When embarking on the PCB design journey, there are some initial hurdles you’ll need to overcome in order to get your design process running smoothly and without interruption. Sometimes the hurdle is as manageable as making sure you get your coffee in the morning. Sometimes the hurdle is as tall as not having the knowledge, comfort, or software you need to accomplish your design tasks.
Often times, when sketching out an initial PCB design, there will be some components which are loosely defined and allow for variability. This is great for broad PCB designs, however, when the time comes for locking in a specific part number, whether it be a specific supplier that you have great relations with or a certain function that cannot be varied in any way, how are you to incorporate it into your design with confidence that your software’s library will hold it?
Problems Faced Within Parts Databases
Sadly, many programs out there only offer a library that is created and managed in-house. This allows for very little in the way of part selection as you are bound to what they have entered-in on-hand. Sure, you might be able to enter in your own part parameters to the design, however, this will take loads of time and, frankly, is a tedious task to accomplish for each ‘new’ part you select.
Don’t be bound by these frozen part libraries! Altium’s Unified Component Libraries make it quick and painless to search through thousands and thousands of components by a plethora of suppliers instantly to get you the specific parts you are looking for.
Altium’s Solution to Parts Databases
Below, we’ll walk you through the process that I like to use when I need a new part that isn’t already listed in Altium’s general part database.
First, we’ll start by assuming that you’ve selected a specific OpAmp for your upcoming PCB design project. Let’s say its the LM386.
Upon opening up Altium Designer, and after you’ve created a new schematic project, you navigate to the libraries tab on the right-hand side of the screen:
Opened libraries tab in Altium Designer
Selecting then, from the dropdown menu, the library you wish to search (let’s say you are starting out fresh with the initially given libraries of Miscellaneous Devices, and Miscellaneous Connectors), you enter your LM386 part query. Nothing to show:
Searching for a part within Altium’s Libraries
At this point, folks might just throw up their hands and press that big red X in the upper right corner, but not you.
Instead, you open up your web browser and navigate to the Unified Component Library within Altium’s Design Content center.
Now, again, entering your needed part number of LM386 in the search bar, you now see that there are, in fact, two-part libraries containing your part! Look at you go!
Altium design content library
We’ll then again assume that you have a special affinity to Texas Instruments’ parts (I know I do), and want to continue with them.
Simply click to open up their library to see all their parts listed within this single library (as there are many TI specific libraries), and you should be able to find the searched part highlighted in yellow.
Searching the list of parts available
Notice how many parts are available in this one library? Many to choose from for your specific needs.
From here, we’ll go ahead and click the ‘Download Library’ button which gives us a zipped library file to work with. Unzip this library file to any library folder you enjoy using. Opening back up Altium Designers’ program, and back into the libraries right-hand panel, click on the ‘Libraries’ button in the upper section of the pane. This opens up the Available Libraries window.
Under the ‘Projects’ tab, click the ‘Add Library’ button. Navigate to the Texas Instruments library you just downloaded and click ‘Open’.
Congrats! You’ve now successfully added the entire Texas Instruments (Linear and Special Function) library to your PCB project.
Entering in, again, your LM386 part number query (under the TI library), you now have a few options to choose from.
Library search function with uploaded library information
You are now free to do what you will with the parts that you want. This is just one specific example of how I like to grab specific parts from Altium’s Unified Component Library when I am set on a certain component.
There may come a time, however, where the parts you want are not within the Unified Component Library. If there are no other workarounds for selecting other parts, you can request a part to be created in less than 24 hours which is not a bad secondary solution to the issue.
By simply clicking ‘Request a Part’ from the libraries window, you will be sent to EE Concierge, whereby sending a simple manufacturing datasheet and part number, they will have your part ready for use in Altium in less than 24 hours.
Further component creation help from Altium
Whatever the Case, Altium Has You Covered
No matter the case in your search for the perfect part for your perfect design, utilizing Altium’s vast network of part library offerings can get you the exact parts you require instantly (or within 24 hours).
For more in-depth understandings of component libraries within Altium Designer, consult their extensive documentation pages, some of which found below:
- Creating Library Components
- Download Design Content
- Generate Component Libraries
- Working with Integrated Libraries
Check out the Unified Component Library to search for your perfect part, or to discuss more part library capabilities, talk to an Altium expert today.
About the Author
PCB Design Tools for Electronics Design and DFM. Information for EDA Leaders.More Content by Altium Designer