Free Trials

Download a free trial to find out which Altium software best suits your needs

How to Buy

Contact your local sales office to get started on improving your design environment


Download the latest in PCB design and EDA software

  • Altium Designer

    Complete Environment for Schematic + Layout

  • CircuitStudio

    Entry Level, Professional PCB Design Tool

  • CircuitMaker

    Community Based PCB Design Tool


    Agile PCB Design For Teams

  • Altium 365

    Connecting PCB Design to the Manufacturing Floor

  • Altium Concord Pro

    Complete Solution for Library Management

  • Octopart

    Extensive, Easy-to-Use Component Database

  • PDN Analyzer

    Natural and Effortless Power Distribution Network Analysis

  • See All Extensions

    World-Renowned Technology for Embedded Systems Development

  • Live Courses

    Learn best practices with instructional training available worldwide

  • On-Demand Courses

    Gain comprehensive knowledge without leaving your home or office

  • Altium 365 Viewer

    View & Share electronic designs in your browser

  • Altium Designer 20

    The most powerful, modern and easy-to-use PCB design tool for professional use


    Annual PCB Design Summit

    • Forum

      Where Altium users and enthusiasts can interact with each other

    • Blog

      Our blog about things that interest us and hopefully you too

    • Ideas

      Submit ideas and vote for new features you want in Altium tools

    • Bug Crunch

      Help make the software better by submitting bugs and voting on what's important

    • Wall

      A stream of events on AltiumLive you follow by participating in or subscribing to

    • Beta Program

      Information about participating in our Beta program and getting early access to Altium tools

    All Resources

    Explore the latest content from blog posts to social media and technical white papers gathered together for your convenience


    Take a look at what download options are available to best suit your needs

    How to Buy

    Contact your local sales office to get started improving your design environment

    • Documentation

      The documentation area is where you can find extensive, versioned information about our software online, for free.

    • Training & Events

      View the schedule and register for training events all around the world and online

    • Design Content

      Browse our vast library of free design content including components, templates and reference designs

    • Webinars

      Attend a live webinar online or get instant access to our on demand series of webinars

    • Support

      Get your questions answered with our variety of direct support and self-service options

    • Technical Papers

      Stay up to date with the latest technology and industry trends with our complete collection of technical white papers.

    • Video Library

      Quick and to-the-point video tutorials to get you started with Altium Designer

    Slashing the Spreadsheet: Moving the BOM to the Cloud

    Chad Jackson
    |  March 4, 2019

    As today’s technology becomes more and more complex, the demand for devices that require electrical design is only going to increase, and the ability to deliver a quality product in a short amount of time is critical.

    Engineers are continually trying to find ways to shorten product development cycles and design components more efficiently. Plenty of opportunities to be more productive, both mechanical and electrical engineering, exist. One specific area is the creation of Bills-of-Material (BOM) in the development of circuit boards and board systems. ECAD comes into play with that pretty closely.

    Traditional Approach

    When designing a circuit board, the first task is to create a logic diagram, which describes the interactions between board components. Part A needs to talk to Part B, Part C sends a signal to Part D, and so on. Once the underlying logic is there, the engineer creates a 3D layout, which conveys the arrangement of the board and the placement of the parts. Traditionally, this is on someone’s desktop computer.

    During this process, a Bill-of-Material is created to track components on the board and their quantity. The BOM is typically exported as a .csv file and exists separately from the 3D model on the desktop. Engineers communicate changes via emails and spreadsheets.

    This process gets the job done, sure, but there is much room for error. Spreadsheets and emails can get lost, or misread. Someone may make a change to the model and forget to relay that information. If an engineer modifies the model after exporting the BOM, the BOM doesn't reflect those changes. It is out of date. The BOM is handed off to a purchasing agent, who can only see the last exported version and not the actual model.

    If anything has changed in the model, there’s a considerable risk that the board won't represent the intent of the engineer. Suddenly, you get a board prototype, and it shorts out. That’s a re-spin, which is very expensive and time-consuming.

    Another aspect worth mentioning is collaborating on a BOM via email. In most circumstances, that .csv files is fired off to a purchasing agent, suppliers, and potentially a customer. What happens next is mayhem. Everyone starts commenting and marking up the file. No participant can see each other’s feedback. Then everyone is passing around files. There is no consolidated view of suggested changes. Getting aligned on what to do next requires a ton of work, delaying the development process even more.

    Novel Approach

    More and more companies are migrating their enterprise workloads to the cloud, and there are plenty of benefits for engineering organizations. There is, of course, an extra layer of security with this technology, but In the case of ECAD, the cloud can offer several other solutions. By putting board designs and layouts in the cloud, engineers make this information accessible to everyone at all times.

    Engineering staff, as well as everyone downstream, has access to a model that is unambiguous and always up-to-date. There are several benefits to having such broad access to the Bill- of- Materials in particular. In addition to in-house collaboration, customers and suppliers could also view the document and communicate any changes necessary.

    If all the necessary data is in the cloud, the model and the BOM are synchronized. The BOM reflects any changes to the model. This associativity between the model and BOM means it’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll always order the right parts, and avoid a potential re-spin. In the traditional approach, much time is spent asking questions and clarifying issues. It’s back-and-forth, back-and-forth. So in addition to potentially ordering the wrong materials, much valuable time can be lost. 

    Beyond the issue of gaining access to a BOM that is always accurate, there are significant advantages when collaborating in the cloud. The engineer, the procurement agent, supplier, and even the customer can all view the same model and BOM. Furthermore, they can all make comments and markups, suggesting changes. Additionally, all participants can see each other’s work. A process using a holistic, collaborative view is significantly faster than trading .csv files back and forth, hoping that you have the right version this time. This approach doesn't just avoid error avoidance; it gets to making better decisions faster. It is about designing better products in less time.


    The Bill-of-Materials might be a relatively mundane part of the product development cycle, but getting the right board the first time is mainly dependent on it. If you send a board BOM to a supplier that is wrong, you lose time and money with re-spins. With the BOM in the cloud, adjustments can be made without the worry of updating a separate document, making the process a whole lot smoother and everyone's’ jobs a lot easier.

    About Author

    About Author

    Chad Jackson is an analyst, researcher and blogger providing insights on technologies used to enable engineers. He has surveyed thousands of engineering organizations.

    most recent articles

    Back to Home