Real-time PCB Component Traceability in Altium Concord Pro

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: October 15, 2020

PCB designers and project managers in highly regulated industries face a number of obstacles when managing the design process and preparing for manufacturing. Aside from paying attention to industry standards, performance requirements, and coordinating electrical and mechanical design teams, component sourcing carries its own requirements. Supply chain glitches can delay a prototyping or high volume manufacturing run by weeks or even months, and project managers need management tools to expedite production planning and aid compliance.

In highly regulated industries, project managers and designers also need PCB component traceability tools that give them a live view of the supply chain. There are some proprietary tools from component distributors that give you a partial view of the supply chain, but only Altium Concord Pro integrates these important features alongside your PCB design features. You’ll full supply chain visibility and component traceability with Altium Concord Pro.

ALTIUM CONCORD PRO®

A unified data management and component traceability platform that integrates with Altium Designer® and other mechanical design tools.

Military, medical devices, aerospace; these are just a few of the highly regulated industries that come with strict industry standards and regulations on component traceability. In the event of a recall, every component needs to be traceable back to its source, as this will determine the extent and costs involved when recalling products. This also helps prevent manufacturing delays and potential rework as electronic components can be accurately tracked back to the distributor and manufacturer.

Given the importance of PCB component traceability, project managers and PCB designers need data management tools that provide real-time supply chain visibility and component updates as they become available. Your PCB design and data management software should help you navigate a complicated supply chain landscape while still providing the sourcing updates you need to keep your circuit designs competitive.

The Importance of PCB Component Traceability Requirements

Larger electronics companies are already familiar with the problems that can arise due to lack of supply chain visibility, real-time component updates, and poor requirements management tools. These larger companies tend to be heavily regulated and highly specialized in their respective industries. These behemoths also have complex logistics systems for tracing everything from electronic components to raw materials back to their sources.

Although these larger companies tend to deal with huge manufacturing runs and that can be a logistical nightmare, these same problems involved in sourcing and traceability also affect smaller companies in the same way. Smaller companies that do not have live access to component updates, an effective requirements management process, or accurate supply chain information can see the same increased turnaround times and sourcing delays that affect larger electronics companies.

Individual designers like to create their own personal libraries, and smaller organizations tend to compile component and sourcing information into company databases so that it can be accessed within their PCB layout software. Larger companies tend to implement similar systems, although they have enough resources to manually update their systems in order to comply with material traceability and sourcing requirements.

A New Dynamic: Component Data Management in Your Design Software

Private component databases inevitably due to the speed at which the electronic component supply chain changes. As new components become available, models and footprints for these components need to be immediately accessible to engineers and designers. This aids requirements management and ensures a new product will have the longest lifetime and remain competitive. This is where a managed supply chain visibility solution becomes invaluable for satisfying performance and sourcing requirements.

Printed circuit board designers that have instant access to supply chain information within their design software don’t have to question the reliability of their internal databases during the design phase. This also ensures engineers that design schematics are including the most recent versions of components that are actually sourceable. When building a PCB layout, a designer can easily identify obsolete or unsourceable components and quickly find suitable replacements.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZmBD9VXhTA&ab_channel=Altium

Real-time supply chain control with IHS integration in Altium Designer

Alt text: Screenshot of the ActiveBOM tool in Altium Designer)

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1buZnrtJ9ny5VjuwLvr95pIhzIBbgsIkX

Taking Advantage of PCB Component Traceability Tools

By now one should realize that supply chain information is important when it comes time to manufacture your board, but so are component and raw materials traceability. Supply chain visibility and material traceability really go hand-in-hand to ensure that your device can meet performance requirements while remaining compliant with industry standards and government regulation.

These traceability features work best when they appear alongside your PCB layout tools and can be accessible within the same program. Most design platforms that offer similar features only check against a private database or a select number of distributors. These databases inevitably go stale and require some maintenance to ensure that data is kept up-to-date. Instead of manually checking and updating component databases, printed circuit designers need a managed solution that provides traceability information alongside updated component models and footprints.

Going Further: Traceability Within ECAD/MCAD Co-design

ECAD and MCAD co-design is one great way to ensure your new product can meet your enclosure and packaging requirements, as well as tailor your circuit board so that it meets mechanical requirements. Integration between these design tools improves productivity and allows collaboration between formerly siloed design teams. This is a natural extension for PCB layout and manufacturing.

Adding traceability to your MCAD design tools allows you to immediately check the traceability and sourceability of components in your mechanical model. It also allows you to check whether replacement components will fit into your mechanical enclosure, further ensuring that you satisfy mechanical requirements for your new product.

ECAD/MCAD collaboration for PCB design

Enhanced MCAD design tools in Altium Concord Pro

Best Tools and Resources for Component Traceability

These pain points around component sourcing might sound like a major challenges that require multiple tools and managed datasets from multiple vendors. In the past, designers and project managers were forced to crawl distributor websites or use separate managed databases that do not provide full supply chain visibility. This slows down the production planning process and doesn’t help you meet your component traceability requirements.

If you have tools that provide supply chain visibility directly in your PCB layout software, you won’t be blindsided by changes in the supply chain once your designs reach your manufacturer. Enter Altium Concord Pro: the only managed component database that integrates directly alongside the industry standard design tools in Altium Designer. Component data updates will quickly pass to your schematic and layout, and you can quickly access sourcing information at the click of your mouse.

Enhance Altium Designer with Altium Concord Pro

With Altium Concord Pro, project managers and PCB layout designers have the tools they need to ensure the components that appear in their designs are fully traceable and are up to date. The infamous “footprint not found” error that plagues other design programs is solved thanks to the unified data model that drives Altium Designer and Altium Concord Pro. These features are easily accessible within Altium Designer and are integrated alongside your standard PCB layout and manufacturing planning features.

The level of integration offered by Altium Concord Pro does not stop there. These component model and footprint updates are passed directly into the native MCAD tools in Altium Designer, and they integrate with other programs like SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor as plugins. This makes enclosure design more accurate and allows mechanical designers to collaborate alongside electrical designers. You’ll never need another piece of 3rd party component traceability software.

  • Altium Designer’s unified environment for circuit board design only improves with the data management and sourcing tools in Altium Concord Pro. Importing real-time data into your PCB layout software helps reduce lead times and prevents unnecessary rework during the manufacturing process.

    Learn more about unified design in Altium Designer.

  • The native 3D printed circuit design tools in Altium Designer integrate directly with the data management tools in Altium Concord Pro. All aspects of circuit board design and management can finally proceed in a single package, and you’ll be able to easily create your bills of materials in this ecosystem.

    Learn more about bill of materials and requirements management in Altium Designer.

  • No one wants to manually rearrange their circuit board after receiving component updates. Altium Concord Pro allows you to easily replace obsolete or unavailable components instantly.

    Learn more about Altium Concord Pro.

Altium Designer’s integrated printed circuit design interface is unmatched by other PCB design platforms. Other ECAD and MCAD tools offer little in the way of data management, and they offer nothing to aid component and material traceability. When you complement Altium Designer with Altium Concord Pro, your productivity will only increase and you’ll be able to easily remain compliant with industry and regulatory standards.

Altium wants you to be successful with all their design tools, and you’ll have access to plenty of resources along the way. From the AltiumLive forum to design tutorials, webinars and podcasts with industry experts, and an extensive knowledge base, you’ll have the resources you need to quickly rise to expert level.

Altium Designer is the only unified software package that integrates printed circuit board layout and production process into a single package, and you can complement your data management process with Altium Concord Pro. This managed data solution also integrates your data management and printed circuit design features with popular MCAD tools, allowing you to manage all aspects of your design in one unified platform. Anyone that uses Altium Designer can watch their productivity skyrocket with Altium Concord Pro.

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 1000+ technical blogs on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, and the American Physical Society, and he currently serves on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee.

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