When it comes to the EDA world, there are as many ways to get manufacturing data out as there are tools. To make matters more difficult, many tools don’t have an easy way to export all of the data we need to automate the manufacturing of your designs. In the past, it’s been necessary to export what data you could and then manually massage spreadsheets to pull everything together we needed for automated assembly.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a single, unified format that all of these tools could use to communicate the data we need to manufacture PCBs? Well, there is – there are actually two unified formats: ODB++, and IPC-2581. IPC-2581 is an open standard developed by IPC, the organization for electronic industries, and ODB++ is a proprietary standard from Mentor Graphics. Normally we prefer fully open standards, but it turns out that IPC-2581 support in EDA tools is still fairly limited at this point, leaving ODB++ as the only commonly supported CAD-to-CAM data exchange format.
ODB++ Support in the MacroFab Platform
With today’s update to the platform, you can now upload compressed ODB++ files (either ZIP or TAR+gzip archives), and all information needed to manufacture your boards is automatically extracted or generated. Gerber files, layer count, bill of materials, and placement data. Just drag and drop the file your EDA tool exports into the project files tab, and the platform will work it out in a few seconds.
We have verified that Altium- and PADS-generated files can be fully processed to generate the PCB and bill of materials/placement data. Diptrace writes enough data to generate the PCB Gerbers, but not enough for bill of materials and placement. For Diptrace, you’ll still need to upload your Diptrace Ascii File, which we’ll automatically process to handle your bill of materials and placement data.
There are a lot of tools out there that can produce ODB++, and each may have their own quirks, so if you run into any issues with one of the EDA tools we haven’t discussed, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you taken care of!