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To get some feedback from a PCB prototype manufacturer about design data formats, we asked Matt Stevenson, Sunstone’s VP of sales and marketing, to weigh in. As Matt explains, his company is equally at home using Gerber or ODB++, but it’s not the fabricator’s job to convince customers to use one data format over another. In the end, you should use the format that gives you the best results.
Andy Shaughnessy: I know that Sunstone Circuits deals with more than one type of design data format. What’s your overall take on design data formats?
Matt Stevenson: Yes. Sunstone is a PCB manufacturer, so our view on data formats is mainly from the manufacturing and CAM processing standpoint. Our primary goal is to receive files that are accurate and well-defined. Most of our CAM processes were set up to automate Gerber files. ODB++ files are showing that they can be easily adapted to our process. We are not seeing much in terms of the IPC-2581 format and have not been able to evaluate their effectiveness and adaptability to our process.
Shaughnessy: What features do you value the most about ODB++?
Stevenson: When loading into CAM software, there is a single ODB++ file as opposed to multiple files in a zip file, with potentially hundreds of different naming conventions. When importing, all the layers come in predefined, the stackup is already present, and the drill files aligned, so it makes it easier in CAM and eliminates the guesswork.
Shaughnessy: What benefits do you get from utilizing ODB++?
Stevenson: From a CAM standpoint there is really no difference between this data format and Gerber once it’s loaded, but it does make it easier to get all the data identified, aligned, and ready to begin the CAM tooling process.
Shaughnessy: What is ODB’s value-add for your customers?
Stevenson: As long as it’s configured correctly at the design end, ODB++ contains needed assembly drawings that aid in the assembly process.
Shaughnessy: How would you convince reluctant customers to use ODB++?
Stevenson: I don’t feel its CAM’s job to try to convince a customer into changing what they are comfortable with. I would point out there are benefits to the assembly house in using ODB++, but if they are comfortable with what they are using, and we have no manufacturing problems with the designs, it works just as well for both of us if they continue with what they are currently using, as long as our CAM software is able to support it. If they are using something we can’t support, then I would definitely recommend they give ODB++ a try for the reasons I’ve stated.
To read this entire conversation, which appeared in the October 2021 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.