While Michael Ford discusses the benefits of IPC-2581 in Industry 4.0, Hemant Shah from Cadence talks about the advantages of this standard over older ones, like Gerber and ODB++.
The advantages of IPC-2581:
- IPC-2581 is a combination of GenCAM and ODB++.
- This standard offers is intelligent data in your design.
- It supports sending fabrication data only to your PCB manufacturer.
- With IPC-2581, you go from design data handoff to all the way to the factory floor.
0:10 What is happening with IPC-2581?
A lot of good things are happening with IPC-2581. So a few years ago when we first came to PCB West, the number of people that knew about IPC-2581 was very few. These last two, three years, everybody who comes to our booth knows about IPC-2581, and is interested in the progress of the adoption of IPC-2581.
So today, there are many companies that use IPC-2581 to hand off their design to manufacturing. And they’ve reported that that process is very easy and very efficient for them.
0:49 Are the ECAD tools able to output IPC-2581 in a reasonable manner?
Yes. All of the ECAD tools output IPC-2581, so that’s the great news. All the vendors do it. We also have companies that do analysis that import and export IPC-2581. We have companies that have PLM software; they import and export IPC-2581. We also have software companies that support the manufacturing space; they also import and export IPC-2581.
So DFM companies, EDA companies, analysis companies, testing companies… All of them support IPC-2581.
1:29 What are the advantages of IPC-2581 over older generic standards, like GenCAM or ODB++?
So the majority of the people today, believe it or not, use Gerbers.
I would contrast it to Gerbers. So, 80-plus percent, probably 90-plus percent of the people today, use Gerbers. Gerber is a format that was first conceived in the 1980s, and it has evolved a little bit; 274X has come out and it’s gotten better. But it is a photoplot format. It is artwork, essentially.
There’s no intelligence in it. What IPC-2581 offers is intelligent data. You have intelligent data in your design, and there’s no need for you to dumb it down into artwork to then give it to somebody else that has to reverse engineer that into intelligent data to then go fabricate the board or assemble the board.
What IPC-2581 offers is an intelligent transport and handoff of design data to manufacturing so that the intelligence is preserved, the relationships between elements that are required to manufacture boards are preserved.
2:31 ODB++ can also be used for that.
Correct. OBB++ is also an intelligent format. In fact, the advantages of IPC-2581 is that it was actually created with the combination of GenCAM and ODB++. ODB++ donated their standard to IPC, and what came out was a better standard IPC-2581, which is a super set of ODB++ and GenCAM. So that’s one part.
The second part is that ODB++ is a proprietary format, so if you’re not a customer, a paying customer of ODB++ or their tools, you are not likely to get the same level of support that you would need to address your issues if you ran into any issues. That tells me that it’s not the standard; it is a format for a particular company’s CAD tool.
3:28 How are IPC-2581 and people who are behind it going to keep up with the improvements?
That’s a great question. IPC-2581 is an IPC standard. Proprietary formats come and go for a period of time. A lot of different formats come and go. IPC is an institute that is there to create and promote standards, or make it more efficient for people to work, right? So it is more likely to survive over a period of time.
Second piece is we created IPC-2581 Consortium to do exactly what you’re asking for, which is to find ways of improving the format, do it in an open manner, and do it in a collective manner. And what the Consortium has is a complete supply chain. It’s a PCB design and manufacturing supply chain. So you have OEMs, design houses. You have software vendors and manufacturing companies. You have all kinds of companies in there that are coming up with a good standard.
And I’ll give you an example of what we did as a consortium – it is something that nobody else did in a very short period of time – we created a version of IPC-2581 that exchanges stack-up in IPC-2581 format. So the only format available today to exchange stack-up is IPC-2581. And this was the invention of the Consortium companies, and this is an example of how collaboration works beautifully for the benefit of the industry instead of one company.
4:59 What should designers know about the advantages IPC-2581?
IPC-2581 has all of the data that you need to manufacture a board. So a designer today has to integrate the Gerber files, the drill file, the netlist file, and all of the different instructions that you have are created in multiple different file formats, and they have to be correlated. If a designer was creating an output format, he gets interrupted, and he forgets to output a file or he changes the design and doesn’t re-enter the files, then the dataset sent to the manufacturer will be inconsistent and it will be the designer’s fault, right?
So if the designer makes a mistake, the designer has to pay for it. The designer’s company has to pay for it. It’s the same thing when you pass it on to a manufacturer. If a manufacturer makes a mistake in reverse engineering that dataset, the manufacturer pays for it.
And there’s no need to do this because you’re going from intelligent data in your board to intelligent set up on your manufacturing floor. Why to dumb down that information? There’s no need to. Push a button, create an output in IPC-2581, and send it to your manufacturer. If you’re wanting to send only fabrication data, IPC-2581 supports that. If you want to send just the assembly data, IPC-2581 supports it. Just test data, you can do that.
6:28 What are the advantages of IPC-2581 when it comes to intelligent testing?
All of the data required for testing is included in the test data. So not just the netlist; anything else that’s associated with the test pads, etc., all of that is included in IPC-2581.
It’s defined. From your design, it takes it and puts it in IPC-2581.
Whatever your CAD tools support for testing instructions and testing data, that is transferred. It doesn’t invent anything new out of that, but it makes it easy for you to transfer the test intend in electronics.
IPC-2581 is a way for you to communicate your intent. Whatever you have to do in your native tools to create that intent will still exist. And tools will be different. Some tools do it easy, some do it difficult, right? So whatever you’re doing or creating design intent or testing intent in this case, that same thing will exist but IPC-2581 enables that data to be transferred easily.
7:24 Are the schematics information completely there?
The netlist data is the format and is completely there. Cadence is there. Bill of materials is there. So you have everything to manufacture your board with any variations that you want.
7:37 Are there any specific guidelines designers should follow to make the data their own?
Every tool has a different sequence of steps that they follow to output the data. For Cadence, we asked the Consortium members who’ve used Allegro to output IPC-2581, we asked them to document it. It’s a simple one-page sequence of steps. Here are the steps you take to produce IPC-2581. Very simple format.
And we went to the Consortium members because they have done it, it’s proven, and they’re doing it on a daily basis.
8:06 What was the reaction of other ECAD toolmakers in the Consortium?
It’s a very interesting chemistry there. We are competitors in the field but when we work in the Consortium, we are working towards the same goal of making design data handoff very smooth, and making IPC-2581 the best possible standard out there. Very good collaboration.
8:27 And on the manufacturing side?
That’s an interesting question. IPC-2581 was always intended to go from design data handoff to all the way to the factory floor. What we are doing is working with the IPC-connected factory exchange standard to enable the smart factories of tomorrow. And my colleague, Michael Ford can talk a lot about that and how that’s enabled and how IPC-2581 fits into it.