrally maintained global standard to encourage innovation, improve efficiency and reduce costs. The members of the consortia will openly support and promote the adoption and usage of IPC-2581 by enabling their products, offerings and services to import/export/consume IPC-2581.”

    We have a number of initiatives already under development and in test to move this long standing vision into production use in the industry.

  3. I see Mentor is supposedly “opening up” the ODB++ standard now. I guess that’s just a coicidence they are doing that now, when IPC-2581 is gaining some steam?

Comments are closed.