PCB Library Management | What is it and Why does it Matter?12th May 2021
PCB layout design is not rocket science, but it does take time to do right. By taking the time to review your designs before you create your layouts, you can resolve issues early enough to lower costs and production time. PCB Library Management is a critical part of this.
What is PCB Library Management?
Data preparation and library management are time-consuming activities. They are however a crucial part of the process and if not done correctly can severely impair the success of the project. From the inclusion of library parts to the collation of datasheets for each item, the importance of appropriate data preparation and library management cannot be overstated. Some PCB design bureaus will offer this service, but some won’t so it’s important to understand what is required before work commences. Some companies will expect fully CAD-generated schematics, but many can also work from hand-drawn sketches if required. This initial planning plays a very important part especially when it comes to communicating your plans.
In order to understand what a good PCB library administrator can do for you, you need to know what they can’t do, as well. The primary features are time savings, and guaranteed accuracy. If you’re a smaller shop or freelancer, saving time by paying a librarian may not be in your best interest. If you’re with a service bureau juggling multiple designs, outsourcing parts for creation saves you time and money.
PCB libraries are supposed to help you do this, but the wrong library setup can turn the PCB layout process into a sponge that absorbs your R&D time and resources. Good PCB library administration can prevent your great board designs from becoming nightmares, but what is PCB library administration?
What does PCB Library Management involve?
When you hear the word “components”, it’s natural to think about ICs, LEDs, resistors, and all the other electronic hardware that goes into building a PCB. But in terms of PCB design software, there is a lot of information that goes into any component. Every component has an associated symbol, footprint, pin arrangement, and other properties that are used by your PCB design software. With so many components available on the market and with electronics companies producing new components, managing a component library becomes one of the important duties of a PCB designer. Designers commonly create customized components for use in their designs, including footprints and simulation models.
Bringing this information together so that you can take your PCB from design to production requires the best design software on the market. When you work in a unified design environment, your design software will seamlessly integrate your components libraries with your schematic library, and updates to your components libraries are easily passed to your schematic.
Managing Your Digital Libraries
Library management is a broad term that refers to managing component, supplier, life cycle, and schematics for use in your design. With the massive number of components on the market, no one has time to compile information in these libraries on their own. There are many companies that specialize in creating software that compiles this information for you, making you more productive and allowing you to spend more time on your designs.
Component libraries contain more than just a long list of part numbers. A great component library should contain associated schematics symbols, footprints for your layout, SPICE models for use in simulations, and electrical specifications. These libraries also include 3D models for use in a 3D viewer. When all of this information is compiled in a single interface, it greatly streamlines the design process. Component libraries also need to contain associated supplier information, including costs, lead times, and suitable replacements. This gives you the information you need to generate parts lists and a bill of materials for your manufacturer.
Why is it Important to Manage your Digital Library?
Managing your digital libraries takes more than just maintaining lists of components and schematics. Your libraries need to synchronize with component supplier information and life cycle management tools. Life cycle management tools give you the information you need to replace obsolete components with suitable replacements. All of these tools work best when they are integrated into a single environment, rather than being separated into different modules.
Some PCB design software packages allow you to create new libraries that contain a specific list of most often used components. When you have a library that grows to 1000’s of components, updates to components are almost never seamless. Especially when you use software that operates with disparate component models. Digital libraries should be created with users and user-intention in mind, with access to the resources and knowledge required from the library.
Badly prepared data and library management can also create added complexities when locating appropriate elements and parts for the design. Many companies will do the hard work for you – collating datasheets for each device where library parts don’t exist and verifying them to ensure there are sufficient legible dimensions for the new part to be created.
Translating between updated versions of your software can wreak havoc on your component library. An update can change the file structure of your component library, forcing you to organize and update your components manually. Some software packages have a components information system that helps you manage your libraries, but you have to purchase this as an add-on. There is no reason such a critical tool shouldn’t be included in your PCB design software.
PCB Library Management is about more than just updating footprints and symbols in schematics. You need to leverage supply chain availability and lifecycle information to ensure your designs remain up to date. Imagine opening up that PCB you created 6 months ago and sending deliverables to your manufacturer, only to find that half of your parts are unavailable or obsolete. Lifecycle states allow you to catch and replace obsolete parts in your designs.
Unified Digital Library Management
Working in a unified design environment means more than just presenting all the tools you need in a single piece of software. Data management in a unified design environment uses unified component models that can be reused when you define new components. These component models should serve as templates for new components, saving you time.
Your design software should also help increase productivity by providing updates to component libraries and supply chain information. Designers shouldn’t have to spend time scouring the internet for component updates or supply chain information. They shouldn’t have to rely on an unreliable 3rd party service for these critical updates. A unified design environment allows you to seamlessly transfer any updates onto your schematics.
If you need to make revisions to the footprint of a unified component, your PCB design software should present a visual side-by-side comparison of footprint changes. Any symbol, pin arrangement, and schematic changes should be easy to compare as well. The same idea applies to component templates. This ensures that component changes within your library will be accessible to everyone in your organization.
Many components share common properties, such as capacitance, mounting style, and rated voltage. When you work with a great component manager, you can assign these properties to individual components easily within a single interface. As well as adding them individually to each component, you can also use the Attribute Manager tool to add them to multiple components. Your circuit board and your digital libraries can be managed into effective content creation and storage.
PCB Library Management in eCADSTAR
The eCADSTAR Library Editor provides a complete solution for creating and editing symbol, footprints and part information for PCB design. Integrated into the eCADSTAR framework, Library Editor shares the same set of user interface and configuration settings as other applications in the Zuken family. This makes it easy to learn and maximises productivity during product development.
Working in a unified design environment links your component libraries, schematic libraries, component models, simulation tools, bill of materials, and layout tools within a single design interface.
eCADSTAR has partnered up with many Suppliers & Electronic Component Information Providers such as Findchips, SamacSys, Ultra Librarian & SiliconExpert. These services are fully integrated into eCADSTAR. Spend more time designing and less time searching for parts and supply chain risk information.
eCADSTAR’s database library has excellent searching capabilities allowing you to filter by Part Name, Class, attributes and much more. The search features allow you quickly sift through a massive component library. As a result, you will only locate the components you need for your design including previews of symbols and footprints. Manage your circuits better with a stronger digital library system.
More about eCADSTAR
- Fully manage your design process from start to finish in a consistent environment.
- A common user interface and centralized unified library.
- Define design constraints and variants in the schematic and propagate it throughout the PCB design and routing process.
- Identify library changes and designs updates with powerful library functionality.
- A modern, intuitive and fully-customisable user-interface to help delivery design efficiencies
eCADSTAR – BUILT TO HELP YOU DELIVER RESULTS
- PCB DE64-bit computing
- Mouse and touch screen operation
- Powerful graphics, enabling users to design in a native 3D environment
- Advanced Collaborative design, allowing design activities to occur concurrently
- 2D and 3D environments
- Multi-core processor