Parent page: More about Components and Libraries
Altium Designer facilitates the linking of your design components to real-world parts, enabling you to have access to live supplier data at your fingertips, as you design. Through direct connection to Supplier web services, you are able to search across a supported Supplier's entire product catalog. This 'live' data can then be integrated within the design process - at the library design level, during the design, and at design release time. In short, this feature allows Supplier databases to be searched from within Altium Designer, and Altium design components linked to matching Supplier Items.
For any given Supplier Item found through a search, its parameters, data sheet links, pricing, and stock information can also be imported, as parameters of a target library component (SchLib, DbLib, SVNDbLib), or placed component on a schematic sheet. In addition, whole new components can be created in a target library directly from Supplier Items.
The linked supplier data can also be included at design release time, in a Bill of Materials - especially useful from a project costing and procurement perspective.
This document takes a look at linking to supplier data for component management methodologies that utilize SchLib, DbLib, or SVNDbLib as their 'backbone' for component storage. If you are using an Altium Vault - and Vault-based components - a similar, yet distinctly separate and far more powerful link between design component and supply chain is realized, through the notion of Part Choices. For more information, see Adding Supply Chain Information to a Vault Component. For more information on the centralized configuration of Suppliers as part of an Altium Vault installation, see Supply Chain Management.
The cornerstone of this feature to access live supplier data, is the Altium Parts Provider extension. This extension delivers an aggregate supplier data service that provides access to live component information from a comprehensive range of parts suppliers.
The Data Management - Suppliers page of the Preferences dialog is command-central for configuring which Suppliers will be available when searching for parts data, along with other options relating to linking to Supplier data.
When the Altium Parts Provider extension is installed, use the Altium Parts Options section of the page to configure the service to suit your needs.
Options include the following:
The primary interface to live supplier data is the Supplier Search panel. Think of this as a direct portal to real-world parts offered by the various Suppliers you have enabled for the feature. Access this panel by clicking the System panel access button, at the bottom-right of the main design window, and choosing Supplier Search from the associated menu.
As illustrated, the panel is essentially divided into three key sections:
At the heart of Altium Designer's feature to link to Supplier data, is the Supplier Link. This fundamental entity provides the live link between an Altium Designer component and an item vended by an enabled Supplier.
Creation of a Supplier Link involves the addition of two parameters to the target Altium Designer component involved:
n is an integer suffix, used to distinguish between Supplier Items when multiple links are added to the same component.
Manually creating a link is a simple, straightforward process. Simply click on the required Supplier Item, in the results region of the Supplier Search panel, then drag and drop onto the target component. Exactly where to 'drop' depends on the type of component:
For the currently focused component in a schematic library, Supplier Links can be directly added from within the Supplier Links region of the SCH Library panel. Simply click on the Add button to access the Add Supplier Links dialog. Search for the required item, select it in the upper (results) region and click OK to add a link to that item, to the schematic library component.
To speed searching, the software fills in some suggested keywords into the Keywords field at the top of the Add Supplier Links dialog. The entry depends on the settings defined in the Suggested Keywords region, on the Data Management - Suppliers page of the Preferences dialog.
Default priority assignments (with highest priority at the top of the list) mean that the Comment will be used as the search criteria first. If the source component has no comment, then the next attempt uses its Description. If this is also blank, the component's Name will be used.
Add your own suggested keyword parameters as required. Clicking the Add button will add a new parameter entry (with default name Parameter Name) to the bottom of the list (and therefore assigning it lowest priority). The new parameter will automatically be focused, ready to change its name. To change the name of an existing parameter, click once on its name field to focus it, then enter the new name as required. Alternatively, select a parameter by clicking on its associated priority field, then click the Edit button.
Use the Move Up or Move Down buttons to move the currently selected parameter up or down in the list respectively - increasing, or decreasing, its assigned Priority accordingly.
Once the relevant suggested keyword is loaded into the Keywords field - in the Add Supplier Links dialog where the part search is being performed - it can be further refined as required, to better target the desired Supplier Item(s).
For any given Supplier Item found through a search in the Supplier Search panel, its parameters, datasheet links, pricing, and stock information, can be imported as parameters of a target library component (SchLib, DbLib, SVNDbLib), or placed component on a schematic sheet. Importing information is simply a case of selecting the parameter(s), datasheet link(s), pricing information, or stock information - in the detailed information region of the panel - then dragging and dropping onto the target component/component record. Examples of each of these are given over the following sections.
Prior to importing any parameters, pricing, or stock information from Supplier Items, you have the opportunity to define name mappings. This is particularly useful where, for example, certain parameters have already been defined for library components, and those existing parameters have different names to those used by a Supplier in their published data for an item. Rather than importing data into a new/separate parameter, the data can be imported into the existing parameter - provided the name mapping has been setup to do so.
When importing a parameter, the software will look to these options to see if that parameter has a defined mapping - specified by the Imported Parameter Name field. If this field is blank, or the parameter is not listed, it will be imported using the parameter name used by the Supplier. If this field has a value, then data will be imported into a new or existing parameter with that name. In the case of the latter, the data will overwrite any existing data.
The Supplier Link options only apply when creating a new library component from a Supplier Item, or when adding a Supplier Link and parameters simultaneously. For each listed parameter, the designer can choose to exclude it from import, and also define whether a suffix is to be used - useful if importing parameters from multiple Supplier Items to the same Altium Designer component. The suffix identifies a parameter as belonging to a particular Supplier Link. That parameter can be deleted when the associated Supplier Link is removed. Note that non-suffixed parameters will not be deleted when the Supplier Link is removed.
To import parameters, simply select the required parameters in the Parameters section of the Supplier Search panel, and drag to the target component/component record. Import will comply with defined parameter import options.
The process for importing a datasheet link from a Supplier Item is the same as that for importing parameters. The only difference is, that there are no options to set up beforehand - just click and drag the datasheet link from the detailed Documents section for the Supplier Item onto the target component/component record in the active library (SchLib, DbLib, SVNDbLib), or component on the active schematic sheet as required.
The process will add a ComponentLink parameter pair, targeting the datasheet. By default, the same value will be entered for both the ComponentLinknDescription and ComponentLinknURL parameters - the URL for the data sheet. Access the link from the right-click References context menu for the component.
To import pricing information from a Supplier Item, simply click anywhere within the detailed Pricing section of the panel, and drag to the target component/component record. Import will comply with defined parameter import options for the Pricing parameter.
Although a Supplier Item may typically list a range of different prices, based on quantity levels, the import results in only a single Pricing parameter. The value of the parameter will reflect these various price-quantity relationships in the following format:
Quantity1=Price1, Quantity2=Price2, ..., Quantityn=Pricen
To import stock (inventory) information from a Supplier Item, simply click anywhere within the detailed Stock section of the panel, and drag to the target component/component record. Import will comply with defined parameter import options for the Stock parameter.
It is possible to add parameters, datasheet links, pricing, and stock information for a Supplier Item, along with a Supplier Link to that item, all in the one step. This allows you to setup components in a far more streamlined way, rather than adding each stage independently. To do this, simply right-click on the Supplier Item entry in the results region of the Supplier Search panel, and choose the Add Supplier Link And Parameters To command.
If a SchLib/DbLib/SVNDbLib is active, the parameters and Supplier Link will be added to the focused component/component record. If a Schematic document is active, you will be able to click on each part to which the parameters and Supplier Link are to be added.
The image below illustrates this for an 8-position DIP-Switch component - DIP-8 - in a Schematic Library. The result is a new Supplier Link to the item - verified in the Supplier Links region of the SCH Library panel - and all imported parameters populating the Parameters region of the associated Library Component Properties dialog for the component.
Adding a Supplier Link and/or parametric information to an Altium design component is straightforward, but what if that component does not yet exist? No matter, the ability is provided to create a new library component directly from a Supplier Item.
The method used to create the component depends on the type of target library:
The name of the newly created component uses the value of the Supplier Item's Manufacturer Part Number parameter.
The Supplier Links currently defined for a library component, or placed component on a schematic sheet, can be viewed and edited using the Supplier Links dialog. To access this dialog:
Enable the display of additional data columns, as required, by right-clicking on a column header and choosing from the subsequent pop-up. Click on a column header and drag horizontally to change the display order. Click on a column header to sort all defined links by that data attribute - price is often a good sorting choice.
To add an additional Supplier Link, simply click on the Add button. The Add Supplier Links dialog will appear, which can be used to search for, and add a link to, the required item.
To delete a Supplier Link for the component, simply select its entry, in the upper region of the Supplier Links dialog, then click the Remove button.
With suppliers and distributors of electronic components, it is quite common to pay less when buying in bulk. Suppliers will typically have different pricing based on the quantity of an item to be purchased from them. The quantity levels required to access increasingly reduced unit price points differ not only between different suppliers, but also from item to item for the same supplier.
This 'quantity pricing' is readily found in the detailed information region of the Supplier Search panel - specifically the detailed Pricing section for the Supplier Item currently selected in the results region of the panel. By changing the entry in the Order Quantity field, below the results region, the displayed pricing in the Unit Price column will change, in accordance with supplier-specified quantity pricing levels in-place for the displayed Supplier Items.
Different Suppliers operate in different, often multiple, regions of the world and, as such, it is common to see product pricing reported in different currencies. Altium Designer provides the facility to convert the display of such pricing information into one of a number of supported currencies.
To quickly display all Unit Price information - within the upper region of the Supplier Search panel - in a single currency, simply choose the required currency from the drop-down field available to the left of the Order Quantity field.
Only pricing information in the results region will display in the chosen currency. Pricing information in the detailed information region will remain shown in the currency used by that supplier.
Being able to cost a project, and determine the quantities of design components to be ordered from suppliers/distributors, is an essential part of the overall design process. After Supplier Links have been added to Altium Designer components as required, the linked supplier data - including pricing and stock information - can be included in a Bill of Materials.
Each detected Supplier n/Supplier Part Number n pairing will be presented as a distinct Solution in the All Columns region of the Bill of Materials dialog (so Solution 1 for Supplier 1/Supplier Part Number 1, Solution 2 for Supplier 2/Supplier Part Number 2, and so on).
For each Solution n, the following data can be included in the BOM:
Select which data to present by enabling the respective Show option. Enabling the Show option associated with the Solution n entry itself will automatically enable all data elements for that solution.
You can fully cost a project based on the number of units of the product that it is intended to produce - the Production Quantity. Use the Production Quantity field, in the Supplier Options region of the Bill of Materials dialog, to specify the required value.
The value entered into the Production Quantity field is used to determine the Supplier Order Qty - the quantity of component that would need to be ordered to produce the given product quantity. This is calculated by multiplying the Quantity (of each particular component) by the specified Production Quantity.
In turn, the Supplier Order Qty is used to determine the Supplier Unit Price that applies. Remember that suppliers typically offer various quantity pricing levels, depending on how many units of an item are purchased. To have Altium Designer round up the Supplier Order Qty to take advantage of the next (reduced) pricing level, simply enable the Round up Supplier Order Qty to cheaper price break option.
The currency used for pricing-related data in a Bill of Materials can be specified from the range of supported currencies. Simply choose the required currency from the drop-down field available to the left of the Production Quantity field, in the Supplier Options region of the Bill of Materials dialog. The chosen currency will affect the following data columns:
When working online - connected to the internet and signed in to an Altium account - pricing-based data for components with links to Supplier Data will be updated. When generating a BOM, the latest pricings at that point in time will be used. For specific currencies, the exchange rates are updated on a daily basis.
When working offline, there is the ability to use the last cached pricing data in the pricing-based parameters in the BOM. To do this, from within the Bill of Materials dialog, simply enable the Use cached pricing data in parameters if offline option - in the Supplier Options region of the dialog.
The Excel template file BOM Supplier Links.xlt provides an example BOM template that includes supplier link information. This file can be found in the \Users\Public\Documents\Altium\AD<VersionNumber>\Templates folder of a default Altium Designer installation.