Your PCB Bill of Materials Report Can Be So Much More Than a Simple Statement

January 4, 2018 Altium Designer

Picture of  menu from the altium web site

I just finished going through my bank balances and I am very grateful for the online utilities that my bank provides. It used to be that you could only get an account statement in the mail from your bank that you had to reconcile with your checkbook. Today’s online banking systems are far superior with different utilities to help you track and organize your finances. With these tools you can move money around, create and monitor budgets, as do many other banking functions as well. It is a vast improvement from those simple paper statements.

Interestingly enough though, in the world of PCB design we still often settle for working with simple printed paper statements. I’m talking about the bill of materials () reports. These reports are typically generated from our PCB CAD tools during the design process. Like a simple account statement from your bank, these reports will give you only the basic information about your design that the manufacturer needs to build the circuit board. As you know though, there is so much more data involved with PCB design. It is about time that our tools step up their game and allow us to work with all of the design data.

Like a present that has been wished for and then suddenly appears, PCB design teams now have the gift of advanced management tools available to them. These tools do much more than just report basic design information, they are packed full of advanced functionality that let you interact with the as part of the design. Let’s look at some of the things that they can do and how these utilities can help you.

Management Tools are an Active Part of the Design

management tools are much more than the simple report generators that CAD systems have traditionally been equipped with. management tools are integrated into the PCB CAD system and are therefore able to offer a greater array of benefits:

  • Live connectivity to the design: management tools are connected to the design in the same way that the schematic or layout tools are. Each of these tools performs a specific design task, and they are all interconnected.

  • Full feature menu: Unlike a report generator, whose limited functionality is activated with a few menu commands, management tools are operated with a full featured menu.

  • Design changes are automatically updated in the : Since the management tools are live, integrated of the design database, any changes to the design are immediately reflected in the . This eliminates the need to generate a new in order to see these changes.

  • Cross-probing: As part of the design database, management tools allow cross-probing functionality as you would normally find with the schematic and layout. By selecting a part in the management tool application window, the corresponding in the schematic and the layout will also be selected.

  • Supply chain management: With the live connection to external data sources that the management tools provide, the has access to component manufacturers for part lifecycle information.

Close up of  on a PCB

management tools will give you better control over the used on your PCB design.

Tools are Configurable for the PCB Bill of Materials Report

Although Management tools will give you a tremendous amount of new design functionality, at the end of the day you will still need to generate regular bill of materials reports. These reports will go to different manufacturers, test engineers, field technicians, or anyone else that has a need to see a list for your PCB design. These various groups tend to want to see their data formatted differently. To accommodate this, design teams have traditionally used tools such as spreadsheets to sort the information; however, editing data in external tools from the design environment can lead to errors.

management tools give you multiple ways to sort and report your bill of materials data. In addition to that, you will be able to add custom items to the as well. Items that aren’t usually added to the schematic such as mechanical , mounting hardware, glue, and identification labels can all be easily added into the management tools. This will give you the ability to configure your bill of materials report to satisfy the needs of your end users, all while still in the design environment.

Picture of one hand on a computer keyboard and the other holding a credit card

management tools will allow you to customize your reports

Management Tools are Part of Your Design Environment

management tools allow you to work with your bill of materials data in the same way that your schematic editor allows you to work with connectivity data. Schematic editing, board layout, and the management tools all work together within the same unified design environment. This environment gives the management tools the ability to do some functions that a simple report generator could never do:

  • checks: You will have the ability to check your bill of materials data against the complete design data to ensure that it is correct.

  • data is available for output files: In addition to being able to generate a standard bill of materials report, you will be able to funnel data into other output files as needed.

  • data available for manufacturing drawings: Data from the management tools can also be used in the creation of fabrication and assembly drawings. If your company’s drawing standards include data, the management tools will help to make that task a lot easier by inputting the data directly into your design tool’s drawing editor.

In the same way that an auto-router will enhance your ability to design higher levels of PCB technology, management tools will help to elevate your design abilities as well. Just as I discovered a whole new level of functionality by switching from paper bank statements to online banking tools, you too can discover some incredible benefits with modern management tools.

Altium is PCB design software that has all of the benefits that I’ve described here. is an advanced management system that is part of the entire Altium unified design platform. Find out more about how can help you by talking to an expert at Altium.

About the Author

Altium Designer

PCB Design Tools for Electronics Design and DFM. Information for EDA Leaders.

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