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degisn & prdoucts Circuit analyiss & bdeug up a CAD-based flow was largely negated. Today’s situation is much improved with component manufacturers and their distributors making dimensions and parameters routinely available in common formats. As with the ECAD/MCAD interface, there are great benefits to having a “joined-up” design environment with full access to all aspects of component data. The circuit designer first comes to component selection from the electrical/electronic performance aspect, but that is only a part of the complete description of a component that resides in the full database. Other attributes include a physical model, with complete geometry (and rendered visualisation); symbol; PCB footprint; and visibility into the e-commerce supply chain for real-time availability and pricing information. The data sets will also A design release encompasses all information from the design side and other relevant domains for bringing a product to market. include a part’s status; has it been approved, or superseded? Is it “recommended for new designs” – or has it been tagged as end-of-life? Is it preferred, are there similar parts that meet the requirements? Have any issues arisen with use of the part in the past? If it must be added to the library, what is the lead time to do so? The power of having that data tightly linked to the design environment hardly needs stating. Less obvious, perhaps, are the potential costs of inefficient management of ECAD libraries. Inefficient processes can add to administrative overhead, with increased operational cost through redundant or non-centralised infrastructure, and can lead to duplication of effort in – for example – sourcing and qualifying similar parts to those already listed, instead of exploiting common librarian and preferred electronic component lists. This in turn can push up inventory cost, with redundant parts being stocked and, eventually, obsoleted and written-off. Component data of less-than-ideal quality also has costs. Incomplete information or insufficient part qualification processes can leave room for ambiguity and may cause costly rework of the product when design verification reveals shortcomings, delaying volume production and shipping. Worse, the issues may go undetected until after product introduction, with quality, reliability or compliance problems with the end product. The integrated library and ECAD/MCAD design environment must therefore not only provide seamless support to the design processes. Of necessity, it must also have a comprehensive set of tools to manage the data held within it – in other words, not only a library, but all the tools needed by the librarian. This includes comprehensive access control; who has the authority to create, modify, delete parts, as opposed the designer’s need to access, import into a project and, where necessary, add commentary. A number of options exist to implement this function; it can be – and frequently has been – provided by custom-built, internally-developed (internal to the user’s organisation) solutions. These largely stand apart from the CAD/EDA environment and are difficult to integrate closely, lacking the ability to track and conform to evolving industry standards. Alternative solutions include those based on a product life-cycle management platform, but these, too, can lack the ideal level of integration. Key performance metrics related to an integrated library solution can be stated as: • Increased engineering efficiency • Shortened design cycles with fewer library- and component-related design spins • Improved product quality through approved vendors and parts, reduced inventory cost and new part introductions • Improved overall library quality leading to fewer issues downstream • Reduction of infrastructure cost and overhead. To meet these needs, Altium has conceived and evolved its Altium Vault. With rigorous control of access and authentication of users, the Vault provides component data repositories with all of the attributes needed by the ECAD/MCAD flow. It embodies complete revision control and lifecycle management, both for objects acquired (i.e. components) or assemblies manufactured. The organisation using it has, effectively, its own part catalogue from which to select, built around its own priorities and with visibility into the supply chain. Parts lists and bills-of-materials are checked in real time for issues – either historical or anticipated – with any devices listed, and will be held from release until all such issues are resolved. The Vault gathers all expected and required information in one system, with no data redundancy; it supports fast component searches with integrated supply chain information. Geographically distributed users can have worldwide access via Intranet to a single database; and the engineering function gains data consistency from the design process to board assembly. 32 Electronic Engineering Times Europe January 2016 www.electronics-eetimes.com


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