Enhanced Part Information Services

Modified by Jason Howie on Feb 27, 2017

Altium Designer 17.0 and the Altium Vault (version 3.0) provide a re-engineered system for making real-world design part choices, based on an updated Part Catalog Vault service and a new aggregated supplier data source, the Altium Parts Provider.

From just a single connected service, the Altium Parts Provider offers a rich source of live parts information from an expanded list of external suppliers. For those sourcing parts from a company parts database system, the Vault’s Custom Database Provider interface provides a simplified, Wizard-driven approach for configuring the interface to external databases. Along with optimized performance, the newly enhanced Part Catalog’s function of storing and managing parts supplier data in the Vault now happens behind the scenes, without the need for manual user interaction.

Note that the Vault’s new Part Catalog system for storing manufacturer/supplier data is not directly compatible with previous versions of Altium Designer (prior to 17.0), and Altium Designer’s new approach to handling Part Choices is not compatible with previous versions of the Altium Vault (prior to version 3.0).

Supplier data in Altium Designer

To supply crucial supply chain information for Parts in a design or library, such as supplier and manufacturer information, stock levels, pricing and so on, Altium Designer includes two ‘provider’ extension services installed by default:

  Altium Parts Provider – an aggregate supplier data service that provides access to live component information from a comprehensive range of parts suppliers.

  Custom Database Provider – an interface to any parts database connection that has been setup in the Altium Vault, such as a link to a company’s own internal parts Database (directly, or via an ODBC or OLE-DB interface). You need to be signed in to the Altium Vault to access this component data.

As a comprehensive and effectively universal supply chain data source, the Altium Parts Provider largely supplants the other parts supplier interface extensions available in Altium Designer. To see and manage which supplier extensions are installed, open the Extensions Manager page (DXP » Extensions and Updates) and select the Installed tab – open the Purchased tab to see to list of the available extensions.

Access to local Parts Databases and a large range of external supply chain data is available through just two Parts Provider services.

Other, targeted, parts supplier extensions can also be installed (or remain installed), and will work in conjunction with the Altium Parts Provider service.

Altium Parts Provider

The installed Altium Parts Provider service supplies live component data information when the Supplier Links feature is accessed in Altium Designer. To directly source or review supplier data for a component in the Schematic Editor, for example, select the Supplier Links command from the component symbol’s right click context menu.

In the resulting Supplier Links for dialog, select  to open the Add Supplier Links dialog and search () for new parts data from the list of suppliers that are enabled for the Altium Parts Provider service. Select the desired part (or parts) from the list to link that supplier data to the active component.

Component supplier information will be sourced from all suppliers enabled for the Altium Parts Provider service.

Supplier Preferences

The Data Management – Suppliers page of the Preferences dialog allows you to configure the Suppliers will be available when searching for parts data, which parameter keywords are searched and how the parameter data is imported.

...read more about Supplier preferences.

Use the Altium Parts Options section of the dialog to configure the Altium Parts Provider service to suit your needs. Its setup table includes the column list options as follows:

  • Location – Select which regions in the list the parts service will collate parts data from. While many suppliers are multi-regional, if a part is uniquely available in a specific location, it will only be listed if that region is selected.
  • Currency – Select which international currencies will be available for selection in the Supplier Links dialog.
  • Supplier – Select which Supplier’s parts data information will be returned when performing a supplier data search. Note that several suppliers are selected by default, and many suppliers are considered as Verified by Altium.

The dialog section also includes the ability to set the search priority of the listed Locations and Currencies. If for example your preference is to retrieve the parts data available from suppliers in Europe, then from those in China, and so on, use the Location list and buttons to set the descending priority of the list entries.

The allowed search Locations and choice of Currencies is configured for all enabled suppliers in the Supplier Preferences page. These will be overridden by the Vault supplier settings when signed in.

Any specific part supplier extensions that are installed are listed in the Available Suppliers section at the bottom of the Data Management – Suppliers page. These can be enabled/disabled and ordered by priority as required.

Any specific (legacy) supplier services extensions that have been enabled will work in conjunction with those enabled for the Altium Parts Provider.

Note that when signed in to the Altium Vault from Altium Designer, the Altium Parts Options settings become read-only and adopt those defined in the Vault. The Available Suppliers section will not be shown, as individual supplier services are not supported by the Altium Vault (version 3.0 and later).

Custom Database Provider

When installed and enabled in Altium Designer, the Custom Database Provider service will port component data information from a parts database interface connection that has been set up in the Altium Vault. The database accessed by the Vault is typically an internal company parts reference that offers data such as company and manufacturer part numbers, along with other parameter information that is specifically relevant to the organization.

With the exception of activating the extension service in Altium Designer and being signed into the Altium Vault, no setup is required in Altium Designer to access that supplier data.  All ODBC, OLE-DB, SQL etc connections to parts databases are managed by the Altium Vault – see below.

Supplier Data in the Altium Vault

Supplier link data sources are added and configured in the Altium Vault through the Part Sources page, accessed from the Vault Administrator menu – ADMIN » PART PROVIDERS. The available Part Sources in the Vault are the Altium Parts Provider service (installed by default) and any Database Connection Source that you subsequently add.

To configure the available suppliers for the Altium Parts Provider service, and how that information is accessed, click on its entry or the associated edit button ().

Configure the enabled Suppliers and Location/Currency ranges for the Altium Parts Provider in the Vault's Provider Links pages. These settings will apply to Altium Designer when signed in to the Vault.

In a similar way to how the Altium Parts Provider is configured in Altium Designer's Preferences, the Supplier links may be enabled or disabled and the included Locations and Currencies stipulated. The list of Supplies is managed by using the  button to enable/disable a Supplier entry, the Filter field to control the list contents, and the Show.. checkboxes to constrain the included Suppliers by their status.

To set up the Location and Currencies that are available from the Altium part source, select their associated button to open the configuration dialog. Use the checkboxes to enable/disable entries, and manipulate the entry order (and therefore priority) using the   buttons.

Entries can be enabled and ordered by access priority in the Locations and Currencies pages, accessed from the browse button associated with each list field in the Altium Part Source page.

The Altium Parts Provider settings that are established in the Altium Vault will override those in Altium Designer when a user signs in to the Vault.

When signed in to the Altium Vault, Altium Designer will provide Supply Chain information from the Altium Parts Provider service, as configured in the Vault. Along with adding supplier information directly to Schematic components and BOM documents, supply chain data can also be added to Managed Components in the Vault through the Vaults panel via the Part Choices dialog – this process is handled behind the scenes by the Vault's Part Catalog service.

Database Provider Setup

For situations where parts supply data needs to be accessed from a local database, such as a company’s internal parts database, the Vault's Custom Database Provider feature offers interface connectivity for all common database systems. The connection can be established manually, through a nominated interface and connection string, or by using the Vault’s Connection Wizard – which automatically determines the interface and connection string.

The database connected to by the Custom Parts Provider interface system must be locally available to the Altium Vault – that is, the database itself must be located on the PC that hosts the Vault.

To initiate the database connection setup, select in the Part Sources page (ADMIN » PART PROVIDERS) to open the Add New Part Source page. Enter a Name for the new source, and then select the Manual or Wizard –based approach to establish the database link.

The Wizard, activated by the button, simply requests the type and location of the database you wish to connect to. It also allows the connection to be tested for confirmation that the database has been successfully accessed.

A Vault database connection can be made manually, by entering the interface method and connection string, or by simply running the Connection Source Wizard.

If the (x64) machine hosting the Vault does not have Microsoft Access® 2007 or Microsoft Excel® 2007 Database types available, the Microsoft Database Access Engine may need to be installed for connecting to an Access database.


The database connection Wizard provided by the Vault’s Add new Part Source page is a simple and quick way to establish the connection to a local Parts Source database, and should suit most situations. When the target database type and its connection requirements are less straightforward, the Manual connection method may be needed.

In this case the (.Net) Data Provider setting and its Connection String are manually specified, as determined by the target database. See the Connection Strings web reference for helpful information on creating connection strings for a wide range of databases.

Further SQL connection options are available in the Advanced Settings dialog, opened with the button.

The Advanced Settings dialog offers fields for Left and Right Quote Character settings, which need to be correct to allow the system to successfully build SQL queries. Note that different database systems will use a different set of characters, for example:

  • MsSQL, Access and Excel use the square bracket pair: [ ]
  • Oracle uses the double quote: "
  • MySql  uses the character: `

The Advanced Settings dialog also offer an optional field for defining a case insensitivity function for the database (Function name for ignoring case-sensitive), which might include the UPPER keyword for example.

Manual Connection examples

Access database:

  • Data Provider – select the .Net Framework Data Provider for OleDb option.
  • Connection String – specify Provider=MICROSOFT.JET.OLEDB.4.0;Data Source=myDatabase.mdb (where myDatabase.mdb is the name/path the local database file). See the Access 2000 connection template guide.
  • Advanced Settings – the Quote Characters are the [] pair (no change required, as this is the default setting).

MySQL database:

  • Data Provider – select the .Net Framework Data Provider for MySQL option.
  • Connection String – specify Server=myServerAddress;Database=myDataBase;Uid=myUsername;Pwd=myPassword; (where myxxx represents the server name, database name and the login credentials for the local MySQL database). See the MySQL connection template guide.
  • Advanced Settings – set the Quote Characters to `

Database table access

The completion of the Manual or Wizard process establishes the correct Database interface and connection string. Since a single database can include multiple tables and database elements, the required table data must be selected for access through the Active Table Name drop down menu. Note that a single database could contain several tabular variations of Manufacture Part Number information, for example.

Once the database connection is established, the correct table data within the database must be nominated.

When the database and its constituent table connections established, its contents are viewable under the Data tab, which can be used a guide to mapping the database fields to the Vault Part Source fields.

The Data tab provides a direct view of the connected database table contents.

The connected database Field data is mapped to the Vault Part Source System Field data via the comparative column listings under the Field Mapping tab, which allows the database entries to be assigned to matching Data Provider entries in the Vault. The system will automatically link equivalent field names, while the drop down list on each entry can be used to manually select a suitable field – in the below screen image, the Costing database field is being mapped to the Price system field, the Manufacturer PtNo to Manufacturer Part Number, and so on. A field may also be disabled from the parts searching process.

Map the main System Fields to comparative fields in the source database, so that searches will behave as expected and suitable Manufacturer/Supplier information will be returned.

Note that ID reference field must be nominated as a key index field (Key Fields) for the database mapping – this would normally be a proprietary ID that is unique to each entry, such as a internal company part number. Save the New Part Source configuration when the System Fields have been suitably mapped to the connected database.

The completed data field mapping process will provide live database data to the Vault and the Custom Parts Provider service. The setup can be subsequently edited as required.

Accessing Database Parts Information

If the database Parts Source is activated in the Vault, but the Altium Parts Provider service is not, the central database will be the sole source of Manufacturer/Supplier information in Altium Designer, when signed in to the Vault.

This can be seen in the Add New Part Choice dialog when making a manual Part Choice in an Altium Designer Active BOM document, or in the Part Choices dialog opened from Vaults panel when adding supplier information to a Vault-based Managed Component. Note that the Pricing and Stock information is determined by the data extracted from the central database table, which is connected through the Custom Parts Provider interface.

Parts Database information sourced through the Custom Parts Provider service, including localized Pricing and Quantity data, is available to the ActiveBOM document.

Manufacturer and supplier information sourced from a local Parts Database can be directly added to components in the Vault as a Parts Choice list.

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