ODB ‘Partners’ Up

After the IPC-2581 Consortium was founded to support the move from Gerber, it was only a matter of time before Mentor responded with a similar group to push its own format, ODB++.

Today, that measure was officially announced, with some 18 companies among the initial partners in what is being called the ODB++ Solutions Alliance.

Astute readers will notice many of the same companies are publicly supporting both formats. It will be interesting to see how that unfolds, given concerns by some of Mentor’s competitors about the advantage it gains with its hold on the ODB++ format.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (pcea.net). He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow

8 thoughts on “ODB ‘Partners’ Up

    Made my day.
    I didn’t think (tor)Mentor was going to let ODB++ die. Good luck to Senor 2581.

  2. I remember old wars Video2000, beta and VHS. The engine of the world is not progress but greed

  3. This is not good for PCB design.
    We need an open format for our PCB fabrication and assembly data:
    Not a format that is regulated and controlled by one company for their commercial gain (no decent free viewers!!! VUV!!!), or a rival format supported by other companies.
    All this uncertainty is going to do is make Gerber a more reliable bet, and slow down the development of a critical area of PCB design, that needs to move forward.
    For the record I use ODB++ because of it ease of use and reliability of data transfer, BUT i fully support the fight for a OPEN format for PCB data transfer.
    So lets put the dummy’s back in the pram and work out a solution that benefits PCB design, and us poor guys on the firing lines doing the day to day designs.

  4. It doesn’t take long to know that this would be coming when IPC-2581 consortium was founded after Valor was bought by Mentor.

    I would say this would even create more uncertainty for end-users since they would not which format would be the better once as the “wait-and-see” attitude would prevail.

    Similar to the format war between Sony and JVC (Betamax vs. VHS) as well as the recent one which is between Sony and Toshiba (Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD), the winner of the war would be decided by the functionality of the format as well as it’s wide adoption.

    At the moment, IPC-2581 consortium had a distinct advantage by having free viewers to view the file. While it is a format still yet to be widely adopted at the moment of this writting as compared to ODB++, only time will tell when there would be a clear-cut winner in this war.

    The other thing needs to be clarified is that why Cadence and Zuken (whom both had pushed for the implementation of IPC-2581 as an open neutral format) are listed as partners in the ODB++ Solutions Alliance website? Mentor has made it clear that they would only be supporting ODB++ (and not IPC-2581) but why the ambiguity from Cadence and Zuken?


  5. @KC, it’s clear that the CAD and CAM vendors not named Mentor are hedging their bets. The important fact is that Gerber dominates data transfer format use. There are technical differences between IPC-2581 and ODB++, but both have been around in various forms for over a decade without significant market penetration. The reasonable question to ask is, why?

    Mentor had/will again offer a free viewer, so they are clearly moving to eliminate any advantage of IPC-2581 in that regard. Likewise, there is some external pressure for Mentor to join the IPC-2581 Consortium, and most 2581 supporters have for years been uncomfortable with the Valor model (which Mentor has continued) of having to supply their tools to Valor to write the translator, instead of the other way around. Moreover, given the concern by those same vendors that Mentor has an inherent advantage by owning both a large (although somewhat disputed) share of the PCB CAD market and the primary alternative to Gerber, there remains a strong incentive for Cadence, Zuken et al to keep pushing back. Finally, not all the CAM-related vendors have been accepted into the Mentor program, which suggests that a user’s CAM operators could be forced into using a different tool in order to use ODB.

  6. Hello Mike

    Thank you for the interesting information. I believed many designers (from industry veterans to the younger generation ones) hope that it would not degenerate into a long and costly format war that would inherently benefit no one be it end-users and vendors.

    However we know that sometimes strategic business decisions by CAD vendors may not go hand-in-hand with what designers/end-users truly wanted. Nevertheless with what you had just mentioned about Mentor officially supporting IPC-2581, I hope that Mentor would finally “see” the light and realised that a format war would be disastrous for everyone.

    That being said, from a business standpoint, Mentor has invested into ODB++ format and focused their efforts into that direction. Too much is at stake for them to discard ODB++ format entirely to go for IPC-2581.

    Perhaps there would be some sort of compromise such as having ODB++ and IPC-2581 to complement each other, allowing customers the flexibility of choosing which format to be used just like ODB++ which has been an alternative to RS-274D/X Gerber format before. It may sound far-fetched but let’s keep our fingers crossed.

    PCB designer of the younger generation and a user of Cadence, Mentor and Zuken

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