Creating a Bill of Material with PCB Design Software using Altium Designer

June 25, 2018 Altium Designer

Screenshot of AD18 bill of materials header in optimize a bill of material

You’ve done it, your circuit board is finished and ready for PCB assembly. The schematic is finalized, the layout is checked and approved and you are ready to get this thing built. To do that though, you need to create a bill of materials. Fortunately, we are long past the days where these documents were created by hand. Every CAD system out there will automatically create a bill of materials through some or other process. But what do you need to do to create it?

Using Altium ® , the creation of a bill of materials () is a very straightforward process. There are several options available to you so that you can configure and order the information according to your specific needs that are very intuitive. Let’s take a look here at the steps that you need to go through to create a simple report from your design.

 

Preparing for the Bill of Materials

We are going to use a very simple design for our demonstration with only a handful of on it. This will make the report small and easy to work with without a lot of clutter on the screen.

You can create a from Altium from either the schematic, the layout, or from Active , a tool used for working directly with the components in your design. The report generator is accessed through the same menu selection for all three of these design objects. With one of the three design objects activated, go to “Reports > Bill of Materials”. Although there are some subtle differences between the three, the report menu is basically the same in all of them as you can see below.

Screenshot of AD18  report menus in optimize a bill of material

The Report menus from the schematic, layout and  in Altium

You probably are already familiar with creating a schematic and layout within Altium , but you may not have worked with ActiveBOM® yet. Active is another portal into your design just as the schematic and layout are. The difference is instead of working with connectivity or place-and-route data, you will instead work directly with the component data of the in your board design. To work with Active you must first have an Active document (object) associated with your design by going to the “File > New > Document” menu command as you see below.

 Screenshot of AD18 add  in optimize a bill of material

Adding an Active document to the design

Active gives you additional functionality to work with the components of your design, including a cloud connection with your part vendors. This will allow you to gather real-time data and information on the that you are using such as cost and availability. You can also cross-probe between Active and the schematic and PCB layout making it an invaluable tool for design reviews and other related design activities.

For our purposes though, we will focus only on the actual report that can be generated from these tools for your required or components. To do this we will use the report that is generated from the PCB layout.

 

Format and Optimize a Bill of Materials

Below you can see the Bill of Materials report dialog box from the layout side of Altium . This dialog box can be configured by dragging objects around to give you the format that you desire.

Screenshot of AD18  report no group in optimize a bill of material

The Report menu without any grouped columns defined

As you can see in the picture above, each component in our design is listed on its own individual line in the main data area of the dialog box. You have to option however to “group” components together by parameters that you can specify. To do this you will move parameters from the “All Columns” category on the left side of the dialog box to the “Grouped Columns” category right above it. You can see that the “Grouped Columns” category is currently empty.

By positioning your mouse cursor over the “Comment” parameter in the “All Columns” category and using the left mouse button, you can drag it up into the “Grouped Columns” category as we have done in the picture below. Now that the comment is in the grouped columns category, all that share the same comment are now grouped together on the same line in the main data area of the dialog box.

Screenshot of AD18  report with group in optimize a bill of material

The Report menu with a grouped column defined

You also can specify which columns to display in the main data area of the dialog box. For instance, in the picture below you can see where we’ve disabled both the description and designator columns from showing.

Screenshot of AD18  report no designator for components in a bill of material

The Report menu without the description and designator columns displayed

There are also several other formatting options for the bill of materials in Altium . In the three images in the image below, you first can see where we’ve drug the “Designator” column to reposition it on the left side of the main data area. Next, we’ve used the first little drop-down arrow in the designator column to reverse the sorting direction of the column putting C1 and C2 at the bottom instead of the top.

Finally, we used the second little drop-down arrow in the designator column to filter the designators that are shown. In this case, we’ve filtered out everything except for P1 to be displayed.

Screenshot of AD18  menu options for  in a bill of material

Different examples of formatting the Report menu in Altium

As you can see, there are many formatting options available to you. You also have the ability to manipulate other data in the to add or delete features and configure it for design variants.

 

Exporting a Bill of Materials

Now that the data is formatted the way that you want it, the next step is to export the data. Altium gives you several choices for the output file format:

  • CSV (Comma Delimited)
  • Microsoft Excel Worksheet
  • PDF
  • Tab Delimited Text
  • Web Page (HTML)
  • XML Spreadsheet

These options are available in the “File Format” pull-down menu in the lower right corner of the dialog box.

When you export your as an Excel worksheet, Altium also gives you the opportunity to use a predefined Excel template by choosing the template from a drop-down list. When exported, the information is loaded into a new Excel worksheet and the chosen Excel template is applied. Altium will then map the data into the spreadsheet using the field and column statements in the template. You can see in the picture below that we have chosen to use the “ Default Template” as an example.

Screenshot of AD18  excel options in optimize a bill of material

The Excel Worksheet options in the Report menu

At this point you are ready to export your bill of materials. In the lower left corner of the Bill of Materials dialog box, click the “Export” button. Altium will open a file navigation window where you can designate the name and location of the file that you want to be written. Once you are ready, save the file and your bill of materials will be exported.

Altium has many functions like their bill of materials report generator that are designed to make your life easier as a PCB . By giving you plenty of formatting and export options, you can create the exact output files that your boards need for your required and components without having to re-edit your files later on before sending them out for manufacturing.

If you aren’t using Altium yet you owe it to yourself to take a look. You will find that it is PCB design software that has been created with the PCB in mind to help you to be more productive in your design process.

Would you like to find out more about how Altium can help you to create the perfect bill of materials along with your other output files in your next PCB design? Talk 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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