Skip to content

ODB++ Vs. Gerber – What are Similarities and Differences Between these PCB Design Standards?

Every electronic assembly has a printed circuit board as its building block. Printed circuit boards provide mechanical support and electrical connection to electronic components. PCB design is one of the stages of printed circuit board manufacturing. These days, circuit boards are usually designed with the help of a computer-aided design (CAD).

The information in the CAD software is usually handed to the manufacturer after the design process. This information is then transferred to a computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) system. Different standards have been used for interchanging data. These standards are supported by the majority of CAD tools in the market. Here, we will be discussing the two most commonly used standards which are ODB++ and Gerber.

Also, we will compare ODB++ Vs Gerber, discussing their similarities, differences, drawbacks, and benefits of these two commonly used circuit board design standard.

What is the Gerber Standard?

The Gerber format was developed by the founder of the Gerber Scientific Instrument Company, Joseph Gerber. This file format was named after the founder. As the most commonly used PCB data design standard,  the Gerber file format offers a lot of features and advantages. The Gerber Scientific was a top manufacturer of photoplotters when mechanical vector plotting was the only method to produce accurate film masters. The Gerber format was developed in the 1980s. This file format has established itself and developed over time.

Gerber files are usually compressed in an archive file. This archive file is then sent to the PCB manufacturer. There must be a Gerber file for each power plane, layer, and ground plane. Also, the outermost layers of the PCB include information associated with solder mask, silkscreen, and conformal coating. Also, there should be specific files created to program the drilling equipment.

With these extensions, it is easy to facilitate the import of Gerber files into the CAM software. The Gerber file format is considered the acceptable standard for the transfer of data in the PCB industry. Over time, this file format has advanced. The  “extended” standard, which is also known as RS-274-X was introduced in the Gerber file format.

However, it has become evident that the Gerber format does not include all the crucial information necessary for the fabrication of a PCB. Also, the Gerber format which is created to give out commands to numerically controlled machines (CNCs) is complex. This complexity results from the integration of numerous files.

Also, this file format is perfect for a normal user as there is no three-dimensional information and the files are almost incomprehensible. It is very common to use about 10 Gerber files for a four-layer board.

Key Features of Gerber File Format

  • The Gerber file format as an acceptable PCB design standard offers these key features:
  • It is unambiguous and as such, it is very easy to understand.
  • The output of this file format is often automatic. Users barely encounter any issues as regards data presentation and also debugging is very easy.
  • The Gerber file format designs are standardized and accurate.
  • Also, it is possible to include PCB fabrication characteristics such as thickness during the file transfer to CAM systems.
  • Gerber format files are portable and as such, makes it easy to transfer email.
  • Also, you can easily convey the features in Gerber files as outlines and locations.
  • There are extensions in Gerber files. These extensions include .BOT, .TOP .SMB or .SMT.

Gerber versions


RS-274D was the Gerber file format initially developed by Gerber Scientific. This file format is responsible for the popularity of the Gerber file formats. .gbr text is the extension integrated for the Gerber files. After the introduction of RS-274D, another standard was introduced. The subsequent revision offered some features which the initial format didn’t have. The new format known as RS-274X was introduced in 1998. This format overcame some of the limitations of the initial format.

RS-244 X format has eliminated the need t input some data manually. This made it possible and easy to resolve different errors that come with using photoplotters. Despite the popularity of the RS-274X standard, it has got some practical limitations. For instance, the RS-274X can only display a graphical representation of the project. In this case, it can’t define the stackup of the layers explicitly. Also, it does not comprise any information on the properties and positioning of holes.

Another limitation of the RS-274X is that it doesn’t have any drill information while it can be difficult to edit the simple graphic representations. Also, the copper layers can be affected by an improper definition of the layer stack. Defining the copper layers is crucial for signal transmission and dissipation of heat.

The Gerber X2 is the most recent version of the Gerber file format. This file format enables additional data. Also, it comprises information like trace positions, layer function, and entity functions. Gerber X2 file format offers support to certain extensions like .bot and .top. Also, it works well with different types of recent CAM software.

Gerber file formats are usually designed with accuracy in mind. Therefore, it is important for some common issues related to Gerber files to be addressed.

What is the ODB ++ Standard?

Although the ODB ++ standard is not as popular as the Gerber standard, it offers similar features. ODB++ although was specially designed to offer single data structures during the export of PCB designs. Therefore, the ODB ++ standard gets rid of the need to transfer CB designs in various formats.

The ODB ++ files comprise critical design information, which enhances  efficiency for PCB manufacturers. The ODB++ Design, ODB++ Process, and the ODB++ Manufacturing are the main formats commonly used today. It is possible to develop a single data structure that represents the whole PCB when these files are merged.

The ODB++ standard is an alternative to the Gerber format.  Due to ODB++ standard’s ease of operation and simplicity, this standard has been able to gain popularity. As a non-proprietary format, it is widely integrated among PCB designers and manufacturers.

In 1992, the Valor Computerized Systems Ltd., developed the ODB++ standard. This company is now being owned  acquired by the giant Siemens. Since Siemens acquired this company, it made significant effort to improve the ODB++ standard. Therefore, this standard has experienced a significant development and as such became the main competitor of an industry-established format like Gerber.

ODB++ file format is a free and open to use standard. The IPC (Institute of Printed Circuits) approved the ODB++ standard and made it the official standard for exchanging data related to PCB manufacturing. It was designed as an all-inclusive and standardized format. This format can automate processes associated to stackup, labeling, and hole placement.

The main CAD software applications for PCB design supports ODB++ inside and as such, this file format can easily reduce human error’s impact on the project. It achieves this by grouping information associated with a project, and PCB fabrication in compressed files.

ODB++ Versions

The ODB++ refers to Open Database. This file format has two versions. These versions are the ODB++ X version and the original ODB++ version. ODB++ was specially designed to get rid of the need for grouping files with various formats. Therefore, the ODB++ standard offered a single file structure for transferring information regarding PCB design.

The hierarchical structure of the ODB++ standard is a crucial feature. This helps designers to transfer more PCB design information to the PCB manufacturer. Designers can transfer information like bill of material (BoM), board format, stackup, and component placement. Also, the hierarchical structure of this PCB design standard helps in minimizing the risk of data misinterpretation and human error.

Features and Advantages of ODB++ Standard

RS274X Gerber File
RS274X Gerber File

The ODB++ standard offers some features which makes it a suitable option for both PCB designers and PCB manufacturers. Below are some features of this standard.


  • The design data files have the capability to recognize positions, shapes, features, and sizes. Therefore, PCB manufacturers can easily integrate the adjustments.
  • It has comprehensive design data files which make it easy to manage risks.
  • ODB++ standard offers quicker analysis. Some modern CAM systems can quickly examine the ODB++ design data file.
  • ODB++ file format allows designers to easily integrate huge amounts of data. For instance, you can have fabrication, bill of materials (BoM), component placement data, and material stack up.


There are several benefits that come with using the ODB++ format.

  • ODB++is a domain format that has the IPC certification
  • This format offers advanced security when transferring and interpreting data
  • All major CAM and CAD tools offer support to this file format
  • ODB++ offers support to both rigid-flex and flexible circuit boards
  • Designers can integrate some pieces of information not available in standard formats like Gerber. This include netlist, information related to the panel, stackup layout, and complex holes.

ODB++ Vs Gerber Standard

The ODB++ and Gerber standards are the two most popular and efficient PCB design standards in the industry. ODB++ standard stores important information in an hierarchical manner. After then, it compresses this structure in a file. The ODB++ file format is very easier to understand compared to the Gerber format.

Also, the comprehensive structure of the ODB++ file offers less chance for human or machine error. This helps in reducing the risk of errors during information transfer. ODB++ makes analysis faster. It is easier for CAM systems to examine ODB++ design data file compared to Gerber files.

While ODBB++ can comprise a huge amount of data, a Gerber can’t include the drill files. When it comes to efficiency, the ODB++ standard is a more efficient option since a single file can have a huge amount of data. These days, ODB++ is highly preferred among PCB fabricators because of the benefits it offers.

ODB++ file can include information like material stack up, placement data, and bill of materials (BOM) at once. However, Gerber standard enables email sharing. This is because the Gerber files are very portable and as such the transfer of email can be done seamlessly.

Since the output of the Gerber standard is automation, it rarely has any issue when it comes to debugging and data presentation. When comparing ODB++ vs Gerber, we realized that the ODB++ standard compliments some of the weakness of the Gerber standard.

What is the ODB++ Viewer?

Generate the Gerber Files

The ODB++ viewer allows PCB designers to view what the PCB manufacturers intend to use for the analysis and equipment programming. This tool is also ideal for incoming inspection. The ODB++ viewer is a platform that enables you to carry out a review of your PCB product-models wherever you are in the world. As a free program, ODB++ viewer offers a lot of features and benefits.

The ODB ++ viewer online helps you view PCB engineering graphics and as well import CAD data. You can download the ODB++ viewer online and install. The support for ODB++ viewer makes it popular across electronics supply chain. Since this program is free and available online, it is easy for PCB designers to gain access to it. You can install and integrate this program as you desire.

The ODB ++ files comprise critical design information, which enhances efficiency for PCB manufacturers. The ODB++ Design, ODB++ Process, and the ODB++ Manufacturing are the main formats commonly used today. It is possible to develop a single data structure that represents the whole PCB when these files are merged.


We have been able to make comparisons between ODB++ vs Gerber file format in this article. The features, benefits, and limitations of these file formats were compared. Having discussed the main features of the Gerber and ODB++ standards, we realized each of these standards has its own advantages.

The main differences between these file formats lie in the type of output, usage prevalence, and portability. The question is which of these formats is better? Well, the choice of file format to integrate depends on what works for the manufacturer. The good news is that the majority of electronic manufacturers support these standards. However, the Gerber standard seems to be more common than the ODB++ standard.




                Get Fast Quote Now