Parent page: Building & Maintaining Your Components and Libraries
As a board designer, the components you use will have defined symbols (and other domain models) and some key parametric data, but at the end of the day, they are just 'symbols of design intent' – having meaning in the context of the project design but holding no physical meaning outside of that design. Each of these design entities needs to be 'embodied in the real world' either by purchasing an off-the-shelf (OTS) pre-manufactured item or by having it made to spec (MTS).
In the Supply Chain Area, a procurement specialist often does not know what a particular component in the design represents. What is required is an indication of what needs to be procured – which physically-manufactured components can be used to implement that design component. The best person to indicate which real-world components can be validly used to implement the design-level components would be the designer. As part of the Unified Component modeling paradigm, Altium caters for exactly that by providing a Part Catalog and the concept of making Part Choices.
Part Choices essentially create the mapping from a component in your connected Workspace to nominated Manufacturer Parts in that Workspace's local Part Catalog. In other words, Part Choices specify the 'allowed' manufacturer parts that can be used to implement that component on the assembled board. The actual supply chain intelligence – comprising Manufacturer (and part number), Supplier (and part number), Description, Pricing, and Availability – is sourced from the Workspace's local Part Catalog and the relevant Part Source.
Part Choices can be made while defining the component, prior to its saving to your connected Workspace, and can be modified at any time thereafter by editing that component. This document looks at the concepts of Part Catalogs and Part Choices, how supply chain information can be added to a component after its saving (without directly editing it) to your Workspace and how that information can then be used as part of a Bill of Materials.
There are two types of part catalog – Global and Local. The type of catalog employed depends on your design environment. The following sections summarize these two catalog types.
This is Altium's cloud-based part catalog database. The Global Part Catalog stores items representative of actual Manufacturer Parts, along with one or more items representative of Supplier Parts – the incarnations of those Manufacturer Parts, as sold by the Suppliers/Vendors. Each Supplier Part is a reference to an item in a parts database – the aggregate parts database of the Altium Parts Provider (which itself interfaces to, and gathers the parts from, enabled Suppliers).
This catalog is used when:
This is a local part catalog database, dedicated to the management and tracking of manufacturer parts and their associated supplier parts. The catalog is installed as a service (Part Catalog Service), provided through your Workspace's platform, and works only with that Workspace.
The Local Part Catalog stores items representative of actual Manufacturer Parts, along with one or more items representative of Supplier Parts – the incarnations of those Manufacturer Parts, as sold by the Suppliers/Vendors. Each Supplier Part is a reference to an item in a parts database – either the aggregate parts database of the Altium Parts Provider (which itself interfaces to, and gathers the parts from, enabled Suppliers) or a linked local parts database (where supported).
Mapping itself – from a component in a Workspace to nominated Manufacturer Parts in that Workspace's local Part Catalog – is performed using Part Choices. Each component references its own list of part choices. The revisions of that component will utilize that same list of part choices.
The designer can feel truly empowered by being able to specify Manufacturer Parts that are truly interchangeable at manufacturing time in the context of any usage of that component in their design – the very essence of true part equivalency. And it is this intelligent mapping of a component that turns the humble Workspace component into a truly Unified Component. The unified nature of a component, through the chosen part choices made for it, ultimately creates a link from that component, all the way through chosen Manufacturer Part(s), and on to the Vendor (Supplier) Parts that each itself references. From the designer's perspective, the component is hooked directly into the supply chain.
Real-time data is made available – fed back from the relevant parts database – to let the designer know the current costing and availability of the chosen parts, and from all enabled Vendors that sell those chosen parts (as defined in the local Part Catalog). And not just the designer gets to see this information. The procurement specialist can also keep abreast of supply-chain information, as it is made available in the Workspace for each component therein.
A part is no longer available or has suddenly become cost-ineffective? No matter, provision is made for real-time updates to be sent back to the Design Area as soon as a change occurs. With this vital 'heads-up', the designer can take that choice of part out of the associated list of part choices for that component and essentially 'off the radar'. And at any time additional new, truly equivalent parts can be added to the list, should something more appropriate, available, and cost-effective come along.
Since a component references its list of part choices, you are able to manage that list without having to formally edit that component, which would otherwise mean re-saving it into a new revision. And remember that when the part choices list is modified, all revisions of that component will 'see' that revised list.
There are four key places to access the part choices list for a component from within the design space.
The Components panel – browse to and select the required Workspace component. The current list of part choices made for that component can be seen in the Part Choices region of the Details pane (displayed by clicking the control at the top-right of the panel).
The Properties panel – part choices of a component placed on a schematic sheet can be browsed in the Properties panel when the component is selected in the schematic editor design space.
The ActiveBOM document (*.BomDoc) – select the component entry in the top region of the document. The current list of part choices made for that component will be presented as Solutions in the lower region of the document.
The Explorer panel – browse to and select the required component. The current list of part choices made for that component can be seen on the Part Choices aspect view tab (click on this tab to make it active).
To manually add a part choice to the list:
From the Components panel, right-click on the entry for the Workspace component then choose the Operations » Create/Edit Part Choices command from the context menu. This will give you access to the Edit Part Choices dialog. From there, click the button at the bottom-right of the dialog. The Add Part Choices dialog will open, which is used in the same way as the Manufacturer Part Search panel (refer to this page for detail on the full UI elements). Search for the required manufacturer part, select a part, then click the OK button. Click OK again, back in the Edit Part Choices dialog, to effect the change. The new part choice will be added to the Part Choices region of the Details pane.
From the BomDoc, select the entry for the component in the upper region, then click the button in the lower region and choose the Edit Part Choices in Library command from the associated menu. This will give you access to the Edit Part Choices dialog. From there, click the button at the bottom-right of the dialog. The Add Part Choices dialog will appear – search for the required manufacturer part, select a part, then click the OK button. Click OK again in the Edit Part Choices dialog to effect the change – the new part choice will be presented as an additional solution in the lower region of the BomDoc.
From the Explorer panel, click the button at the bottom-right of the Part Choices aspect view tab. This will give you access to the Edit Part Choices dialog. From there, click the button at the bottom-right of the dialog. The Add Part Choices dialog will open; search for the required manufacturer part, select a part, then click the OK button. Click OK again in the Edit Part Choices dialog,to effect the change. The new part choice will be added to the Part Choices aspect view tab.
A part choice contains various pieces of information, as summarized in the following image and detailed thereafter.
Manufacturer Name and Manufacturer Part Number. This is a clickable link to the Octopart website, providing detailed information on that manufacturer part.
Hover the cursor over the entry to copy the Manufacturer Part Number and Manufacturer Name using the control that appears at the right of the entry:
Understanding the Supplier Tile
There is a large amount of information presented in each SPN tile. Hover the cursor over an icon or detail to display a tooltip with more information.
If you need more formal control of your components when editing their part choice lists, you can enable part choice revision control for your Workspace. This can be done by enabling the Part Choices Revision Control option on the Admin – Settings – Vault – Components page of the Workspace's browser interface (Altium 365 Workspace, Enterprise Server Workspace).
When part choice revision control is enabled, accessing a command to change the Part Choice List for a component (as described above) will open the Component Editor in its Single Component mode instead of the Edit Part Choices dialog. Apply any required changes to the component's part choice list using controls in the Part Choices region of the editor and save the component back to the Workspace into the next revision of this component.
Once supply chain data has been defined for your components, you can then include that information in your Bill of Materials. The following combo image shows this for a BOM generated from the project's BomDoc, and also when generated from the source project (no BomDoc).