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This site was started as a nexus for GenCAM related software developed by the open source community. At the most fundamental level, the chief benefactors of open standards such as GenCAM are the end users, the folks who are trying to design and build electronics. An open standard such as GenCAM ensures both high quality transmission of information and independence from any particular vendor of electronic design automation (EDA) services.

Status Quo

The market place business ecosystem currently supports two equally unpalatable alternatives to GenCAM. A EDA and vendor independent approach can be adopted with Gerber files, and associated design notes in human-readable form. On the surface, this would appear to be a "good idea", since it encourages and enables healthy competition by various PWB and PWA suppliers. This Gerber/Drill list/Netlist/Readme Notes data transfer methodology is generally lossy, however, and often requires substantial interaction between the design engineers and the manufacturing engineers above and beyond the electronic data files to obtain sufficiently detailed and correct instructions for manufacture. This need for design organization and manufacturing organization coupling actually inhibits the ability of the design organization to freely change manufacturing suppliers. The situation is also sub-optimal for manufacturing providers, since the non-recurrring engineering costs of determining how to really build the board given the Gerber data are typically not paid for by the customer design organizations.

A vendor-specific solution can alternately be adopted. This approach improves the data transfer fidelity, and a modest body of Computer Aided Engineering tools may be provided by the vendor to facilitate various tasks in the process, such as Design for Manufacture (DFM) checks of a candidate design. However, the design organization's selection of a specific vendor for data transfer is also selecting one specific vendor for the Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) tasks in the manufacturing service providers. This reduces the size of the eligible supplier base for the design organization, and drives up costs for the manufacturing service providers (because of a lack of competition for provision of CAM tools).

The SourceForge Alternative

GenCAM as a data standard has clear benefits in terms of high fidelity information transfer, accessibility, and maturity. However, the full extent of those benefits will only be realized as a base of tools emerges to leverage these strengths in practical applications useable by manufacturing and design engineers today. Because GenCAM is not solely owned by one corporation who will profit from its rise to prominence among methods of data transfer, GenCAM based tools are not going to be created by just one company. Rather, the user community in both the design and manufacturing spheres must collaboratively develop the GenCAM applications that will realize the potential that GenCAM represents. SourceForge is the pre-eminent place on the 'Net to do this collaborative design, development, and deployment, so here we are. Please join us in creating a brave new world!

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