Tom Hausherr Discusses PCB Libraries’ BOM Builder Service
PCB Libraries CEO Tom Hausherr and Editor Kelly Dack discuss PCB Libraries’ new BOM Builder service during IPC APEX EXPO. Equipped with the new LEAP technology, the BOM Builder can potentially save PCB designers days or weeks of time normally spent turning a BOM into a CAD library.
Kelly Dack: Managing data has always been a challenge. What can be done to simplify the process? I’m speaking with Tom Hausherr, an industry expert in PCB libraries and all things data. Welcome, Tom. As far as assembly information and assembly data, what do you see as some of the challenges that designers face in organizing and implementing strategies for assembly?
Tom Hausherr: The assembly standard for solder joint acceptability is IPC-J-STD-001. The big challenge designers face is creating CAD library parts that meet this industry standard. I took the IPC CIT training class to learn about J-STD-001 and I was surprised to find out that the IPC-7351 land pattern standard did not really match up with J-STD-001 rules. PCB Libraries Inc. took the IPC-7351 and expanded the terminal lead solder joint goals into various case sizes and pin pitches. An example of this is the chip component family or “rectangular end cap” terminal lead. IPC-7351 solder joint goals for the nominal density level are 0.35 mm Toe for all chip components. But the J-STD-001 indicates that the toe solder joint acceptability be minimum 25% of the height or 0.50 mm whichever is less. This clearly indicates that the toe dimension for 01005, 0201, 0402, 0603, 0805 and 1206 should be different values and the default values must be editable by the end user to meet their specific assembly shop tolerances.
Dack: Is it typically the schematic that serves as the hub of the information for PCB layout?
Hausherr: It does, because the schematic contains all the information that derives the netlist for the routing connections and the bill of materials, which is normally in Excel spreadsheet format.
Dack: Once the information is broken out, exported or otherwise utilized for the layout, what's the next step?
Hausherr: The dilemma in the industry today, and it's been this way for decades, is that the PCB designer is handed a package of data, including the BOM spreadsheet, and they must spend time, in some cases a week, disseminating all this data from the engineer. Creating the new PCB library parts is the most time consuming process. The PCB designer will first search in the existing corporate library and isolate all new part numbers that require library creation. Then the PCB designer or CAD librarian will use the internet to search and locate the package dimensional datasheet. This is a very tedious, time-consuming process to go from bill of materials to a full-blown CAD library with 3D STEP for a specific PCB layout.
Dack: This information is a repetitive function if it's not captured at a certain point, isn’t it? Is it something that's replicated unnecessarily over and over, or are there automated ways of dealing with this?
Hausherr: Duplication of effort is rampant in the CAD library industry. There are automated ways to prevent duplication of work, but the component manufacturing industry is consistently releasing new technology to the industry at the rate of thousands of new part numbers every week. Many of these new logical device part numbers reuse the same physical package data which would use an existing footprint pattern. There are over 100 million different part numbers in the industry today. We are estimating 200 million mfr. part numbers by the year 2020. The acceleration of new component packages seems to be increasing. Trying to keep up with this massive amount of content and totally eliminate duplication is difficult. And component package obsolescence is another factor. There are parts in every CAD library that are obsolete, but they’re still maintained and rarely purged. If your CAD library is 20 years old and built by many people using different rules, it’s probably best to start the creation of a new library from scratch using modern technology and updated rules.
Dack: As a designer or an engineer, or anyone capturing the information for a particular design, it's not necessary to address all of those parts; however, what automation solution does PCB Libraries offer?
Hausherr: PCB Libraries is introducing to the electronics industry new program called the “BOM Builder Service” where designers or engineers import their Excel spreadsheet bill of material into Library Expert Pro and that creates a neutral FPX file. The customer emails the FPX file to firstname.lastname@example.org, and in as little as 10-15 minutes the FPX file is returned to the customer with the component dimensional data or the manufacturer recommended land patterns that are on our cloud server. If the BOM request contains parts that are not on our Parts on Demand (POD) server, we build the remaining standard parts for free with a 24-hour delivery. Once the designer has the component dimensions loaded into Library Expert Pro, they run the dimensional data through their personal Preferences for pad shapes, drafting items, polarity options, footprint rotation and origin, solder joint goals, density level and library rules and output to their CAD tool. The design of the resulting footprints is fully customized by the user preferences. This is totally the opposite of static CAD library parts offered by everyone else in this business space.
Dack: Is there automation now in finding design-related component data sheet information?
Hausherr: We finally have the ability to bring all the data together for the PDF file datasheet link, the logical description, the manufacturer part number, the manufacturer name, the physical description, the IPC-7351 footprint name, the package dimensions and the component family type. What we have is a centralized database with millions of component dimensions tied to the logical information and we're adding tens of thousands of new parts every month. These new part numbers are primarily new part requests from our customers.
There are new component manufacturer startups or component manufacturers merging together all the time. As people submit their bill of materials to us, they're notifying us of the new manufacturers. When we're filling a BOM, we might get a 70% match on our database. So, 30% doesn't exist on the server yet. We quickly build and upload the missing 30% and give it back to the customer. It’s a free service that we offer 24/7. The parts that we build for every customer are added to our central database and made free to all other Library Expert Pro users.
Dack: Great way to leverage customer data, neutralize it and then share it for the good of all users.
Hausherr: My favorite tag line is “Build it once, build it right, never build it again and share it with the global electronics industry.” Elimination of duplication is our primary goal. Neutralizing the data into basic component dimensions is simple. Component manufacturers normally do not change the package dimensions once its released. The quality control of package dimensional values is straight forward and it’s difficult to make a mistake using an IPC calculator. However, if you’re manually creating PCB library parts in a CAD tool you can easily introduce mistakes. Human error is a reality, but software produces consistent results. I hear about the failures of poor quality library creation all the time however, I have never heard anyone using component dimensions to calculate a footprint pattern make a mistake. When PCB library parts with errors go to the assembly process and they can't solder the part on the board, the PCB build turns to scrap or the rework is costly. With the component dimensions we apply the toe, heel and the side goals provided by IPC-7351 and the IPC mathematical model for tolerancing and it’s impossible to make a mistake. Then you apply the cosmetic items like silkscreen legend and assembly outline, polarity marking, placement courtyard excess and the reference designator height and width. All of these rules in the user personal preferences.
Preferences is a comprehensive menu of items that users can select from. “I want this polarity marker style. I want this pad shape. I want this toe, heel, and side solder joint goal. I want this footprint rotation, I want this origin location.” Preferences is a simple menu of items that users select from and when you match the component dimensions with those preferences it outputs a customized PCB library footprint that meets your corporate standard and quality.
Dack: You mention component dimensions play a role in footprint calculations. Are the component dimensions between various component manufacturers the same to make it easy to source multiple vendors to fit in the same footprint?
Hausherr: Well, it used to be that way in the 1990’s but today it’s a very competitive world and it seems as if component manufacturers intentionally make their package dimensions different. We have gathered component dimensions for millions of packages from over 600 manufacturers and the growing trend from those manufacturers is “Let’s make our package dimensions unique to attempt to single source the customer into using our package.” The IC industry is off the charts with unique custom packages. Even discrete parts for chip, molded body, SOT23, etc. it’s hard to find 3 manufacturers that provide the same package dimensions. We will have to get used to the idea of single sourcing components in the future. But with an IPC calculator, user defined library preferences and free access to millions of part numbers and component dimensions it doesn’t make much difference. It’s fast, free and very accurate.
Dack: I have to ask: Does it address the more complicated 3D environment?
Hausherr: An IPC-7351 calculator requires all the component package body the terminal lead dimensions. It doesn’t make any difference how many different component dimensions there are, the Library Expert Pro software program auto-generates accurate high quality 3D STEP models per every unique component package dimension. The 3D environment is becoming very popular in the PCB design industry today. Before my PCB designer career started, I came from a 3D modeling background right out of high school back in the 1960’s using T-squares and triangle templates. I've been familiar with 3D modeling most my life. I quickly learned SolidWorks and generated all the master component package models. A chip is not just a chip; a chip resister has a different model than a chip capacitor, inductor, diode, thyristor, varistor, LED or fuse. They all have different package styles. There are about 144 “standard” component packages in the industry today. By creating the master models, our programming team was easily able to scale the packages up and down to be able to create millions of various 3D STEP package sizes. I’m really excited to combine my 3D modeling, PCB layout and PCB library skills together.
Dack: I find with more of the 3D PCB design layout tools that with engineers, if you give them an inch, they want a mile from the standpoint of detail. Now that they see they can get anything other than a 2D footprint that is almost similar for an 0402 or an 0603, when you go 3D and show that part, you're right, they want to see the size and height differences. Now they're asking for custom colors.
Hausherr: In Library Expert Pro, the user has complete control over all the colors for the body, terminal lead and polarity marker color. For example, a BGA is constructed with different materials like FR-4 and then a mold compound cap. The FR-4 color is green and the cap is black. Then you have tin-lead balls. The user has complete control. You can even color pin 1 a different color from all the other pins. Again, these color preferences get automatically applied, and can be modified to rebuild entire libraries of not just footprints, but modified 3D models.
Dack: That is valuable in the manufacturing realm as we move to paperless systems or we move to manufacturing documentation data. Color adds another dimension for assembly and inspection purposes, right?
Hausherr: Yes. In Library Expert Pro, the default colors are stored in the preferences menu and the user has complete 100% control over all the colors at the individual component level. These custom color assignments are stored in the neutral FPX file. You can have 100 capacitors in your library and they could all be different colors.
Dack: Interesting. The next issue we were going to discuss was around LEAP. Why don't you explain that?
Hausherr: LEAP stands for Libraries Enhanced with Automated Preferences. The preferences are a software feature that I was speaking of earlier, where the user selects the specific pad shape they want for each component family. They can select an oblong pad shape for quad flat pack or a rectangle pad shape for SOIC. The preferences are when you take your component dimensions on one side, you push it through your preferences, and out pops your customized land pattern and 3D step model with your own personal colors and your own personal polarity markings. Some designers want legend outlines and some designers don't. Some designers want special rules like "I want silkscreen legend on my big parts, but I don't want it on my small parts." We can control everything through your preferences.
Dack: Your target audience is anyone involved in PCB design and engineering?
Hausherr: Yes, because engineers are the next generation of PCB designers and they don't like building library parts. Today, no one needs to take the time to learn how to build CAD library parts. PCB Libraries offers Parts on Demand, which is a free service. Library Expert Pro coupled with POD is an engineer’s dream for fast, accurate PCB library parts. The key words here are free and fast.
BOM fulfillment will soon include schematic symbols, unique footprint patterns and highly customized 3D STEP models. Users will be able to open all three library pieces in the same viewing screen and cross probe and validate accuracy.
Dack: Excellent. Has this product been released?
Hausherr: Yes, we’re taking in and processing BOMs every day. We're constantly tuning up the process, getting it ready to process hundreds of BOMs a day. I call it “Acceleration of Electronic Product Development.” The future looks very bright.
Dack: What’s the future of PCB Libraries?
Hausherr: I can see a day coming where companies no longer maintain a central CAD library. Once we have 50 million part numbers on Parts on Demand server, which is coming soon, Library Expert Pro users will compare their BOM against the master cloud database and pull down all the necessary component dimensions or mfr. recommended patterns for a specific PCB layout. Any new parts will be instantly created and added to the master database. Then the user will create a set of preference rules for that specific PCB design and automatically create a custom CAD library with 3D STEP models that is unique for that specific PCB layout. This entire process could be completed in minutes. The rule file will be archived with the finished design data for any future revisions that require new library parts to be created with the same rules.
Dack: I'm sure people will be able to look for more information on the PCB libraries website.
Hausherr: Anyone can go to www.pcblibraries.com and download Library Expert Lite for free and no registration is required. It supports 23 CAD tools and 144 standard component families. There are currently over 100,000 Library Expert Lite users with hundreds of new users every week. Library Expert Lite is the most popular CAD library tool in the global electronics industry and everyone gets free regular updates with new features and component families. There are 70 educational videos on the website, so everyone can watch and see the future technology today.
Dack: Very good. Thank you, Tom.
Hausherr: You’re welcome, Kelly.