Free Trials

Download a free trial to find out which Altium software best suits your needs

How to Buy

Contact your local sales office to get started on improving your design environment

Downloads

Download the latest in PCB design and EDA software

  • PCB DESIGN SOFTWARE
  • Altium Designer

    Complete Environment for Schematic + Layout

  • CircuitStudio

    Entry Level, Professional PCB Design Tool

  • CircuitMaker

    Community Based PCB Design Tool

  • NEXUS

    Agile PCB Design For Teams

  • CLOUD PLATFORM
  • Altium 365

    Connecting PCB Design to the Manufacturing Floor

  • COMPONENT MANAGEMENT
  • Altium Concord Pro

    Complete Solution for Library Management

  • Octopart

    Extensive, Easy-to-Use Component Database

  • PRODUCT EXTENSIONS
  • PDN Analyzer

    Natural and Effortless Power Distribution Network Analysis

  • See All Extensions
  • EMBEDDED
  • TASKING

    World-Renowned Technology for Embedded Systems Development

  • TRAININGS
  • Live Courses

    Learn best practices with instructional training available worldwide

  • On-Demand Courses

    Gain comprehensive knowledge without leaving your home or office

  • ONLINE VIEWER
  • Altium 365 Viewer

    View & Share electronic designs in your browser

  • Altium Designer 20

    The most powerful, modern and easy-to-use PCB design tool for professional use

    ALTIUMLIVE

    Annual PCB Design Summit

    • Forum

      Where Altium users and enthusiasts can interact with each other

    • Blog

      Our blog about things that interest us and hopefully you too

    • Ideas

      Submit ideas and vote for new features you want in Altium tools

    • Bug Crunch

      Help make the software better by submitting bugs and voting on what's important

    • Wall

      A stream of events on AltiumLive you follow by participating in or subscribing to

    • Beta Program

      Information about participating in our Beta program and getting early access to Altium tools

    All Resources

    Explore the latest content from blog posts to social media and technical white papers gathered together for your convenience

    Downloads

    Take a look at what download options are available to best suit your needs

    How to Buy

    Contact your local sales office to get started improving your design environment

    • Documentation

      The documentation area is where you can find extensive, versioned information about our software online, for free.

    • Training & Events

      View the schedule and register for training events all around the world and online

    • Design Content

      Browse our vast library of free design content including components, templates and reference designs

    • Webinars

      Attend a live webinar online or get instant access to our on demand series of webinars

    • Support

      Get your questions answered with our variety of direct support and self-service options

    • Technical Papers

      Stay up to date with the latest technology and industry trends with our complete collection of technical white papers.

    • Video Library

      Quick and to-the-point video tutorials to get you started with Altium Designer

    The Importance of Having A Modern PCB Manufacturing Data Format

    Happy Holden
    |  January 17, 2020

     I recently posted a BLOG on Altium about the latest eSmart Factory in New Hampshire. Using the latest in State-of-the-Art machinery and processes, it can produce near-perfect complex multilayers and HDI substrates with extremely fine geometries in only a few days, and without ever being helped or touched by human hands, all while and emitting nothing to harm the environment—zero effluents.

    Digitization for the Smart Factory

    This technology will shape the ways printed circuits are manufactured for years to come. The advantage it has with being an ‘All-Digital Smart Factory’ is also its potential weakness. There are no workers to read a particular recipe blueprint or adjust any machines! This is an “All-Digital-Smart-Factory” and it needs digital recipes for everything. Enter the IPC-2581 digital design communication program. As seen in Figure 1, the IPC-2581 program committee is creating a digital thread that will enable design tools to output a digital XML file that can drive the ‘Factory of the Future’ or the Smart Factory.

    data process flow chart
    FIGURE 1: Digitization of design characteristics for the Smart Factory. (Source: 2017 IPC APEX presentation)

    IPC-2581-the DMPC

    The evolving standard IPC-2581 is one reason that the IPC-CFX-2591 Standard was developed so rapidly. The design-to-manufacturing standard has been an IPC focus for nearly 30 years. The CAD-to-CAM data transfer has been one of multiple files, specifications and notes, as seen in Figure 28. First it was Gerber -> EDIF -> IPC-D-350 -> ODB -> GenCam -> ODB++ -> IPC-2541 -> GenCam 2.0 -> GenCamX -> IPC-2581A and now IPC-2581B w/extensions. But the digitization of all product and manufacturing information has compelled the industry to create a universal, open, product standard and the IPC-2581B is the closest thing we have to a consensus standard. Highlighting that fact is the rapid implementation of CFX. 

    Progress has been rapid on IPC-2581 but focused on electronics assembly. The heavily process and CNC requirements for PCB fabrication has taken a backseat. As seen in Figure 2, several data requirements have not been digitized yet. 

    The current state of PCB fabrication is characterized by this situation:

    • PCB Fabrication Factory Capability
      • PCB technology ranges from ML, HDI, SLP and FPC
      • High mix, low to high volume, with hundreds of active customers (>15,000 designs/year)
    • Customer Data
      • high reliability and specification compliance customer base
      • >10 languages (English and simplified Chinese are most common)
      • no customers where all designs match factory capability or their specifications
      • many customers have some designs with no DFM TQ’s being required
      • English and metric units (sometimes in same document package)
      • average >1 pre-design DFM review per tooled design
    • Front-end Tooling
      • significant amount of capacity required for pre-design DFM reviews and internal ECN’s
      • designs provided as CAD files, Gerber 274X, ODB++ and IPC-2581
      • front-end is required to note/resolve when design violates customer specifications

    production tooling & data transfer
    FIGURE 2: IPC-2581’s goal is the complete digitization of the PCB product into a data-driven standard. But a number of areas have, as yet, not been addressed by 2581. [Source: KORF Consultancy]

    The ‘Connected Factory for Assembly’-IPC-CFX & Hermes

    IPC-CFX is an OPEN Network Standard introduced by the Institute for Connecting Electronic Industries (IPC) in 2018 (Figure 3). It establishes three critical elements for “plug-and-play” industrial IoT:

    1. A message Protocol-using AMQP.
    2. An encoding mechanism-using {JSON}.
    3. A specific content creation element-structured topics and messages.

    The new standard was created very quickly with the involvement of over 300 industrial firms all working together. It is:

    • a standard to enable Industry 4.0 but free and OPEN source;
    • IIoT ‘plug & play”;
    • open to all, with consensus-based agreements of >300 participants;
    • machines, processes, systems and humans;
    • no licensing, contracts or dependencies, with DIY software and aides;
    • Current focus is all discrete assembly manufacturing;
    • Published April 2019.

    communication protocol

    FIGURE 3: IPC-CFX is an OPEN, free M2M electronic assembly protocol standard. [Source: IPC]FIGURE 3: IPC-CFX is an OPEN, free M2M electronic assembly protocol standard. [Source: IPC]

    The Hermes Standard (THS) is a low-level line control protocol that passes information up and down the equipment line:

    • PCB-ID
    • Program Name
    • Key product data

    These elements allow for the creation of automatic decision making, dashboard displays, alerts and report. Applications that improve productivity, efficiency, capacity planning and quality while lowering costs. It allows the full traceability of components (IPC-1782) and feedback to design (IPC-2581).

    The IPC has established a methodology to add/edit new messages for the CFX Standard, the “CFX Message Submission Process”, to allow it to grow and be applied by more machines and processes. There is even CFX messaging for hand soldering. 

    Artificial Intelligence to the Rescue

    Late in 1995, Hewlett-Packard Laboratory developed a ‘self-learning artificial intelligence’ that could assist PCB designers in their complex job of designing high-speed multilayers. The AI System was called ‘EXPLOYER’ and worked in conjunction with earlier software, ‘The Board Construction Adviser’ that provided PCB Fab process information and costs. The system is shown in Figure 4 and emphasizes that AI can come to the rescue to provide needed information for the digitization of electronics manufacturing.

    These topics are part of the video of the Keynote delivered at AltiumLive in 2019 and can be seen on YouTube. 

    lab design for multilayers
    FIGURE 4: HP Lab’s Design Explorer working with BCA-IPDA and EDA CAD tools to design high-speed multilayers

    Have more questions? Call an expert at Altium or discover more about PCB data Management and how it interrelates to the PCB Design process and roles of everyone involved.

    About Author

    About Author

    Happy Holden is retired from GENTEX Corporation (one of the U.S.'s largest automotive electronics OEM. He was the Chief Technical Officer for the world’s biggest PCB Fabricator-HonHai Precision Industries (Foxconn) in China. Prior to Foxconn, Mr. Holden was the Senior PCB Technologist for Mentor Graphics; he was the Advanced Technology Manager at NanYa/Westwood Associates and Merix Corporations. He retired from Hewlett-Packard after over 28 years. His prior assignments had been as director of PCB R&D and Manufacturing Engineering Manager. While at HP, he managed PCB design, PCB partnerships, and automation software in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Happy has been involved in advanced PCB technologies for over 47 years. He has published chapters on HDI technology in 4 books, as well as his own book, the HDI Handbook, available as a free e-Book at http://hdihandbook.com and de recently completed the 7th Edition of McGraw-Hill's PC Handbook with Clyde Coombs.

    most recent articles

    Back to Home