Electronic Parts Sourcing with Integrated Component Libraries

November 7, 2018 Altium Designer

LED and an Arduino board

 

The weekend is grocery time at our house, and we always make a thorough list of everything we need for the next two weeks and where we will be buying it. You may not be as meticulous as my wife and I when it comes to buying groceries, but it pays to be thorough when you need to build a bill of materials for your PCB.

 

Once you’ve got your design complete, you need to ask yourself: where am I going to get all of these components I just placed in my schematic and layout? Your PCB will never come to life without all of these components. This is where design software with integrated components libraries is a huge time saver.

Sourcing Your Own Components

Try doing a search for ‘electronic components supplier’ and you’ll pull up more results than you can safely handle. Don’t get me wrong, you certainly could get all the information you need from distributor websites if you were so inclined. The number of component choices and distributors is huge, and no one has time to search for and supplier information on websites. You’ll need some way to compile all of this information in one place, saving you time and sanity.

 

One option is to leave this issue of sourcing up to your manufacturer. Manufacturers have distributors that they prefer to use and they have good relationships with these companies. They also tend to order common components in bulk, and they pass the price savings onto their customers. As long as you are using common parts and require low volume, you’ll probably be able to avoid any problems and still remain on a tight delivery schedule.

 

While this might seem like a safe option, you put yourself at risk of production delays from a number of problems. Larger manufacturers have a large number of customers, and they may need to place component orders just to accommodate your higher volume manufacturing run. This can already cause a delay before manufacturing even begins.

 

If you need more specialized components, there is no guarantee your manufacturer will have them in stock. Worse yet, counterfeit parts are more common than you would think. If your manufacturer does not take strict quality control measures or works with shady suppliers, your PCB could fall victim to incorrectly marked or outright counterfeit parts.

 

Inspecting a PCB with a microscope

Inspecting a PCB with a microscope

 

Integrated Libraries and Sourcing

If you decide to go it alone, you need component information and management tools that help save you time when selecting and sourcing your components. When your PCB design software includes search and comparison features in your component libraries, you can get a full view of component availability, choose suitable replacements, and determine your budget.

 

Your component information tools should also help you manage component obsolescence. Access to complete lifecycle information helps you decide whether to opt for a newer part in your design and make the necessary changes before you start production. Being able to compare possible replacements side-by-side gives you a full view of your component options, making it easy to select the best replacements and ensure your device works as designed.

 

All of this information needs to integrate into your bill of materials. You’ll need to include component part numbers, supplier information, quantities, suitable replacements, and even price and lead time information for your manufacturer. Make sure to check with your manufacturer when preparing your bill of materials, as they may require you include other information that was not listed here.

 

If you decide to go this route, it may seem daunting at first. You’ll be doing a lot of leg work for your manufacturer, and it will take an investment of time, but you are more likely to avoid many problems associated with manufacturer sourcing.

 

Green PCB with electronic components

Green PCB with electronic components

 

Going Beyond a Bill of Materials

Integrated component libraries in your PCB design software can do more than just pass component sourcing data and electrical specifications to your bill of materials. Your component libraries should integrate directly with your design tools. Your component footprints get passed directly into your CAD tools, allowing you to place components and route traces with unparalleled accuracy.

 

Models for your components are also easily passed from your component libraries to your simulation tools, allowing you to diagnose potential signal problems before they cripple your device. Integrated design and simulation tools build a model for your device directly from your schematic, and you won’t have to use an external program to run these critical simulations. This information can help you decide if you need to opt for a replacement component in your next PCB.

 

If you use proprietary components, you can compare specifications directly alongside standard components, giving a full view of your component options. Information is power, and presenting this information in a single intuitive interface makes it easy to compare and contrast your design options.

 

When you work with integrated design software, all of these features are built to interface with each other using a single rules-driven design model. A PCB design software package like Altium Designer 18.1 and the ActiveBOM tool makes sourcing components for your PCB a breeze. Never again will you get left browsing distributor websites and writing out lists of components; all this information integrates directly into your design software.

 

If you want to see if Altium Designer will meet your needs, you can download a free trial. To learn more about how Altium Designer makes PCB design and production easier, talk to an Altium expert today.

 

About the Author

Altium Designer

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

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