IPC-2581 Support

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IPC-2581

Adding to Altium Designer’s existing ability to export a wide range of PCB design fabrication and assembly file formats, the new IPC-2581 Standard is now available for both individual and output job file generation.

The IPC-2581 -compliant export generator is available as an Altium Designer software Extension – see below.

Related to the existing ODB++ format, IPC-2581 is an open-source standard developed by the Institute for Printed Circuits IPC-2581 Consortium some years ago (2004), but since refined to the most recent Revision A and B releases (IPC-2581A/B) – currently, the Revision A format is available as an output generator in Altium Designer.

The standard has progressively gained wider acceptance as an alternative to the traditional fabrication output data composed of, typically, a collection of Gerber, Drill, BOM and text files, etc. The previous need for complex mix of fabrication files is due to the inherent limitations of the traditional RS-274x Gerber format, which lacks definitions for the layer stack, drill information, netlist data (electrical connectivity) and BOM information.

The IPC-2581 standard is officially titled ‘Generic Requirements for Printed Board Assembly Products Manufacturing Description Data and Transfer Methodology’ and offers a XML-based single file format that incorporates a rich range of board fabrication data – from layer stackup details though to full pad/routing /component information and the Bill Of Materials (BOM).

A single IPC-2581 XML file can include:

  • Copper image information for etching PCB layers.
  • Board layer stack information (including rigid and flexible sections).
  • Netlist for bare board and in-circuit testing.
  • Components Bill-of-Materials for purchasing and assembly (pick-and-place).
  • Fabrication and Assembly notes and parameters.

The potential advantage of adopting the IPC-2581 format for transferring board design data to fabrication and assembly houses is centered on the highly-defined, detailed single file format that is fully understood at both ends of the chain. With a working system of CAD-CAM data exchange established, the risks associated with data misinterpretation, file errors and variable Gerber interpretation are largely eliminated.

In short, both the IPC-2581 and Gerber X2 formats represent a new generation of board design to manufacture data transfer.

Extension access

The IPC-2581 Support software extension can be found on the Purchased tab of the Extensions & Updates view (DXP » Extensions and Updates), prior to its installation.


The IPC-2581 Support Extension.

Click the associated cloud download button  to install the extension, which will subsequently appear in the Installed tab of the Extensions & Updates view.

Restart Altium Designer once the extension has been successfully downloaded and installed.

IPC-2581 export

With a project PCB file loaded as the active document, an IPC-2581 file can be exported by selecting File » Fabrication Outputs » IPC-2581 from the main menu. This opens an initial IPC-2581 Configuration dialog to define the Units and number precision applied during the export process.

Select the preferred units (Metric/Imperial) and numeric precision defined within the file to instigate the export. The precision setting determines the positional and sizing accuracy of the data within the generated IPC-2581 compliant file.


The same section of an IPC-2581 file with the precision set to 2 (left) and 6 (right).

The XML-based IPC-2581 file will be exported to a /Project Outputs for.. folder (or similar) in the current project location as xxx.cvg, where xxx is the current PCB name.

IPC-2581 in OutJob

To include an IPC-2581 file export in a project OutJob, click on Add New Fabrication Output under the Fabrication Outputs entry and select IPC-2581 Files then the desired PCB document to export.


IPC-2581 export is available under the OutJob's Fabrication export options.

As with other Fabrication outputs, when the OutJob is run or manually instigated, the IPC-2581 XML file will be exported as defined in the OutJob's Output Containers section. This is to the configured Vault container and path, or the local/remote publishing target defined in the Data Management – Publishing Destinations entry in Altium Designer Preferences dialog (DXP » Preferences).


Generating an IPC-2581 file to a local folder from within a configured OutJob.

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