Digital Transformation: Unblocking Innovation With a Component Digital Thread

Matt_Walsh_273.jpgIn our series of digital transformation columns, we’ve hit on several highly relevant topics that electronic systems design companies face today, including a look at supply chain resilience as a challenge and an opportunity and then optimizing multi-domain co-design. This month takes up another important new development: establishing component digital threads. The positive impacts on systems design companies and the electronics ecosystem will be revolutionary.

Note: In this article, “component” and “part” are used interchangeably.

I can remember the days, as a young electrical engineer at a leading mil/aero company, when the source of passive and IC device data for my circuit functional designs was based on the contents of a floor-to-ceiling bookcase filled with data books of production parts from the leading semiconductor suppliers. The vertical search engine of the day was the simple stepstool I used to comfortably read the spines of the data books on the upper shelves. You trusted the data was accurate, especially the DC and AC switching characteristics and physical package specifications.

Still, thankfully, access to electronics part data went digital and has been improving for many years now, so you can go to any number of component distributor or popular industry aggregation websites to accomplish your component research. The represented component supplier data is plentiful, and filtering options make the data easy to search, but given the volume of data, it is too often stale, incomplete, and hard to fully verify. Moreover, when a part is chosen, engineers and teams tasked with product creation must sift through and interpret copious amounts of information presented in static PDF files that differ subtly in format, style, and naming conventions from one supplier to the next. With PDFs in hand and still needing to translate an idea into a product, engineers must expend additional time and effort to create or search-to-acquire all the models (simulation, IBIS, ECAD, mechanical, etc.) needed to get their job done.

I don’t know what all the latest stats say but, honestly, the engineer’s journey is riddled with speed bumps and potholes that lead to wasted, unproductive time. The world may have gone digital with tools for component research, ideation, design, and analysis, and hand-off to manufacturing may have improved greatly, but as Figure 1 depicts, chasms persist in the electronics value chain. Nevertheless, today, somehow, some way, electronics design innovation still happens. Yet there is so much potential to be realized if there was greater digitalization along the systems value chain. The time to achieve that has arrived.

In 2018, JEDEC ratified the JEP30 standard. The website states: “This standard establishes the requirements for exchanging part data between part manufacturers and their customers for electrical and electronic products. This standard applies to all forms of electronic parts.” JEDEC, one of the most widely respected (open) standards bodies for the microelectronics industry, with several hundred member companies (mostly part manufacturers), fired the “shot heard round the world.”1

My intent here is not to do a deep dive into JEDEC2 but it’s important to underscore the milestone that set the stage for the current revolutionary phase of digital transformation within the electronics industry. Why? Because the JEP30 Part Model standard effectively defines the digital twin for an electronic part. That’s a big deal. In short, the part model combines information (related to electrical, physical, thermal, assembly process classification, and more) about a part into an industry-standard-based digital container defined with an XML schema. The part model schema also comprehends standard interfaces and has the flexibility to access specialized models (for example an IBIS model) that can be added to the part model for an applicable device. The standard also extends electrically to support the notion of reference designs associated with the part model of a specific component. So, number one, the JEP30 Part Model is an industry standard, but here’s the game changer: The JEDEC JEP30 Part Model will now be consumable directly by every tool in the product creation lifecycle.

I mentioned the engineer’s journey above and the potholes that lead to wasted time on less productive tasks. These challenges are made even more daunting when overlayed onto the complexity faced by engineers and development organizations given the ever-increasing requirements of each successive generation of electronics product, not to mention the complexity of the underlying components being used. For example, even traditional “analog” components are becoming more “digital”—adding programmability, state machines, and other advanced features that are beyond the capabilities of existing analog design tools. Conquering this complexity quickly is essential to maintain the innovator’s edge. Armed with part model digital twins, innovation is more readily facilitated and extended.

A digital thread is a communications framework that allows a connected data flow and an integrated view of product data throughout its lifecycle—spanning ideation, realization, and utilization. The digital twin is an essential element of the digital thread, connecting the virtual and physical worlds across the value chain of product, production, and performance. As outlined in Figure 2, at every stage of product creation the part model digital twin will deliver derived value directly to the tools used at each step. In action, part models will enable and empower engineers with greater strategic decision capacity at every point in the design process. Their use will streamline the design process by shortening dependencies, because critical information and model content can be derived from the part model. Most importantly, part models powering the design process will improve first-pass success rates because their use will greatly reduce the risks to successful product delivery caused by time delays and human error that accumulate throughout the product creation process. No more searching for model content. No more fixing data integrity errors from a third-party model. No more misinterpreting the numbers in DC and AC switching characteristic tables because it was difficult to decode the naming conventions used by a given component manufacturer.

As the electronics industry continues to embrace the transformation of component data into industry-standard-based digital twins, it will unblock and unleash the innovation process as the connection between OEM and the component ecosystem they rely on goes from handshakes based on PDF files to high-bandwidth, intelligent links composed of digital part model threads.

Component suppliers will play a critical role in this digital transformation because the data sourced in the part model XML files of tomorrow are presently sourced using static PDF files. Many component suppliers are already shifting to part model representations of their parts. Others will follow as more tools are made available to facilitate the transition and validation to the industry standard.

PDFs as a means of exchanging datasheet information aren’t going away, but in the part model era, they will be augmented by datasheets in digital form and interactive application notes that will offer more robust component supplier to end-customer user experiences and connections. As the shift to digital twins of component data accelerates, building in trust is a natural progression. Part models are complete digital representations of parts. You can therefore envision a day when the part model, or different sections of the part model, will assimilate digital signatures to establish the basis for an immutable ledger that will initiate trust throughout the design chain.

The part model era will enable digital transformation that will touch all players in the electronics value chain. This is a big “T” transformation because it will revolutionize the electronics industry; it will accelerate the design process, leading to greater profitability; and it will pave the way for new levels of innovation—so you can unleash the full potential of your engineering team today.


  1. “Concord Hymn,” Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1837.
  2. Learn more about their work and the JEP30 Part Model standard at

Matthew Walsh is a product marketing manager in the Electronic Board Systems division of Siemens Digital Industries Software. 

This column originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of Design007 Magazine.



Digital Transformation: Unblocking Innovation With a Component Digital Thread


In our series of digital transformation columns, we’ve hit on several highly relevant topics that electronic systems design companies face today, including a look at supply chain resilience as a challenge and an opportunity and then optimizing multi-domain co-design. This column, by Matthew Walsh, takes up another important new development: establishing component digital threads. The positive impacts on systems design companies and the electronics ecosystem will be revolutionary.

View Story

Digital Transformation: Optimizing Co-Design Across Multiple Domains


Higher system speeds have necessitated consideration of signal propagation delay and quality not just within electronics, but through wire harnesses. Tighter form factors have minimized the typical “board in a box,” where a simple rectangular board had enough clearance that there were rarely problems. Rigid/flex circuits often stress cross-domain ECAD/MCAD design with their multiple stack-ups and bendability. And even if form/fit is achieved, high-performance systems with significant heat dissipation need to ensure adequate air/fluid flow through the structure, David Wiens explains.

View Story

Digital Transformation: Supply Chain Resilience, Part Two—The Solution


In part one of this two-part series on supply chain resilience, we addressed “the problem” being witnessed throughout the electronics industry regarding supply chain disruptions and their negative effects. These impacts spotlight a worldwide vulnerability that has been brewing beneath the surface, quietly growing for many years, and which was further magnified by the global pandemic. Today, supply chain issues are daily headlines and, in one way or another, professionally or personally, we’re all experiencing the negative consequences of these disruptions. The geo-political turmoil arising from the war between Russia and Ukraine presents the latest twist to the supply chain plot.

View Story

Digital Transformation: Supply Chain Resilience, Part 1—The Supply Chain Problem


In part one of this two-part article series on supply chain resilience, I’ll first address the problem being witnessed throughout the industry regarding supply chain disruptions and its negative effects. For over two years now, supply chain issues have headlined the news, identifying a worldwide vulnerability magnified by the global pandemic. This vulnerability had been problematic way before the pandemic, quietly growing, ignored until the pandemic hit with full force. Then, this sleeping dog raised its ugly head and now worries today’s headlines. From our local grocery and department stores to our local auto dealerships, empty shelves and empty car lots have been the negative effect of sporadic supplies causing serious consequences and disruptions as we struggle to emerge from this pandemic.

View Story

Digital Transformation: Enabling a Digital Thread Across IC/Package/PCB Design


If you’ve been keeping up with the electronics trade news, you’re probably aware that there is a slow but steady growth of ICs now being implemented in 2.5D or 3D IC configurations. Over the last decade, these device configurations have been steadily growing in popularity in highest-capacity FPGAs, high-bandwidth memory devices, and processors targeting high-performance computing and datacenters. But with Apple’s recent announcement of M1 Ultra—which will power its new generation of desktop and laptop computers—the age of 3D IC is quickly coming upon us and may become the norm rather than the exception. So, it behooves us to ask, what if any impact will this have on PCB systems design?

View Story

Digital Transformation: The Digital Transformation of Advanced Additive Electronics


Previously in this column we’ve explored the digital transformation of different aspects of the traditional electronic systems design process. This time I’ll take a look at emerging technologies for additive manufacturing, but with the same goal: an optimized digital thread through design, verification, and manufacturing.

View Story

Digital Transformation: Leveraging Model-Based Engineering to Manage Risk, Part 2


In my last column, I highlighted the critical drivers for model-based engineering. I explored the decomposition of system components from the initial requirements (the left side of the V diagram), emphasizing the advantages of maintaining a digital thread during this architectural breakdown across multiple domains. In an earlier column, I addressed the role of the digital prototype in a digital transformation. I’d like to draw those two themes together and talk about the right side of the V (integration and verification).

View Story

Digital Transformation: Leveraging Model-based Engineering to Manage Risk


Companies at the forefront of electronic systems engineering understand this basic tenet of risk analysis. They must face the many challenges of rapidly developing markets and futuristic products. Reaping the rewards of these new opportunities and innovations requires more complex products, processes, and, often, larger more complex organizations. Technology has not only increased the complexity of individual domains, but also the number of domains. And these complexities introduce a lot more risk of failures.

View Story

Digital Transformation: Seamless Hand-off from Design to Manufacturing


Without a seam. That’s what seamless means. There is no evidence of the transition from one material to another, or in the case of processes, from one process to another. The transition happens smoothly, effortlessly. That is the goal of everyone in the PCB ecosystem — designers, fabricators, and contract manufacturers alike. Every designer wishes they could send a data package out to their suppliers and never have to worry about whether it will be built correctly or be bothered with answering technical queries. Likewise, bare board fabricators and contract manufacturers wish all their customers would send them complete, clean, unambiguous, non-contradicting data so they can get on with their value-added work without asking for missing information or seeking clarification.

View Story


Digital Transformation: Leveraging Digital Twin to Optimize Electronic Systems


The promise of the digital transformation of the electronics design process is “zero-spin”: going directly from design into volume production. This requires that every existing check performed on a physical prototype has a digital equivalent — or better yet, constraints synthesized from requirements that ensure correct-by-design. The reality today is that confidence in digital verification isn’t high enough for anyone to bet the farm on zero-spin — most consider a single, fully tested prototype pass as the holy grail.

View Story

Digital Transformation: IP Reuse Enables a Digital Transformation


Last month’s column identified the significant challenges today’s electronic systems engineering teams face, and how a digital transformation of the entire design and manufacturing flow promises to resolve them by confronting product, process, and organizational complexities. One of the areas where we see opportunities for improvement is in the reuse of critical IP as part of a team’s data management strategy: whereas the data is already digital, it’s not always leveraged efficiently from one design to the next.

View Story

Digital Transformation: It's Happening Everywhere—Be Ready


As I speak to customers around the world, I keep hearing the same question: “How can your company help us achieve our digital transformation goals?” I’m surprised how frequently this question is asked, and also by how many of my customers are preparing by appointing executives to lead entire digital transformation teams.

View Story
Copyright © 2022 I-Connect007 | IPC Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.