What about the design quality?

An interesting piece of editorial flashed across my screen this morning, from a PCB fabricator explaining why intelligent formats such as ODB++ are better for everybody as compared to Gerber (meaning not just the late-lamented RS274D, but also the latest derivatives). Take a look:-

http://www.pcdandf.com/pcdesign/index.php/editorial/menu-features/9464-a-new-generation-of-data-formats-for-pcb-production

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Mr Kaufhold’s message is his observation that “transforming a poor layout to the new format will not make it better! ” So, it’s not all about the data after all – the data also has to have well-created content verified by manufacturing-focused tools upstream at the design stage. Well said, Mr Kaufhold! The success-formula at manufacturing hand-off is 50% intelligent, integrated data, and 50% product-manufacturability. Really? Who says? Maybe it is 60%/40%, or 80%/20%? Who wants to take a stand on that?

In the end, this is the great challenge of the new-product introduction business process for PCBs – to run a coherent flow that generates highly manufacturable designs before making the output to the manufacturing-process engineers. How to do that in an outsourced manufacturing environment with a variety of software tools from multiple vendors all the way down the line? Is that the argument for continuing to use Gerber – after all, intelligent data is problematic, no? – better to keep it simple and leave it up to the manufacturers to reconstruct your product-model… -surely some mistake there-….. Or, take a different approach – work with design and manufacturing tools that have an established track record with an intelligent format, and a format for which there is a wide range of supporting tools, and give the manufacturers something that can be taken directly to manufacturing process preparation!

With over a million PCB designs processed into manufacturing using ODB++ since the format was invented, and more than 8000 members of the ODB++ Solutions Alliance, maybe it is time to organize a “cyber-flashmob” event to remind all those traditionalists out there that there is a better way. Not just intelligent, but manufacturable also please!