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Time to Replace Gerber with IPC-2581 for PCB Design and Manufacturing

PCBONLINE Team

Wed, Mar 02, 2022

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It's time to replace Gerber with IPC-2581 for PCB designers and manufacturers. Since the Gerber format is widely used and can meet PCB manufacturing needs, why do we prefer IPC-2581? Because IPC 2581 has so many pros over Gerber. You can get in insight into IPC 2581 from the below content.

Part1: What is IPC 2581

The "new" PCB design data file format, IPC 2581, was released in 2004, together with the generic IPC DPMX standard for PCB and PCBA manufacturing. It is considered the best alternative to the Gerber file format and has gained popular uses worldwide.

All ECAD tools can output the IPC-2581 format, so it is a generic format like the Gerber format. Gerber (including 274X) is dumb, it is a graphic format without smart data. The IPC 2581 format is intelligent, its dataset includes stack-ups, netlist, traces, components, pins, vias. Using the IPC 2581 format, PCB manufacturers like PCBONLINE don't need to spend much time on CAM before manufacturing your PCB design.

import IPC-2581

Some people use another smart PCB design format, ODB++. However, ODB++ is not a generic format, only paid users of ODB-supported software can read and use ODB++ files. On the contrary, not only do all ECAD tools support IPC-2581, but also, you can download a free IPC-2581 file viewer from the IPC 2581 official website.

However, the PCB industry can sometimes be crazy conservative. Gerber is still a common format for both PCB designers and manufacturing houses.

Part 2: What Advantages does IPC 2581 Offer

The IPC 2581 format protects your data security, reduces the back-and-forth between you and PCB manufacturers, reduces the generation of numerous files for PCB manufacturing, assembly, testing, and lowers than chances of design negligence and misinterpretation.

The IPC-2581 PCB format offers you these advantages:

  • PCB design and CAM convenience - an IPC-2581 file is all-in-one. It contains all information necessary for PCB production, assembly, and tests. With the IPC 2581 format, you no longer need drill files when your design has buried/blind vias, pick-and-place coordinates (and sometimes drawings) when you need PCB assembly.
  • Data security - it's merely impossible to re-engineer the circuit design through only the Gerber file. Because IPC 2581 contains all smart data, you may worry about the data breach. It's unnecessary. The IPC 2581 format allows you to send only the stack-up data to manufacturers, and it's also hard to re-engineer from it.
  • Lower risk of miscommunication - the engineers from the manufacturing side will find IPC-2581 a superior method of importing PCB designs, including netlist and pick-and-place-coordinates, with much lower risks of miscommunication.
  • Versatility - from original electronic manufacturers (OEM), EDA software, electronic design solutions, PCB manufacturing, assembly, testing, a complete IPC-2581 supply chain has been built and is getting more and more members.
  • Smaller economic risk - without so many files for PCB drilling, assembly, testing, you won't miss any place and cause losses when you update your circuit, and on the manufacturing side, we also don't worry about DFM/CAM carelessness and cause economic losses.

Besides, the IPC-2581 allows bi-directional communication between your and PCB manufacturers.

Part 3: Will IPC-2581 Replace Gerber

It will. But it takes time.

The Gerber format has been put in use since the 1980s and is still used by most OEMS, solution companies, and PCB/PCBA manufacturers. Gerber RS-274X is widely used and its current version was released in 2014. (Yes, it was updated ten years after the IPC DPMX standard launched.)

The electrical and electronics industries have already gotten used to Gerber. It takes time for people to try new things and give up the old things that can still be used. But Gerber files are basically graphic files, and you still need to provide so many extra files for PCB drilling and assembly.

Technologies and products develop so rapidly, and Gerber can't be the end. Currently, IPC 2581 is the trend, and it will take place of Gerber one day.

Part 4: PCBONLINE Manufactures PCB/PCBA in the IPC-2581 Format

If you already use IPC-2581 for your PCB design and look for a one-stop PCB manufacturer that also uses this format, PCBONLINE is one of the most reliable manufacturers. PCBONLINE, founded in 1999, has two large advanced PCB manufacturing bases and one PCB assembly factory, and our quality management is ISO-certified. If you send us Gerber and want us to output IPC-2581, we can also do that.

Here are reasons for you to work with the PCB manufacturer PCBONLINE:

    • PCBONLINE can manufacture for both IPC-2581 and Gerber formats PCB designs.
    • Provide one-stop PCB services, including PCB manufacturing, PCB assembly, components sourcing, PCBA testing and end-product assembly.
    • ISO 9001, IPC, IATF 16949, RoHS, REACH, UL-certified PCB/PCBA quality management.
    • Offer one-on-one design/engineering support, free and professional.
    • DFM, DFT, and DFX are free from PCBONLINE. Complete PCBA sample and PCBA functional testing are free for batch PCBA orders.
    • We attach importance to both product quality and cost-effectiveness.

If you have any PCB needs, please feel free to send your IPC-2581 or Gerber to PCBONLINE by email at info@pcbonline.com.

Conclusion

The IPC 2581 format enables you to include all information necessary for PCB manufacturing and assembly, so it reduces communication between you and manufacturers. It is time to replace Gerber with IPC 2581 now. If you want a PCB manufacturer that deals with IPC 1581 designs, PCBONLINE will be a good option to choose. You can contact us and get a quote, it is fast and free.


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