Altium Designer Documentation

More about Components and Libraries

Modified by Jason Howie on May 31, 2017

An electronics design is a collection of connected components. The rewarding part of product development is coming up with cool ways of solving those engineering challenges, connecting those components to craft your unique design.

However, a large part of the work, and to many designers the more tedious part, is creating the components. While it might not be exciting, the components become a valuable resource for your company, and it's essential that they accurately represent the real-world component.

The component that you buy and solder onto the board is the real component, but that component has to be modeled in each of the electronic design domains that you want to use it in.

Depending on what type of design implementations you plan to perform, your component could include: a symbol for the schematic; a simulation model for the circuit simulator; an IBIS model for signal integrity analysis; a pattern or footprint for PCB layout; and a 3D model for visualization, 3D clearance checking and export to the mechanical CAD domain.

Read more about Understanding Models, Components and Libraries.


Models

Each component is a collection of linked models, and parametric component data. It is the models that contain the detailed information needed by each design domain.

The following models types can be used:

Schematic symbol The symbol represents the component on the schematic sheet. The symbol is created using standard drawing objects, the pins add the electrical properties.
SPICE model Simulate the behavior of the connected components using the SPICE simulator. SPICE models are usually sourced from the device suppliers.
Signal Integrity model PCB interconnects are becoming part of the circuit as device and circuit switching speeds increase. IBIS models describe the pin behavior, allowing Altium Designer's signal integrity simulator to analyze the routes.
PCB footprint Each component needs to have a place defined on the PCB where it mounts and connects - the footprint is the model that defines that PCB space. A PCB footprint is created from a set of standard objects, with the pads providing the connectivity.
3D model Today's electronic product is compact and tightly packed, comes in an unusual shape, and may well have a PCB that is folded to fit into the case. To design a product like this you need to be able to model the PCB in 3D - so you can visualize the finished board, perform 3D clearance checking, and transfer the loaded board to the mechanical CAD domain. To do this, you'll need a 3D model of each component.

Read more about Creating Models.


Components

So how do the models come together to create a component? There are essentially three approaches:

  • Link each of the model-kinds to the schematic symbol and add suitable component parameters, the symbol then becomes the component.
  • Use a database library (DBLib), each record is a component, referencing the required models and parametric component data. The model links and parameters are added to the symbol during placement, turning it into a standard Altium Designer component.
  • Use an Altium Vault, the models and parametric component data is bought together as a Vault component, complete with live links to suppliers.

Regardless of the storage option, the model links and parametric data is added to the symbol, creating the design component.

Read more about The Component.


Libraries

An Altium Designer library is an arbitrary collection of models or components. How the models or components are organized into libraries is up to you. You might structure your libraries around device suppliers, or you might cluster components by function, for example with a library for all of the microcontrollers your company uses.

The following library types are available:

Schematic library At the simplest level is the schematic library (*.SchLib). A SchLib can be a model library, holding component symbols; or if model links and parametric data is added to each symbol, it becomes a component library.
PCB library A library for storing PCB footprint models. If required, a 3D model can be added to each footprint. 3D models are created from 3D body objects, or a STEP model imported into a 3D body object.
Integrated Library Prefer to have your components pre-packed and pre-verified in a single file? Then compile the source schematic/PCB/simulation models to generate an integrated library (IntLib).
Database Library Want to tightly couple the design components to your company data? Then explore database libraries.
Altium Vault Want easy, company-wide access and management of your components, with revisioning, where-used and direct coupling to real-time supplier data? Then an Altium Vault could be a good choice.

Read more about The Libraries.


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