Get the Help you Need Selecting PCB Components with Bill of Materials Software

March 8, 2018 Altium Designer

 Old ventilation fan motor




I’m in the middle of replacing the electric motor in my bathroom fan, but, unfortunately, I have no idea what to purchase. A 30-year-old ventilation fan part replacement is proving to be a real chore. I am amazed at how many different types of motor and fan combinations there are to choose from. One has the hardware bolts on the correct side, but the fan turns the wrong direction. The next turns correctly with the wrong shaft length.


You may have run into similar problems when you design printed circuit boards with all of the different parts out there to choose from. If you don’t have a dedicated member of your staff to do the research for you, or if you are that person, it also can be quite a chore. Getting the right part information from the schematic, finding the correct components to match the data up to, making sure that those parts are available for purchase, and ensuring the best bang for your buck.


Fortunately for us all, there is some help now with a bill of materials (BOM) management tool that is available in PCB design software. Not only is it part of your design system, but it will also give you the ability to connect with your part vendors as you design. This BOM management tool can make the part selection process a whole lot easier and ease some of your component related headaches. Let me tell you more about it.

Always Know What Parts are Currently in Your Design

The bill of materials software management tool is much more than a report generator or a parts list. It is another gateway into your design data in the same way that the schematic editor or the layout tool is. You can still use the BOM manager to report your parts as you always have, but the tool gives you a lot more functionality than that.


Since this software is another gateway into the design, the active parts in the design are displayed for you in the BOM tools. You also have the ability to add, remove, and swap parts as well, and all of those changes are saved to the design. Another advantage that this tool offers is that you can highlight parts in it, and through cross-selecting those parts will highlight in the schematic and layout tools as well.


Cross select menu in ActiveBOM

The ability to cross select parts between your design tools is a powerful feature in BOM management tools



Real-Time Connections with Part Vendors

Having the ability to manipulate parts directly from the bill of materials software management tools is a real help when organizing your parts, but there is more that this tool can do. It also offers a cloud connection so that you have a real-time connection with online parts data.


With the connection to part vendors, you can make component selections based on current data. You will have access to price and quantity information as well as their availability. This will allow you to populate your design with the parts that you expect instead of finding out later on in the design cycle that those parts are actually not available.


Picture of part selector in Active BOM menu

The ability to make informed part selections with BOM management tools is a real benefit



Bill of Materials Software Puts You in Charge of Your Design

The ability to actively work in your design through the BOM management tools is extremely helpful. Instead of using a search tool to find components or reference designators, you can use the BOM manager to quickly look for and select the parts that you want. The cross-selecting functionality will help you as you design as well as in design reviews to find, display and report any parts that you desire.


The real jewel though is the help that this tool will give you when selecting your PCB components. Instead of waiting to find out whether or not your parts selection is acceptable to use, you will now have the ability to make informed part choices while you design. This BOM management tool will put you in the driver’s seat when it comes to component selection giving you much more control over your design.


Not only will this help you in your initial design, it will also help to reduce the amount of eleventh-hour part changes and redesigns that normally occur after you’ve been informed which parts aren’t available for use. I’m convinced that this new BOM tool is a real help, I just wish that it would help me to find the right fan motor.


Does this new level of control over your design data sound like it would be helpful to you? If so then check out the PCB design software from Altium. Altium Designer 18 is a full feature PCB design system that features Active BOM, the bill of materials software management tools that I have been telling you about. With it, you will have the cloud connection for part data, the additional gateway into your design data, and the cross-selecting between design tools.


To find out how all of this can benefit you in your next PCB design, talk to an expert at Altium.

About the Author

Altium Designer

PCB Design Tools for Electronics Design and DFM. Information for EDA Leaders.

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