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    Altium Development Program member Octopart, helps designers find the components they need, when they need them, by creating the Octopart Extension for Altium Designer.

    Introduction

    Octopart provides an online electronic search engine that is used to find and compare parts (components) across different manufacturers and distributors. The company was born in 2006 out of the frustrations of a group of physics graduate students who were struggling to find and source the correct parts, with very specific and tight tolerances, for their research projects.

    They rapidly came to the conclusion that there had to be a more efficient and effective method of searching for parts, so after some research they developed a database system and determined what data needed to be be indexed and how to search that database.

    What originated as a side project to assist them in their research efforts, turned into a real business opportunity.

    The Need

    Designers need component information and pricing data upfront to make informed design decisions. With component data now being available online, the days of paper catalogs are almost gone. However a designer will still often need to visit multiple manufacturer and distributor web sites each day just to confirm they have the most appropriate component for the job at the right price and determine availability.

    While it is considered a critical step in developing a sound and cost effective design, the time spent searching for and qualifying component choices has become a barrier to getting the design work done itself.

    While some companies have chosen to push this component sourcing to either end of the design cycle, this approach either inhibits design creativity by forcing designers to use a list of qualified parts (pre-design selection) or risks miscommunication by forcing designers to communicate their design intent and component requirements to other departments in their company (post-design selection).

    The Challenge

    In its mission to open up access to part information for electronic design, purchasing and manufacturing, Octopart created a free to use, standalone search engine. Partnering with Altium was an easy decision to provide the benefits of this search engine to the growing, common user base through an Altium Designer extension.

    The Solution

    Octopart participated in the Beta program for the the Altium Developer program, which meant that the traditional challenges of extension or plug in development were amplified. Whilst expansive, the SDK / API documentation was still in the early phases, but the extension delivery system and support from Altium were exceptional.

    Octopart’s developer scheduled 2 months to have a working extension ready for testing, however the extension was ready ahead of schedule within a month.

    The extension development environment and API allowed Octopart to build a professional extension in a very short amount of time. The extension is seamlessly integrated into Altium Designer.

    The Results

    Octopart aggregates and normalizes component data from a number of sources (200+ distributors, 50M unique parts) providing the most complete and easy-to-use component search to provide designers with one stop shop for all the component search, selection and supply chain needs.

    With the ability to search such a wide range of vendor, supplier and distributor data at the touch of a button, designers are able to make the very solid decisions about which components to use in a design upfront, and then populate the design with the supplier part numbers and details automatically. A huge productivity improvement for design teams and supply chain management teams within an organization.

    Octopart also supports an open system for manufacturers & distributors to create, update & maintain their content and presence.

    How does it work?

    When you are in Altium Designer and working in a schematic design, select a part, right mouse click and a select the menu drop-down item that says "Octopart Part Lookup". Then click on the matching part number to display each distributor’s specific part number, availability, current inventory, cost, open the datasheet, visit the manufacturer's website and if needed immediately purchase directly.

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