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ODB++ vs. Gerber, what is the best solution?

Is it better ODB++ or Gerber file, for sending PCB design data to manufacturing? There should be no doubt about the answer because ODB++ is the format officially indicated by IPC standards and recommended by all software manufacturers. Yet most electronic designers still rely on the old dear Gerber file, probably out of habit. But it is a costly habit, because of the inefficiency involved in adopting an obsolete standard like Gerber, which contains nothing but the geometry of the PCB layout.

The ODB++ standard created by Valor Computerized System LTD in 1992, is a common language of the public domain, totally free and free to use. In 2008 ODB++ has been approved as the only official standard by IPC for data exchange in the electronic supply chain. All the CADs present today on the market can generate this format for free for their users, which all the major production applications can and must manage, thus removing any possible ambiguity in the interpretation of the data, often a source of misunderstanding and errors.

Structure of an ODB++ file

ODB++ data is stored in a hierarchy of data and folders, as in the diagram below.

ODB++ format structure

This structure is compressed into a single file with a .tgz extension for submission, but the current IPC 2581 standard requires that the database be contained by default in a single XML file.

Advantages of the ODB++ format

Using the ODB++ format has several important advantages, which can be summarized as follows:

  • is a public domain, IPC-certified format;
  • guarantees security in data transfer and interpretation;
  • is a transversal format with respect to all PCB and assembly manufacturers;
  • integrates information not included with classic production sets:
    • layer stackup;
    • netlist;
    • variants and unassembled components;
    • panel information;
    • complex drilling structures.
  • Free viewers are available, at odbplusplus.com/design/.

In addition, because the format is open, you have total control of what design content to exclude from the data package when the ODB++ output is generated and protect your IP.

To get direct information on how to best use the ODB++ format to send your project into production, you can contact our technical support.

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