PCB Data Management and Your Design Process

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: October 5, 2020
PCB Data Management and Your Design Process

Your organization will need to gather data from multiple sources to create new designs. In addition to schematic symbols and PCB footprints, designers need sourcing data for components to ensure they can eliminate supply chain risk. With a complete set of design and management tools, design teams can get to market on time and remain within budget while ensuring their designs are manufacturable at scale. Altium Designer offers all the tools you need for design and data management, as well as a suite of features for full-scale manufacturing. You can reduce your supply chain risk and work efficiently with the PCB data management features in Altium Designer.


A unified PCB design package with a full set of design data management features and the industry’s best PCB design tools in a single program.

Is your organization prepared to scale its operations, project complexity, and data architecture? Market demands and the capabilities of new design tools have driven a paradigm shift in PCB data management, forcing design teams to rethink how their design processes for the future. With the right set of design and management features, you can create an efficient data management process that helps your design teams remain highly productive and create the best new technology.

Altium Design is the only PCB design platform that offers everything you need for design, data management, and manufacturing in a single program, allowing your team and operations to scale and remain productive. When you use Altium Designer, you can keep up with advances in new technology thanks to a complete printed circuit design toolset, and you can build a design process to keep your organization productive and competitive.

PCB Data Management and the Great Paradigm Shift

Modern PCB design could be best described as pipelining, where data is fed into the design process at the front end, rather than waiting until layout engineers are ready to create a PCB layout. At one time, because electronic systems were not as complex as they are today, components were much simpler. They consisted of a schematic symbol, a footprint, and a few basic parameters. A common practice was to simply copy a component, and go on using that exact same library part throughout the design, changing the value as needed for each instance. Over time, more complex components were needed with much more information and details attached to support the cutting-edge systems.

Components are the foundation of a new circuit board, but a PCB data management process needs to account for all aspects of your design data. This includes tracking revisions on new designs, manufacturing documentation, component libraries, schematic sheets, and PCB layouts. To ensure design teams can get to market quickly while staying within budget, they need to ensure their design data remains organized and accurate.

Stay Organized with Integrated PCB Design Software

When your design tools are accessible alongside your data management features, you can create the data-driven workflow that today’s PCB design teams require. You can also reduce your risk by auditing data earlier in the design process, allowing you to catch footprint errors, out-of-stock components, and obsolete features in reused designs. Only the integrated design tools in Altium Designer offer these capabilities and all within a single PCB design application.

PCB libraries and PCB data management in Altium Designer

Your circuit board design software will need to access your component libraries when starting a new project.

Early Part Sourcing Prevents Redesigns

Major component supply shortages have hit the electronics industry in recent years, with shortages of discrete devices and passives being especially problematic. Lead times for some out-of-stock components have been increasing to what can only be described as crisis levels. In particular, multi-layer ceramic chip (MLCC) and tantalum capacitors have been understocked, with some part lead times extending well beyond 32 weeks.

So why should this be a concern for PCB data management tasks? In the past, procuring parts for a new design was straightforward, but shortages force designers to look at the supply chain before they design new products, rather than risking a redesign. Since the backbone of a PCB design starts with schematic symbols and PCB footprint libraries, PCB designers need supply chain information when they start planning their designs, rather than waiting until a design is finished.

Essential Tools for Component Sourcing

The best tools for component sourcing will aggregate data across multiple distributors, allowing you to compare stocks, prices, lead times, and minimum order quantities (MOQs). Even better is when these features are accessible within your circuit design software, which allows PCB designers to source components early in the design process. Altium Designer provides these sourcing and component management features alongside the industry’s best design features, giving every circuit board designer the ability to reduce their supply chain risk.

Sourcing in PCB data management with Altium Designer

Sourcing tools in your PCB design software eliminate the need to create component models and find footprints.

PCB Data Management is Easy When You Use Altium Designer

The complete set of component management tools and PCB design features are built on a rules-driven design engine, allowing you to check your design against important standards and DFM requirements as you create your PCB. Your PCB design process becomes easy with this complete set of data management tools at your fingertips. In addition, you’ll have a complete set of manufacturing tools to prepare documentation for your circuit board.

Make Your Design and Management Processes Seamless with Altium Designer

Altium Designer gives you much more than a set of design and component data management features. PCB designers need a complete toolset to prepare production-grade boards for printed circuit assembly. Everything you need to design, simulate, and fabricate a high-quality circuit board can be found in Altium Designer.

In addition to design tools, Altium Designer includes utilities for exporting standard manufacturing documentation in a variety of file formats. These features let you create the fabrication files your PCB manufacturer and assembler need to move your board into production. Bills of materials, assembly drawings with notes, pick and place files, test point reports, IPC-D356 netlists, and much more can be quickly created with Altium Designer.

Design and PCB data management features in Altium Designer

Altium Designer creates a unified environment for PCB data management and design.

No matter the size or complexity of your new design, you can use the PCB data management tools to stay productive. You’ll have all the component sourcing features and manufacturing documentation tools you need to create your designs and turn them into real products.

Altium Designer on Altium 365 delivers an unprecedented amount of integration to the electronics industry until now relegated to the world of software development, allowing designers to work from home and reach unprecedented levels of efficiency.

We have only scratched the surface of what is possible to do with Altium Designer on Altium 365. You can check the product page for a more in-depth feature description or one of the On-Demand Webinars.

About Author

About Author

Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. He currently provides research, design, and marketing services to companies in the electronics industry. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University and conducted research on random laser theory, materials, and stability. His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental sensors, and stochastics. His work has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written 2500+ technical articles on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, American Physical Society, and the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA). He previously served as a voting member on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee working on technical standards for quantum electronics, and he currently serves on the IEEE P3186 Working Group focused on Port Interface Representing Photonic Signals Using SPICE-class Circuit Simulators.

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