Get into the Zone of PCB Parts Information from Your BOM Application

Created: August 20, 2018
Updated: September 25, 2020

Spiral image for the Twilight Zone in  application

“Picture if you will,” “Imagine a world where,” and “Submitted for your approval” are all quotes from Rod Serling, the creator of shows like “The Night Gallery” and, of course, “The Twilight Zone”. Maybe it’s because these phrases were popularized by those shows, but I often find myself using them, especially when it comes to designing printed circuit boards. Imagine a world where you could actually work with your component data in a separate application that gave you direct access to it instead of through the schematic or your CAD tools. It just couldn’t happen… or could it?

As it turns out, you can do exactly what I am suggesting with the right application tools. Yes, you read that correctly, you can access your component data and work with it directly through the use of bill of materials management tools. No, this isn’t the Twilight Zone, it’s the real world and I’ll show you what I mean.

Picture if You Will, an Application that Opens Another Portal Into Your Design

Opening up another portal into your design? That really sounds like "The Twilight Zone," except that this is real. A good application gives you direct access to component data in your design without having to select in the schematic or layout and edit their attributes.

With the right application, you will be able to list all of your and see their attributes and details at a glance. You will also be able to make part replacements directly from the application without having to go into the schematic. Another really important feature of a good application is that you can use it to select or highlight components in both the schematic and the layout. Being able to do that will really help when it comes to finding small or easily displaying circuitry during a design review.

Screenshot of AD18 cross-selecting in  application A good application will allow you to cross-select from the into other tools

Imagine a World Where You Can Query Part Vendors for Information Directly From Your PCB Design Tools

Another great aspect of a good application is its ability to connect through the cloud with your preferred part vendors. With the application part of your PCB design tools, you can access your part vendors while you are working on the design. One of your most important jobs is to select components that not only optimize the electrical performance of the design but also have the best pricing and are available for purchase. Having a direct connection with your vendors enables you to do this without having to wait for the purchasing department to run down all of this information for you.

You will save yourself a lot of grief that comes with incorrect part selections due to pricing or part availability. Additionally, you will also have a direct connection with part vendors so you can get their latest part information. Has the part been updated or do you need a new data sheet? No problem, you have that information at your fingertips with a good application.

Screenshot of AD18  part details in  application A good application will allow you to query your part vendors for information

Submitted for Your Approval: A Application That Does Everything that You Want it To

Fortunately, this good news about PCB design applications is from the real world and not something that is only available in "The Twilight Zone." A application like what I have been describing is already available for you to use. I’m talking about Active , which is one of the applications with Altium’s PCB design tools.

Altium is one of the best PCB design software systems on the market today, and it is further augmented with Active . Due to Altium ’s unified design environment, Active easily works with and between both the schematic editor and the PCB layout tools, giving you the access and capabilities that I’ve described. And when your design is ready to be sent to the manufacturer, Active ’s easily configurable outputs will create a report that you can format to meet any assembler’s needs.

Does working with a application like this sound like it would be helpful to your PCB design process? If so, talk to an expert at Altium for more information.

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