Recently, my backyard sprinkler system needed a repair, and I dove into the job with the confidence of a do-it-yourself hero. “How hard could it be?” I thought as I discarded my usual practice of measuring first and headed to the store for some generic replacement parts at half the cost. Sure enough, my guesstimate measurement was completely wrong, and the generic parts weren’t even close to what I really needed. After a lot of frustration trying to make it work, I still had a massive leak and headed back to the store with the proper measurements to get the right parts. It sure wasn’t the heroic moment I envisioned.
Having to repair the same problem twice because I didn’t take the time to be prepared and choose the correct parts the first time was extremely annoying. I had to re-dig the hole, re-cut the pipe, and re-glue everything back together. Choosing the wrong parts when designing a circuit board, however, can result in far worse consequences. The board may have problems being assembled, it may have intermittent performance problems, or it may not work at all. To save yourself this frustration, here are some electronic component selection guidelines that can help you in the manufacturing of your next PCB design.
Electronic Component Selection Guidelines to Consider
When you begin working on your design, you will be pulling components into the schematic. Some of these parts will be new devices you have found for their capabilities, and others will be standard parts you have used before. With the ability to pull components from vendor or corporate libraries, it is very common to grab parts you are already familiar with from previous designs.
Whether you are pulling new parts or previously used parts, you should consider the following points as you make your selections:
- Performance: Obviously, you need to select the correct part for the job, but make sure that you know what you are getting with the part you use. Part manufacturers may change or enhance some components over time, and you need to be aware of the latest published specifications for the parts you choose.
- Quality: It’s tempting to choose the lowest cost when it comes to common parts like resistors and connectors. After all, what could go wrong with a simple resistor? The truth is that some components sold are of better quality than others, and you need to know what you are getting.
- Availability and price: Finding the perfect component won’t do you any good if it isn’t available to purchase, or if it is too expensive for your budget. Make sure to check its availability and price first before you commit to using it in your design.
- PCB footprint: Make sure that you know what the physical PCB package (footprint) is for the part by getting the latest component datasheets. You will be in a world of hurt if the parts that you ordered don’t fit the way you expected them to on the board.
By keeping these considerations in mind as you make the component selection for the design, you can stay ahead of any potential problems that may arise. There are also additional resources available to you for help when making your component selection. One of these resources should be your contract manufacturer.
Working with Your Contract Manufacturer on Component Selection
Your CM should have a complete engineering team that can help out with your component selection needs. These experts should be able to help you with the following services:
- The component engineers at your CM should have the design experience as well as the industry contacts to work with you on your design. They should be able to see potential performance problems in the component selection for your design and make recommendations that will help.
- Your CM should have an extensive quality assurance process to validate incoming parts. Their QA should make sure you are getting the components that you paid for, and that those components are working as expected.
- Another benefit your CM should offer you is industry connections with component vendors and the ability to track the components that your design will need both now and in future builds. This way, your CM can stay on top of which components are current and at what price, which are not recommended for new designs (NRND), which are going obsolete (OBS), and which are considered end-of-life (EOL).
- Your CM should also help you to choose the right package size for your component selections. Just because a component is available in a smaller package may not necessarily mean that it will be the best choice for your application. Some of the smaller chip component footprints may free up space in your PCB layout, but they make manual assembly or rework extremely difficult and costly.
Choosing the right CM to work with can potentially save you a lot of extra time and expense by having the resources available to you to make the best part selections.
What Your CM Should Bring to the Table
At VSE, our engineering teams have years of experience in their fields. Our component engineers have cultivated extensive relationships with component brokers and vendors to provide you with the most up-to-date part information. Our design engineers are skilled at evaluating your design to recommend to you any changes that might be beneficial to your circuit board. Together, their expertise will help you to make the best component choices based on the performance and manufacturing needs of your design as well as get you the best quality, price, and availability.