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68 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I FEBRUARY 2018 Hemant Shah and Ed Acheson CADENCE DESIGN SYSTEMS The IPC-2581 format was created in the early 2000s with the merger of two competing for- mats: ODB++ and GENCAM. The new for- mat, the brainchild of the late Dieter Bergman, languished with no adoption until 2011, when a small group of companies created the IPC- 2581 Consortium with the goal of getting this open, neutral and intelligent format adopted. Today, the consortium consists of more than 90 corporate member companies with a sin- gle goal: migrate PCB design handoff from an assortment of unintelligent photoplot data to a single, intelligent file. Members from all elec- tronics industry segments—design, manufac- turing and supply chain—have collaborated to create an open format that also supports stack- up data exchange between design houses and their fabrication partners. Fabricators and assembly houses have reported that using a single file results in a 30% time savings compared to using multiple Ger- ber files and many other similar file formats. PCB designers and their partners are breathing a sigh of relief knowing that IPC-2581 elimi- nates the risks of mismatched data on both sides of the design process. The consortium has been growing steadily in recent years. Its membership now includes more than 100 associate members in addition to its more than 90 corporate members, who represent a variety of PCB design and supply chain companies: • PCB ECAD companies, including Altium, Cadence, Mentor, Zuken, ADIVA, DownStream Technologies, and WISE Software • EMS companies, contract manufacturers, and fabrication companies • Companies that provide software to EMS, fabrication and contract manufacturers, including AEGIS, Cimnet, Direct Logix, Easy Logix, GraphiCode, and Polar Instruments • And, of course, IPC What's Wrong with Current Approaches? Today, the single-most commonly used for- mat for fabricating the board is Gerber. This for- mat was first introduced in the 1980s (almost four decades ago!). It was updated along the way—RS-274X in 1998 and X2 in 2014—but has not kept up with industry demands for reducing the risk of handing off inconsistent data to manufacturing partners. The GerberX2 format allows metadata to be added to the file, but doesn't convey all the necessary informa- tion to successfully manufacture and assemble a design. With the Gerber X2 format, multiple

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