It is difficult to say just how many manufacturing databases are available to PCB designers and manufacturers these days, but we can say without a doubt that Gerber and ODB++ have a very significant majority of the action. Gerber has long established itself as the industry standard when it comes to PCB manufacturing. While Gerber maintains a strangle hold of the PCB manufacturing world, ODB++ has been an impressive competitor. ODB++ has been very popular for their simpler and user-friendly format as well as being non-proprietary. Allowing users to use their own preferred tools to generate ODB++ is a great advantage. That is why at Bittele Electronics, we accept both ODB++ and Gerber files. While Gerber is the industry standard, we at Bittele recognizing ODB++ importance to hobbyist and those who choose to work with ODB++ for its format or it’s non-proprietary database.
Karel Tavernier of UCamco (parent company of Gerber) wrote in The PCB Magazine that as of 2016, 90% of the world’s PCB are manufactured using Gerber. This is the probably most significant data that illustrates just why Gerber is considered the industry standard. Gerber Scientific Instrument Company historically been the main producer of the photoplotters used for shooting film, back when mechanical vector type plotting was the only way to get accurate film masters. Their dominance in production combined with being most accurate files on hand lead them to Gerber becoming an industry standard. This is also why many manufacturers require customers have Gerber files or be able to convert files to Gerber in order to proceed to manufacturing. This unfortunately can prove to be a challenge for some.
In March 2017, Siemens, a company valued at $112 Billion US purchased Mentor for $4.5 Billion US. Mentor is the holder of ODB++, a non-proprietary database. While there has been mixed reaction to the acquisition news, this presented a significant opportunity for ODB++ to grow and not only compete against those on the same level but challenge an industry giant like Gerber. ODB++ can amount a significant challenge to Gerber with the backing of one of the largest companies in the world. ODB++ allows users the ability to use any tool to create ODB++ files giving flexibility to customers.
Over the past few years, there has been a lot of excitement among PCB fabricators and designers. This excitement rises from the industries progress and improvements when it comes to PCB design to manufacturing transitions. People in the PCB world essentially have 4 great options; Gerber RX-274X, Gerber X2, ODB++, or others. Gerber RX-274X is by far the most commonly used and relied on. It has proven to be a great tool and for many manufacturers it is the only way to fabricate PCB’s. Gerber X2 format is essentially an upgrade on RX-274X. The backward and forward compatible X2, is a great tool moving forward as it resolves most of the short coming many pointed out from RX-274X. One great example is the ability to attach attributes which will help manufactures in production by providing additional information. ODB++ is a great yet not very utilized tool in the PCB fabrication world. Mentor graphic’s Julian Coates and Gerber’s Karel Tavernier had an editorial debate comparing ODB++ and Gerber. This is a great article to read while trying to determine which format will best suit you as these two men do a great job both selling and pointing out flaws of each others format. One thing is for sure, PCB design to fabrication looks to be getting more and more exciting. For the past few years impressive growth and advancements have been made because of the strong competition by ODB++ and Gerber’s desire to remain an industry standard.
At Bittele electronics, we understand the importance of giving customers flexibility in the format the choose to work in. That is why we accept Gerber RX-274x, X2, and ODB++. While RX-274X remains our preferred format, we are happy to work with customers using ODB++ or X2. While there are many other proprietary format customers could use, the 3 present an overwhelming majority of PCB production. We value quality of our finished board is the most important thing to us, as such we believe working with Gerber RX-274X, X2, and OCB++ will result in the best and most accurate outcome.