There are lots of EDA data formats with long, illustrious legacies. GDS-II and Gerber are great examples. But a few years ago, a new format to replace Gerber was devised, with the less-euphonious name IPC-2581. But calling it a replacement for Gerber is sort of like calling modern video games a replacement for the old family radio of the ‘20s. There’s a lot more going on than just a one-for-one swap.
Gerber plots simply contain the PCB patterning. But the IPC-2581 format contains, in one place, much more information for the fabrication, assembly, and testing of the PCB, including things like the parts list, drilling information, and pick-and-place information. Bringing these together provides efficiency and helps ensure that updates occur to all relevant portions of the design, not, say, just the netlist (oops… we forgot to update the drilling info… Doh!)
Problem is, this new standard hasn’t really taken off. Cadence’s Hemant Shah attributes that both to inertia and the fact that the standards org isn’t really set up to do promotion. So a new consortium is being formed to breathe some life into the adoption of IPC-2581, with members pledging to support the format within 12 months. They’ve also created a new website, IPC-2581.com, to promote the consortium that promotes the format.