ODB++ Design is a major step beyond traditional data exchange between PCB design and the PCB manufacturing process. Significant improvements in product quality, PCB fabrication and assembly time, and time-to-market can be achieved using the intelligent data format of ODB++ Design as compared to commonly-used formats such as Gerber. ODB++ Design is a manufacturing oriented PCB product-model data format, containing all data necessary to fabricate, assemble, and test in a single file structure. Thousands of PCBs are engineered for manufacturing using ODB++ Design each year — more than any format but Gerber — making it the de facto standard for intelligent PCB data exchange. Frontline strongly recommends ODB++ data as the best practice method to introduce PCB designs into the fabrication process. Frontline’s leading position in PCB CAM and engineering solutions, coupled with the widespread use of ODB++ Design compatible CAD tools at the design level means customers can be confident that ODB++ Design will be supported and improved to meet emerging technological challenges as they arise.
The ODB++ Design format is an open, ASCII file structure that was conceived by Valor, now Mentor, more than 15 years ago and has been accepted and proven at thousands of companies worldwide. You have total control of what content, if any, to exclude from the data package at compile time. In addition, the ODB++ Design Solutions Alliance program openly supports inclusion of ODB++ Design and updates for other EDA tool vendors, and is open to the entire PCB industry.
Since its conception in the mid-1990s, the format has been continuously improved to meet the evolving needs of PCB designers, fabricators, and assemblers. Among the latest enhancements currently being planned:
All first-tier and the vast majority of second-tier manufacturing suppliers (fabrication and assembly) are ready to receive ODB++ Design into the CAM and pre-production engineering process. All the main suppliers of manufacturing CAD/CAM tools are ODB++ Design compatible.
All of your PCB design-customers have access to ODB++ Design viewing or checking tools to verify that the data is complete, optimized and contains all required data, not more, not less, before hand off to you for fabrication. By partnering with your customers to switch to ODB++ Design you will share the benefits of time savings and reduction of quality risks. If you would like to know more about how to manage the process of changing over to ODB++ Design ask your support representative or the community at the ODB++ Design Solutions Alliance.
Most CAD systems include an ODB++ Design output capability free of charge, so no investment is required from your customers. In addition, they can also expect to save time by reducing the range of files they have to produce at the back end of the design process.
ODB++ Design provides an intelligent, single data-structure for transferring PCB designs into fabrication, assembly and test. All the time and resources wasted in generating complex collections of files of multiple formats and then re-integrating that data at entry to manufacturing is saved by implementing an intelligent ODB++ Design design-through-manufacturing flow. As well as saving time and money, risks to quality are reduced across the supply chain.
ODB++ Design interfaces are generally free of charge, updated from time to time by the CAD/CAM vendor. The format specification is available to end-users and partners via the ODB++ Design Solutions Alliance.
ODB++ Design was first introduced in 1995, since when it has been implemented by PCB design and manufacturing organizations both large and small, globally. Every year thousands of PCB designs are processed by thousands of design and manufacturing engineers in ODB++ Design format – what better proof of ODB++ Design’s fitness for practical industrial application?
Ever since introduction, ODB++ Design has been supported by an active community of CAD and CAM tool vendors, via an open, inclusive partnering program. Since Valor, the original organization behind ODB++ Design, became part of Mentor Graphics, ODB++ Design partnering is now supported by an even stronger organization that is equally dedicated to maximizing the continuing support for ODB++ Design by as many partners as possible.
ODB++ Design was first introduced into the PCB fabrication industry in 1995. Since then it has been enhanced to cover the needs of the PCB assembly industry, with many additional refinements being added along the way. Currently at revision 8 of the format definition, further enhancements are in the planning stage based on the communicated needs of thousands of users.
1. Is ODB++ Design available to the whole industry?
Yes, ODB++ Design is available to all, both in terms of the format definition and implemented via commercially available interfaces and CAD/CAM tools. This is how it has been for over 15 years and will continue as such. Software vendors who want to implement the format in their commercial CAD/CAM products can gain access via the ODB++ Design Solutions Alliance; designers and manufacturers who want to understand the detail of the format can either view the native data in their applications or get a copy of the format specification by applying to the format custodian, or both.
2. Is ODB++ Design a standard?
In terms of a formal standard published by a standards-institution, no. However, ODB++ fits the category of de facto standard in the best tradition of formats and technologies that have reached “in effect” recognition as standards through high levels of adoption in day-to-day operations. Other examples of de facto standards are Adobe’s PDF format, the USB interface from Intel, Microsoft and others, the Excellon NC format in the PCB industry, and Microsoft’s Windows OS, to name just a few.
3. Who should implement ODB++ Design, and why?
ODB++ Design can take a lot of cost, time-delay, and quality risk out of the PCB design-to-manufacturing transfer. By eliminating the need to work with multiple low-level files between PCB design and manufacturing, a lot of data manipulation is avoided and the fabrication and assembly process engineering work can begin faster and at a more automated level. Thus the designer gets his PCBs manufactured faster with lower supply chain risk, and the manufacturers reduce their operational costs.
4. Which CAD systems can support ODB++ Design output?
All of the well-known CAD vendors have ODB++ outputs. In most cases these interfaces are created and maintained via the OSA partnering program either in its current or previous forms.
5. Can all manufacturers accept ODB++ Design?
The overwhelming majority (around 80%) of PCBs are fabricated through ODB++ Design compatible engineering processes. For assembly, the top-10 largest EMS companies are fully ODB++ Design compatible, and more than half of the top-50, and the number is growing steadily.
6. Does ODB++ Design control the designer’s intellectual property?
This is more of a question of the CAD/CAM tools rather than the format itself. ODB++ Design can carry net names, inner layer information, and component data up to the level you feel appropriate for transmission into manufacturing, according to how you use your CAD or DFM tool to create and manage the data. The intention of ODB++ Design is to give all possible information to manufacturing, in an intelligent and integrated data-structure, enabling the most efficient manufacturing.
7. Who owns the ODB++ Design format?
The format was invented by Valor Computerized Systems in 1995 and, following their acquisition by Mentor Graphics, ownership of the format was transferred accordingly. Mentor is committed to developing and maintaining the availability of ODB++ Design into the future, based on the same strategy as Valor in the early days of the format’s history.
8. How will ODB++ Design be maintained for the future?
The format is currently at revision-7, with an update (revision-8) in the planning phase now. The format is developed to meet the emerging needs of the PCB interconnect industry on an evolutionary basis, according to the feedback from the thousands of users worldwide. The approach to implementation is “bottom-up”, to ensure smooth transitions to deriving the value from the new versions of the format. First the format is implemented in the manufacturing tools, and only when leading manufacturers have become ready to work with the latest ODB++ Design version are the ODB++ output processors upgraded in the design systems.
1. Attributes (surface finish, impedance, plugged vias, etc.) — how can that be handled by ODB++ Design?
.The ODB++ Design format enables the association of characteristics to data elements up and down the entire structure. This is typically done through the use of attributes. There are two types of attributes: system and user. System attributes are those that are defined as part of the ODB++ Design format. For example, there is an attribute “Capped Via” within the format definition for plugged vias. There are many other existing attributes already defined to support product model completeness. In addition, the user can define attributes expanding the ODB++ Design attribute definition independently of the format itself. This enables the transfer of design-related information not only internally, but with suppliers that are aware of these attributes and their meaning.
2. Pos/neg merging — Can it be handled by ODB++ Design?
Yes, the very definition of ODB++ Design was created to support the merging of historical Gerber 274D/X data into single layers.
3. Is ODB++ Design suitable for RF (Rigid – Flex)?
Yes, the ODB++ Design format has the ability to transfer RF product models into manufacturing.
4. Does ODB++ Design “contain” drawings? Are drawings needed? How will the inspection process work if there are no drawings?
The ODB++ Design data structure can carry any drawings that you may generate. But overall, the strategy of ODB++ Design is to contain all data that is normally contained in drawings but to carry it embedded in the product-model itself as intelligent interlinked data. After that, it becomes a matter for your CAM or DFM software as to how to render that data for any purpose, including inspection. Having said that, if you want to generate drawings from the ODB++ Design core-data, you can do that too. In the end, we see the drawings as a potential output from the ODB++ Design data, not the other way around.
5. With ODB++ Design, how would a designer deliver a reference netlist to his fabricator? Today he sends IPC356; would he have to continue to do that?
The ODB++ Design format contains the EDA reference netlist as part of the ODB++ Design format. There is no need for an IPC 356 file as long as the ODB++ Design has been comprehensively generated by the CAD system. To protect IP, some applications provide a means to neutralize the net names into numerical nets. This conveys the conductivity requirements without exposing design-specific net names. In addition, unlike Gerber where all copper features are really unrelated, ODB++ Design copper features, drills, etc. are all tagged with the assigned net name. This greatly improves communication between the designer and suppliers when problems are located.
1. What is the best way to plan to implement ODB++ Design between the design flow and the manufacturer? What are the steps to follow? What can go wrong, and how can I ensure that I do it right?
At a high level, the steps to moving from traditional CAM files based transfer to an intelligent ODB++ Design data exchange flow begins first with your organization committing to make the change. Similar to any other process improvement, the internal commitment must come first. It is too easy to fall back on old habits. Once the internal commitment is made, you need to inform and get the commitment of your suppliers to participate in your plan to improve the data exchange process. Imposing these changes on suppliers may result in failure just through misunderstanding. Instead, agreeing together that, for the better of the overall process, moving to intelligent ODB++ Design will simplify the transfer of the product model into manufacturing is essential to success. Now to begin actual implementation. To be sure that your organization is comfortable with the ODB++ Design exchange, it is advisable to establish a process of checking the ODB++ Design against the files currently produced by your existing methods. Some CAD output processors or DFM solutions have the ability to compare the ODB++ Design to the traditional data exchange process automatically. Performing either of this operation will increase your organization’s confidence in the ODB++ Design process.
2. How many ODB++ Design users are there worldwide?
We estimate that about 80% of the world’s PCBs are fabricated with CAM systems that accept ODB++ as the primary format, thus eliminating the need to reverse-engineer the product data at the manufacturing level. For PCB assembly and test, over half of the top-50 contract manufacturers worldwide, and all of the top-10, are ODB++ Design compatible in their engineering processes.
3. Are there differences between how ODB++ Design is used in software tools from different suppliers?
Certainly; the same goes for every data format out there. The way the data is used is controlled by the software (CAD, CAM, DFM, etc). The key point in favor of ODB++ Design here is that there is a partnering program available to support all software vendors in best-practice implementation of the format. All software vendors are welcome to join the ODB++ Design Solutions Alliance partnering program to ensure that the ODB++ Design format is properly understood and implemented in the best way possible. If you know of a software vendor whose ODB++ Design interface needs improvement, please ask the vendor to get in contact with the OSA partnering program – they will be welcomed.
4. In the future, will the old-style formats like Gerber and Excellon still be needed? If so, why? If somebody still needs Gerber, can they output it from ODB++ Design?
If all manufacturing software in the design-manufacturing chain is ODB++ Design compatible, and all designers only send ODB++ Design to their manufacturers, then there will be no need to output Gerber and Excellon from CAD systems anymore. But Gerber and Excellon will always be extractable from an ODB++ Design file by using conversion software – just as most CAM systems can read ODB++ Design and output Gerber today. But, to emphasize the point – there will be no need to do that if all manufacturers can accept ODB++ Design.
5. What are the reasons why a company might not use ODB++ Design? What stops them?
The most common reason is lack of knowledge about the opportunity to switch over to ODB++ Design, or lack of knowledge how to do it. That usually results in “playing it safe” and sticking with the old tried-and-tested methods (the time consuming and risky method of Gerber/Excellon/Netlist, etc.).