John McMillan

PCB Libraries: Who are they and what do they do

June 14, 2022

All electronic product designs, from small handheld devices to complex space and military applications, start with components. Each one must be mounted securely and accurately on the printed circuit board (PCB) for the product to work properly. A single miscalculation can result in a company having to scrap a fabricated PCB and start a new …

PCB Libraries: Who are they and what do they do Read More »

PCB Libraries: Who are they and what do they do

All electronic product designs, from small handheld devices to complex space and military applications, start with components. Each one must be mounted securely and accurately on the printed circuit board (PCB) for the product to work properly. A single miscalculation can result in a company having to scrap a fabricated PCB and start a new design. These design respins are costly and require extra hours of design editing that ultimately delays time to market.

Electronics companies spend valuable time and resources to develop the right foundational building blocks for electronic products: the PCB library land patterns. Traditional library development systems are often error-prone, and their contents can be subject to duplication. These libraries are built with electronic design automation (EDA) applications or wizards that are limited in their capabilities, too often leading to errors. Furthermore, their outputs are system-specific, which can make global changes a time-consuming and challenging task.

PCB Libraries solution provides build-to-spec footprint calculators and supports the export of components into any EDA tool format. Their solution also supports engineers as they make global changes for entire libraries. As a result, their solutions help organizations avoid excess editing time, a strain on resources, and time-to-market delays. 

Since the 2003 launch of PCB Libraries, many third-party tools have emerged and evolved. This post explores the issues PCB Libraries can solve and how their models can accelerate electronic product design.

The Benefit of PCB Libraries’ Footprint Expert

PCB Libraries’ flagship product is called Footprint Expert. This EDA-tool-neutral solution can create land patterns containing package dimensions for standard parts and provide manufacturer-recommended land patterns for non-standard components. The solution is scalable and fully customizable to meet organizations’ design guidelines and practices.

The Footprint Expert solution is powered by “CAD LEAP” technology, where LEAP stands for “Libraries Enhanced with Automated Preferences.” This technology allows PCB Libraries and its customers to build and maintain dynamic library land patterns for use during product design.

The solution’s neutral format enables users to create and edit a single or complete library of parts with the push of a button. They can then export the library to a variety of electronic CAD (ECAD) design tool formats. As an additional service, companies can also purchase Parts on Demand subscriptions to access millions of standard component packages, which include dimensional data, as well as component manufacturers’ recommended patterns for non-standard parts packages. The solution’s primary differentiator is its CAD LEAP technology, which allows customers to predefine rules and options to ensure consistent quality as they develop their component libraries.

The Benefits of Component Data Neutrality

Unlike many ECAD layout library creation tools, Footprint Expert has a calculator built into its user interface that allows users to enter component data and perform complex calculations based on specific user needs. Those calculations may be driven by industry standards, company standards, or some combination of the two. In order to do this, however, the underlying database must be neutral.

When the solution has a neutral database, users can export a land pattern or even a complete library of land patterns in any ECAD format. Since the component data is stored in a single file, it is easy to make global changes. For example, if your manufacturer requests a 5% increase in the toe dimension of all components, you can simply change the calculator setting and recreate the complete library with one push of a button. Neutrality also enables companies to support multiple tool flows. Engineers need only export the land patterns into a different ECAD layout tool format.

One can imagine a design service bureau where good component libraries can be repurposed for multiple customers using different PCB design tools. Alternatively, executives may decide to switch CAD solutions as the company grows from a small or medium-sized business to an enterprise account. Footprint Expert supports this, auto-generating libraries to the new CAD tool format in minutes.

Key Takeaways Regarding PCB Libraries’ Tools

Designing PCBs for complex products is no small task. But PCB Libraries tools, like Footprint Expert, can help designers more easily make global changes to design land patterns and save time and resources in the process. PCB Libraries currently has more than 100,000 free Footprint Export Pro users across 180 countries. Their enterprise solution, which supports International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) compliance as well as batch-build and network solutions, is easily integrated with enterprise  EDA solutions like Cadence, Altium, and Mentor/Siemens. 

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