Connect the Dots: The Case for Expansive Parts Libraries

A large, relaible library of parts shortens design time and can eliminate costly errors.

My colleagues and I spend our day helping customers with their PCB designs. Much of our effort is directed at making functional improvements, speeding the prototyping process, or finding cost savings in a design. But we do a lot of problem solving, too: “Why did this blow up? How come nothing happens when I press the ‘on’ button?” Issues with specialized components are a common culprit.

PCBs are the foundation of every electronic device, the home for the components that make up your assembly. Those integrated circuits, connectors, headers, and passives are what makes it function. How it needs to function determines whether standard components alone can make it work.

Specialized parts are often needed to make innovative electronic devices and that can create time-consuming challenges for the designer. Even though there are millions of parts available for your designs, custom or hard-to-find parts are sometimes needed. Finding the right one is a stubborn challenge for PCB designers. The average design team maintains a parts library with thousands of parts, but even the largest of those contain less than one percent of what’s out there. That’s why designers can spend as much as 35% of their design time on the laborious and error prone process of researching and creating specialized parts.

Larger organizations have librarians on staff who locate or fabricate components that reliably meet designer specs. Absent that resource, PCB designers are left to search for what they need or create custom components themselves.

Small Mistakes Can Lead to Big Problems
Your datasheet will usually provide what you need to locate the right part in a library, but those datasheets can be complex to the point of ridiculousness. Each part has a lot of information that describes it—things like pin functional names, pin numbers, manufacturer part number, and tolerances. That creates a lot of opportunity for error. There can be discrepancies between the component footprints and the datasheet—tiny things like pin spacing not carried out to the furthest necessary decimal point (on a 200-pin connector, this can add up!) or the symbol on the datasheet not specifying part orientation.

Since the process of researching a part and making sure it will not turn your board into ash is a laborious and unpredictable process, designers often choose to invest a few hours and just design a custom part themselves. They will have to navigate all the same landmines that come in the form of funky shapes, a unique size for desired functionality, or an inventive footprint. It is painstaking. You must translate every design element from the datasheet perfectly and it is hard not to miss something that will create problems.

Frying a board full of expensive components makes mistakes at this stage costly. So, if there is an easy way to avoid this risk and hassle, it makes sense to take advantage of it.

Keep Accurate, Pre-defined Parts at Your Fingertips
Expansive component databases will shorten PCB design time, reduce the need for rework, and avoid costly board failures. The more complete and more accurate your parts library is, the better. We believe SnapEDA is the best solution to the custom parts challenge.

It’s also one of, if not the easiest to use. With the ability to integrate the search and download functionality within the software, product manager Michael Hebda highlights the ease of use and simplicity of SnapEDA. I guess it is right there in the name and logo.

SnapEDA offers designers a massive, cloud-based electrical components database that includes a collection of specialized parts from many different manufacturers. With close to a million parts at the designer’s fingertips, SnapEDA makes it much easier to locate a tested, proven component that meets your specs. SnapEDA’s database is maintained by professionals dedicated to interfacing with component manufacturers, meticulously breaking down every detail of each technical datasheet and double-checking every piece of information made available.

Most of the CAD tools preferred by PCB designers—including Sunstone's free PCB123® design software—have third party plugins that allow you to quickly search SnapEDA and import parts you can rely on from their component database. This makes finding and integrating specialized parts into your design easier than ever.

Specialized parts don’t have to be a challenge. Resources like the one illustrated here really can eliminate a lot of headaches for those of us who don’t have a parts librarian on staff. Whether you choose SnapEDA or another parts library database, we encourage you to leverage cost-effective resources that will save time in the design phase and eliminate issues with specialized components during production.

This column, the last installment from Bob Tise, originally appeared in the February 2021 issue of Design007 Magazine.

Back

2021

Connect the Dots: The Case for Expansive Parts Libraries

02-10-2021

PCBs are the foundation of every electronic device, the home for the components that make up your assembly. Those integrated circuits, connectors, headers and passives are what makes it function. How it needs to function determines whether standard components alone can make it work.

View Story

Connect the Dots: Design Tips to Avoid Part Fit Problems

01-19-2021

“Will my parts fit on the board?” That seems like it should be a rhetorical question that needs no answer but reality tells us, as you transition from the design stage to manufacturing, issues with parts fit are one of the most frequent causes of delays and cost overruns. Bob Tise and Matt Stevenson share six tips for ensuring parts will fit on your board.

View Story
Back

2020

This Month in Design007 Magazine: Connect the Dots—Is 2020 Really Coming to an End?

12-09-2020

As we approach the end of 2020, we are able to look back on one of the most challenging years that I have ever experienced. Throughout these trying times, Bob Tise and Matt Stevenson were consistent in their desire to share knowledge with everyone. Matt shares a synopsis of the topics they shared from the perspective of a PCB manufacturer.

View Story

Connect the Dots: The New Recipe for Customer Service Success

11-11-2020

How are you holding up these days during the pandemic? Each of us is dealing with life struggles and changes differently. With this in mind, Matt Stevenson asks Al Secchi, global customer support and sales manager, what he has learned professionally from the pandemic and how to serve customers.

View Story

Connect the Dots: Unraveling the Mysterious BGA Routing Mess

10-19-2020

A ball-grid-array (BGA) device can be a daunting component to route, especially in fine-pitch arrays featuring solder ball counts in the hundreds and pitch values as tight as 0.5 millimeters. Bob Tise and Matt Stevenson describe how you can take the mystery out of BGA routing and create a PCB design that can handle all those pesky narrow spaces.

View Story

Connect the Dots: How to Know If a CAD Tool Is Right for You

09-21-2020

The tool that defines PCB designers is our CAD software, and many discover quickly that not all CAD tools are created equally. Bob Tise and Matt Stevenson answer the question, "How can designers find the right CAD tools to fit their particular methodology and needs?"

View Story

Connect the Dots: The Nuts and Bolts of Electrical Testing

08-12-2020

In this column, Bob Tise and Matt Stevenson explore the world of electrical testing. They examine a variety of testing methods, what options to look for in a PCB manufacturer, and how to ensure that you're getting the best value out of the electrical test options available to you.

View Story

Connect the Dots: Reassessing the Risk of Offshore PCB Manufacturing

07-15-2020

Offshore board production has long been considered an effective way to reduce the cost of producing electronic devices here at home, but those savings often demand a higher tolerance for delivery issues and come with lowered expectations for quality. Bob Tise and Matt Stevenson explain.

View Story

Connect the Dots: The Power of Forward Thinking

06-06-2020

Innovation comes in many forms and from more places these days. Bob Tise and Matt Stevenson discuss how innovative electronic devices all contain PCBs, and share pro design tips for bringing new products to the market.

View Story

Connect the Dots: Picking a Prototyping Strategy

05-29-2020

No matter how simple or complicated your electronic project, PCB prototyping is part of its journey from concept to reality. This process of turning the design into something physical can teach you a lot about what needs to be tweaked and improved before your PCB is ready for full production. Bob Tise and Matt Stevenson explain how before you can prototype, you have to design.

View Story

Connect the Dots: Increased Focus on Health and Wellness Transforms the PCB Industry

04-04-2020

Our increased focus on health and wellness drives technology advancement for personal devices and those used in the delivery of healthcare. Bob Tise and Matt Stevenson explain how this trend also drives both PCB production innovation and a long-overdue update of the employer/employee relationship.

View Story

Connect the Dots: The Seven-year Etch

03-16-2020

PCB etching seems like a simple task on the surface, but quite a few things can go wrong during this process. Adhering to best practice and continuous improvement is a must to help avoid issues with your finished board. Bob Tise and Matt Stevenson share their design tips for a better etching process.

View Story
Back

2019

Connect the Dots: A Penny for Your Thoughts on Copper

11-19-2019

You're probably thinking: “Bob can’t possibly write an entire article dedicated to the use of copper in PCBs.” To that, Bob says, “Hold my beer.”

View Story

Connect the Dots: Build Quality Into Your Boards and Processes

11-06-2019

To the procurement clerk, a PCB may seem like it is just a line item on a bill of materials (BOM) or parts list during the production of an electronic device. At Sunstone, we know differently. The PCB is the building block for all of the components and parts in your electrical project.

View Story

Connect the Dots: A Proactive Approach to Controlled Impedance

10-09-2019

You can save time, money, and effort if you are aware of the impedance math when you sit down to design your board. Gain this awareness by using a good impedance calculator, and you can build the right tolerances into your design. Impedance testing becomes a double-check of your work instead of the tool you rely on to tell you if your documentation is correct. Documenting impedance requirements properly is more onerous than most people realize. Though it seems simple, PCB documentation is a details game that often leaves knowledge gaps for your manufacturer.

View Story

Connect the Dots: Managing Global Supply Chain Uncertainty

09-03-2019

We are well into the second year of tariff-centric trade policy, and one thing appears certain—uncertainty is here to stay. Though most of the media focus has been on cars and steel or consumer prices and corporate profits, the enduring challenge for both the electronics and PCB industries has been maintaining reliable global supply chains.

View Story

Connect the Dots: Five Best Practices to Ensure Manufacturability

08-01-2019

When you send your design for manufacturing, your partner does not know what type of device the board will be part of nor the conditions in which it will have to perform. It’s common for harsh environments or exposure to mess up a board’s performance. If you call out materials that will not tolerate the end-product’s operating environment, bad things can happen—such as a smoking board, for example. Be sure your board can tolerate thermal stress or solder joints risk breaking and damaging components.

View Story

Connect the Dots: The Future of PCB Manufacturing Doesn't Belong to Robots, but to the Users

07-09-2019

Is the world ready for the consequences of rapid automation? Will the use of robots displace entire categories of workers? Can artificial intelligence really “think”? How will manufacturing, including PCB manufacturing, be affected by all of these smart robots? These questions actually come from a pamphlet published in 1955: "The Age of Automation: Its Effects on Human Welfare."

View Story

Connect the Dots: Accurate Gerber Files Are Mission-Critical for Smooth PCB Manufacturing

05-30-2019

Gerber files can reveal design issues ahead of the quote process and ensure your manufacturer has everything needed to produce your boards correctly. After consulting with Engineering Support Specialist Eric Haugen, we explored some best practices for making sure that Gerber files are accurate.

View Story

Connect the Dots: Preparing for Tomorrow’s Technology Today

05-16-2019

At a recent Sunstone Circuits planning summit, Matt Stevenson, VP of sales and marketing, and Bob Tise had a wide-ranging discussion about emerging technologies and how they will impact PCB manufacturing. The following is an abridged transcript of this conversation.

View Story

Connect the Dots: MakeHarvard 2019: Bigger and Better!

04-09-2019

Sunstone Circuits was eager to return to MakeHarvard as a sponsor and creator of a competition category this year, also serving as both mentors and competition judges. If you were there, you saw us—we were hard to miss in our bright orange vests. As mentors, we were out and about helping students and answering questions.

View Story

Connect the Dots: Exploding PCBs: Don’t Lose Track of Voltage in Your Design

04-01-2019

Managing split planes? Your CAM tool will not do it for you. We see this almost every day—not exploding PCBs, which pretty rare—but rather problems created by having more than one voltage on a power plane layer. From where we sit, this is one of the more insidious and costly challenges facing PCB designers.

View Story
Back

2018

Connect the Dots: Six Tips to Ensure Parts Fit on Your Board

12-12-2018

One of the most frustrating mismatches with alternative through-hole parts occurs when the land pattern matches, but the pin size is off. If hole sizes are too tight, pins may not fit through the holes, or if they do go into the holes, they may not solder well. Solder will need to flow through the gap between the pin and the hole barrel. If there is not enough space to allow enough solder mass to flow through the hole, the circuit board will absorb heat from the molten solder and cause the solder to solidify partway up the hole. This is called a cold solder joint and can result in a premature failure of your circuit.

View Story

Connect the Dots: New Landing Design to Reduce Thermal Pad Failure

11-16-2018

You’ve finally finished your design. All the traces are correct and the IC landings are to the manufacturer’s specifications. A short run of test boards performs perfectly. For best results, you select a reputable domestic board house for production and a quality assembly shop to do the soldering. When the finished boards arrive, everything looks great. You’re in high spirits and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Then the reports start coming in.

View Story
Copyright © 2021 I-Connect007. All rights reserved.