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Altium Vault Streamlines Product Development Process With Early Access to Component Sourcing and Costing Instead of Placeholders

Created: October 23, 2018
Updated: April 24, 2020

Altium provides complete part information early in the development process

The product development process for printed circuit assemblies is highly dependent on complete Bills of Material. Complete Bills of Material list the PCB along with all components soldered or adhered onto the board to make the assembly. Components are unavailable early in the product development cycle because EDA libraries are antiquated and lack current parts information when circuit designers are drawing schematics. To stay on the development’s schedule, placeholders from EDA libraries are used to complete the schematic so PCB designers may lay out the board.

Complete Bills of Material take a backseat to PCB layout to keep product development moving along. Tasked with getting completed schematics into layout interferes with time needed by the circuit designer to find parts until after the design is in the PCB layout phase. To keep product development on track, first-look Bills of Material are made available to procurement departments who clamber for actual parts to order. Circuit designers rush to manually select parts and get footprints into libraries and onto Bills of Material. Selection of parts could be accomplished at schematic capture with EDA libraries containing dynamically updated vendor parts.

Parts sourcing consumes many resources over time within a product development lifecycle for printed circuit assemblies. Researching parts sourced from multiple vendors requires multiple clicks. Computer time is needed to compile manual lists within spreadsheet programs. Checking for availability and costing occurs within procurement departments employing multiple staff within an enterprise. Pulling it all together while sticking to product development schedules requires repetitive iterations to collect and include component information in the product documents. Coordinating parts procurement would benefit from dynamic EDA libraries with sourcing and costing early in development.

EDA Libraries Are Full of Placeholders

When trying to work through the production process for any projects or electronic product, you’ll want to ensure that any part of the process, be it prototyping, prototype development, new-product development, or manufacturability, is sound. Oftentimes, the first place you would want to check, your libraries, can be cumbersome or yield a slower developmental process.

Placeholders for anticipated parts leads to multiple feedback loops within a product development process. Getting the design into layout early in the product development process requires the use of placeholder parts. Placeholder parts contain best guess footprint and 3D dimensions to allow floorplanning the PCB.

Add Supplier Links creates components not available in the vault

Use supplier links to build actual components from placeholders

Documents require revision once vendor parts are identified and added into the component libraries. Each roll of documents requires the same steps to include in the documents. Reviews by procurement for vendor parts may identify obsolete parts that need to be revised and the documents are changed again. The cycle slows product development, putting deliveries at risk.

Placeholders Facilitate Layout While Frustrating Development

Placeholder parts receive reference designators on the PCB layout which is used to list placeholder components on the early-look Bill of Materials. This alerts procurement of anticipated parts for ordering but gives no vendor information, such as part number, needed to source quantities at good pricing.

Design engineers work in parallel with PCB layout to identify actual vendor parts suitable for incorporation in the circuit. Trivial details of the parts necessitate intricate record keeping with spreadsheets. Parts fitting for the design may later be identified as obsolete after their footprint has been added to the library, the layout, and the Bill of Materials. When this happens, as it often does, all the documents require revision and days of development time evaporate.

Current Real-World Components Within EDA Libraries

Multiple revisions to documents could be avoided if component information were available during schematic capture. Circuit engineers could choose components with available inventories. Having libraries listing all choices of component type along with sourcing and costing would eliminate the need for design iterations throughout the product development lifecycle.

Altium’s ActiveBOM displays component sourcing and costing

Locate components along with sourcing and costing information during schematic capture

Access to available components in one place during schematic capture would remove the need to iterate design drawings. Having electrical parameters, footprints, 3D dimensions, simulation models, sourcing and quantities, and costing in one place would move the design along faster. There would be no need for continuous Bill of Material releases from early-look to production BoM.

Keeping separate libraries for schematics, PCB layout, and enterprise inventory systems would be merged and available to all product partners throughout the lifecycle of the development process, enabling cross-functional team product design. The design process would be as simple as computer-aided design intended, with easier supplier selection, design for manufacturability and prototyping requirements.  Separate libraries has long been the norm, slowing development processes while separate inventory systems catch up with one another.

Altium Vault® Produces Complete First-Look Bills of Material

Altium Vault is Altium Designer®’s integrated component library shared across schematic and PCB layout. When the circuit designer is choosing parts for the schematic, all information about the part is available within the tool. With component information available prior to release of first-look BoM, intelligent choices are made early in the product development cycle removing the need to iterate BoM’s as complete information about components trickles into separate enterprise databases.

There is no longer need for enterprises to develop component libraries for use in layout. The footprints and landing patterns are available in the Altium Vault released with the tool. Circuit engineers can perform comparison shopping while they are laying down circuits in the design. Information available about components at circuit design enables best choice for not only circuit design, but for management information systems within the corporation. The product development process no longer needs iterations for Bill of Materials development as all information is available in Altium Designer in the early stages of the product design.

To manage product life cycle in your circuit board, computer-aided design software will help manage any part of your design process. Circuit Studio is Altium Designer’s answer to small shop inventors and it, too, has access to the Altium Vault while circuits are being captured into schematics. This helps the small developer with tight budgets select parts that are readily available for the best cost.

If you’d like to know more about the best in sourcing components for product development in the early stages of design without the need for iterations, talk to an expert at Altium.

Start the journey to switch over to Altium Designer today.

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