Component Symbol Information Management and Display Usability

Created: August 10, 2018
Updated: September 25, 2020

Data streaming on a laptop screen

Building a library of PCB components requires compiling information on footprint, electrical specifications, simulation models, pin arrangements, and other specifications. The amount of information in any component library is massive and needs to be aggregated into a single module in your PCB design software. A PCB component library should be flexible enough to allow designers and engineers to define proprietary components and implement the management strategy that works for their organization.

Looking through this long list of information, and adding new components with customized specifications to your library, requires PCB design software that displays your important component information within an intuitive interface. A great PCB design software package does more than just display component information and symbols in a long list. The information in your component library needs to synchronize with your other design and validation tools.

Component Information Systems

Whether working through a standard circuit with familiar electronic components, or tackling a particularly challenging circuit board utilizing multiple diagrams and requiring you to really get into your design flow, having your components organized will be of great help. Your circuits will benefit greatly from having schematic symbols and circuit symbols clear, as well as having your other design elements defined intelligently. 

Your design software needs seamless access to information on your components. All of this information is stored in a standardized format, and it needs to be easily accessible from your design software. Your analysis and simulation tools need your component SPICE models, your bill of materials needs sourcing information, your assembly and fabrication deliverables need footprint information, and rules checking needs all of the above information.

PCB design software packages that claim to present a unified design interface do not always unify your component and design information properly. Other design software packages do not include component information management features. Assuming your design software includes a component information system, the immaturity of most integrated design platforms decreases productivity.

Screenshot of  management in Altium

BOM management in Altium Designer

Moving to manufacturing already presents enough challenges, and your tools for generating manufacturer deliverables need to compile information from your layout, schematic, layer stack, and component libraries. Once you move to manufacturing your device, your component supplier and availability information will ensure that you avoid production delays and unexpected budget changes.

Realizing Where the Pain Comes From

Managing your component libraries and component information requires an intuitive and consistent interface that synchronizes with your schematic and design tools. Updates to your component library should synchronize quickly with your PCB layout and schematic. Not all PCB design software packages make this a painless experience. Components in your design may not synchronize at all if you don’t choose the perfect combination of commands.

The situation becomes worse when your interfaces aren’t consistent. You are left having to re-learn interfaces due to their inconsistent look and feel. You’ll also be forced to experiment with your design software until you can force updates to synchronize. In the event this doesn’t work, you will have to manually remove incorrect components and then search through the library to re-add the components. In a board with a large number of components, this consumes a huge amount of time that should be spent on design.

Design software with inconsistent and overlapping user interfaces also force you to re-learn how to do a single process. There is no reason that multiple programs should provide overlapping features and enforce different design processes, when only a single unified interface will do. PCB design software packages that operate this way don’t even give you the full suite of tools you need from day one; you’ll have to purchase critical design tools as add-ons.

If working in this environment sounds like a pain in the neck, try managing your component information using multiple interfaces with different processes. You’re forced to use multiple interfaces and implement ad hoc data management methodologies in order to get through the design process.

Why You Need Integrated Component Management Software

When you work in a unified design environment, you don’t have to struggle with multiple interfaces that use different processes to accomplish a single design goal. Working within a single interface that focuses on PCB design improves your workflow and reduces the chances of referencing errors in your layout. Swapping parts with suitable replacements is simple and only requires learning a single process.

Once your component library updates, an integrated software package will synchronize any library updates back into your schematic and layout. Your design software should then generate a change report in an intuitive format so that team members can be made aware of any updates. This makes it easy to manage critical issues like component lifecycle and obsolescence, and all within a single design environment.

Working with a single PCB design software platform that directly connects to your component libraries makes component information management easy. You can implement industry-standard management strategies that are critical for large organizations. Your design, simulation, analysis, and component management tools come in a single package, and you won’t have to purchase important design features as add-ons.

Screenshot of the multi-part editor in Altium

The multi-part editor in Altium

How Altium’s Unified Design Model Can Help You

Working in a unified design environment means that your design tools integrate seamlessly with your component libraries, simulation tools, and bill of materials generation tools. As component libraries update their information from the web, you can manage component lifecycles and anticipate obsolescence. Passing these updates from your library to your schematic and layout is smooth and intuitive.

Altium Designer is the only PCB design software package that integrates all your design and component management tools into a single interface. Your design tools quickly and easily synchronize with your design tools and simulation tools, which improves your design productivity. The intuitive interface makes accessing component information easy and allows your organization to implement the management strategy that works for you.

If you are unsure which components are the best option for your application, don’t be afraid to check the Altium website. Altium maintains a thorough knowledge base that addresses a huge number of design issues, including component selection and data management. You’ll also find tutorials on creating multi-part components, importing supplier information into your bill of materials, and a host of other PCB design issues.

Altium wants you to be successful and supports a community of designers and engineers. When you need the best design tools that give you access to the electronics supply chain, look to the complete set of PCB design features in Altium Designer®. As you build your board, you'll be able to instantly locate and place the components your system needs to ensure functionality and reliability. When you’ve finished your design, and you want to release files to your manufacturer, the Altium 365 platform makes it easy to collaborate and share your projects.

We have only scratched the surface of what’s possible with Altium Designer on Altium 365. Start your free trial of Altium Designer + Altium 365 today.


Check out Altium Designer in action...

Powerful PCB Design

Related Resources

Related Technical Documentation

Back to Home
Thank you, you are now subscribed to updates.