Ucamco Launches XNC PCB Drill Data Format


Reading time ( words)

From CAD development to CAM engineering processes, existing NC drill data CAD-CAM transfer processes are deeply flawed due to the use of inappropriate data format specifications. The simplest solution would be to use the Gerber format to transfer drill data instead of NC formats. But old habits die hard: for decades, drill information has been transferred using formats such as Excellon that are similar to the 1985 IPC-NC349 specification, and a lot of legacy software is still in use, so NC files will be with us for a while.

The problem is that so many NC files are of deplorable quality. This is because the NC format, designed as a machine driver rather than for data transfer, contains all sorts of information that is confusing and irrelevant for CAD-CAM. Not least for the CAD software developer, whose job it is to wade through overcomplicated formats and pick the parts that could serve the CAD-CAM data transfer process, inevitably including more than necessary, thereby adding further confusion, for fear of missing out on important elements.

Despite the developers’ best efforts, it’s not always clear how to use parts of the NC formats or if they are even capable of transferring certain data. CAD users will simply leave these parts out of their Excellon files and express the relevant information as sidecar information in comments, or in separate text files. 

The biggest problem with current NC specifications is that, thanks to an ages-old space-saving convention, the drilling co-ordinates lack a decimal point. In Excellon files, there is no standard for saying where it should be. Similarly there is no standard for expressing whether the designs are in imperial or metric measurements. All of which places the final responsibility on the CAM engineer to try different iterations until the drill files fit with the copper files.

The first step towards improving the NC drill chaos is to develop a simple, clear specification based on an existing format that can be read by all decent PCB drill input software. To this end, some of the world’s leading CAD software houses, including Ucamco, KiCad and Pentalogix, have together developed the CAD/CAM Exchange NC format (XNC), a complete, compact and unequivocal subset of IPC-NC-349 that transfers CAD/CAM drill information without the need for additional sidecar files. And they’ve added to this the power of Gerber-type attributes which provide machine-readable metadata on complete files, tools or individual holes, that describe their characteristics in a standard, flexible way. XNC files can be added seamlessly to Gerber X2 data sets, while also ensuring that the format is compatible with software that does not read attributes.

With XNC, CAD developers can create output software easily and quickly, using formats that are already well known but without having to choose from a bewildering array of possibilities and functionalities, or reverse engineer from multiple incomplete and confusing NC files. Its designers guarantee that if CAD developers limit themselves to using just the XNC format, they will give their clients exactly what they need: a tight, unequivocal problem-free specification that will improve the CAD-CAM data transfer process overnight, and an NC reference that paves the way to a common standard for NC files.

Share




Suggested Items

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

01/20/2023 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
We’re in the middle of show season, and it certainly “shows.” Thank you very much. I’m here all week. Don’t forget to tip your wait staff. This week, we published a variety of articles, columns, and news items, and much of it centered on trade shows. Technical Editor Dan Feinberg brings us a report from CES 2023. IPC announced the winners of the Best Technical Paper awards for IPC APEX EXPO 2023. And we have an interview with Altium’s Rea Callender about the company’s educational efforts at APEX and around the globe.

Altium Focuses on Design Education

01/16/2023 | I-Connect007 Editorial Team
Altium keeps its eyes on the designers of the future. The company has been working with colleges and universities for years, providing free seats of Altium Designer for the next generation of PCB designers and design engineers. At IPC APEX EXPO 2023, Altium will be providing software for the finalists in the IPC Design Competition just as it did last year. They offer a variety of other educational programs as well, including Upverter classes and a design competition that aims to address environmental change. Here, Rea Callender, Altium’s VP of education, discusses its educational programs and plans for the week of the show.

The Battle of the Boards

01/12/2023 | Patrick Crawford, IPC
Last year, IPC held its first-ever design competition at IPC APEX EXPO in San Diego. PCB designers from around the world competed in a series of heats during the months before the show, culminating in a showdown on the show floor between the top three finalists. Rafal Przeslawski, now with AMD, took home the top prize last year. This year, the competition is back for its sophomore year. I asked Patrick Crawford, manager of design standards and related programs for IPC, to “layout” the details on the design contest, including lessons learned in 2022 and what’s new for the 2023 competition.



Copyright © 2023 I-Connect007 | IPC Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.