Is the traditional PCB librarian’s role becoming obsolete?

Printed circuit board (PCB) engineers and specialists like signal integrity (SI) and electromagnetic interference (EMI) engineers have traditionally had very different responsibilities, but the lines between these roles are now becoming blurred. Over the past few years, engineers performing the layout tasks within the PCB design flow have generally had a “tall, lean” skill set based in deep, but narrow, knowledge. Now, these roles are evolving to take on more of the tasks that have historically fallen on specialists, such as simulation and verification. 

This evolution supports a more modern, shift-left design flow, and it’s not slowing down. Design tools continue to improve, offering better support for collaboration and increased access to productivity apps. As a result, the historically tall, lean PCB engineer will be able to take on even more tasks traditionally left to specialists. 

A similar evolution has been taking place within the role of a traditional component librarian. Electronic design automation (EDA) tools now integrate cloud-based, supply chain-resilient component research. Now, designers can not only perform parametric searches and make component selection decisions, but also have immediate access to all the necessary model, symbol, and land pattern data. In some cases, these can be literally dragged and dropped into the design on the fly.

EDA companies are also developing component portals and partnering with electronics suppliers and supply-chain companies to accelerate product design and ensure that component availability and pricing goals are met. This phenomenon is similar to the way that electrical computer-aided design (ECAD) and mechanical computer-aided design (MCAD) companies are unifying design environments that are cloud-connected and provide real-time design collaboration.

Some examples include:

  • EMA-EDA’s purchase of Ultra Librarian; 
  • Altium’s acquisition of Octopart; 
  • Siemens EDA’s PartQuest portal that sources Digi-Key; and 
  • Siemens EDA’s recent acquisition of Supplyframe. 

Additionally, companies like SnapEDA and PCB Libraries are helping to democratize tasks that have been traditionally performed by component librarians. They are doing this by providing companies with symbols and land pattern in accordance with industry standards that are exportable to all PCB layout tools. These are available either on request or for immediate download.