Live Links to Supplier Data

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Pass by the desk (or glance at a shelf) of any electronics designer/engineer and you will typically find one or more catalogs for parts and components available from 'favored' suppliers. Key to any design is the search for these required circuit components – what is available? What functionality is offered? How much does it cost? Often, a comparison between multiple suppliers will be undertaken, ensuring the best 'deal' is achieved for the 'building blocks' required by the design.

While a printed catalog faithfully obliges with content as you fan its copious pages, to have such information at your fingertips, live as you design, and linked to the components themselves, is a far more attractive proposition. Altium Designer facilitates this very notion, through its Live Links to Supplier Data feature.

Through direct connection to supplier web services, you are able to search across a supported supplier's entire product catalog. This 'live' data can then be integrated within your design process – at the library design level, during the design, and at design release time. In short, this feature allows you to search supplier databases from within Altium Designer, and link your design components to matching Supplier Items.

For any given Supplier Item found through a search, you can also import its parameters, data sheet links, pricing and stock information, as parameters of a target library component (SchLib, DbLib, SVNDbLib), or placed component on a schematics sheet. In addition, you can also create whole new components in a target library directly from Supplier Items!

The linked supplier data can also be included at design release time, in a Bill Of Materials – especially useful from a project costing and procurement perspective.

Provision is also made for converting the display of supplier pricing information into one of a number of supported currencies.
 

To use the Live Links to Supplier Data feature does not require you to be signed in to your Altium account. Searching is conducted directly with the suppliers through web services. However, when displaying pricing information in alternate currencies, exchange rates for currency conversion are refreshed daily, provided you are signed in to your account.

When using the Altium Designer Viewer, you will only be able to use this feature to search the supplier databases and view returned results.

Supported Suppliers

When using Altium Designer's live links to supplier data feature, you can choose to use any or all of the following currently supported suppliers:

With multiple suppliers, you can compare and shop for the best deals on the components you require.

Enable these suppliers from the Data Management – Suppliers page of the Preferences dialog (DXP»Preferences), to be able to search their databases from within Altium Designer, and link Altium Designer components to matching supplier items.

You have the choice of using three suppliers when creating live links to supplier data!

Accessing Additional Supplier Services

If you have an account with Digi-Key, Farnell or Newark, you may be entitled to special pricing or products that are not available in these suppliers' public catalogs. If this applies to you, you should ask your supplier's sales representative for a username or customer number that can be used with their Web Service. Once you have this information, enter it into the options section for that particular supplier.

The username and password for Digi-Key is the same as for their Web site. Click on the supplier entry for Digi-Key – in the Available Suppliers region of the page – then enter your Digi-Key web login credentials (User Name and Password) in the Digi-Key Options region that appears to the right.

The Customer Id and Secret Key for Farnell and Newark must currently be obtained from your local Farnell or Newark sales office. Click on the supplier entry for either Farnell or Newark – in the Available Suppliers region of the page – then enter your customer details in the Farnell Options or Newark Options region that appears, respectively.

Filling in your supplier account information is totally optional. If you leave these fields blank, you can still search the supplier, but you will not see any customer-specific results.

If you're an existing Digi-Key, Farnell, or Newark customer, enter your customer credentials to access additional customer-specific services.

  1. Making use of these additional supplier options is a wholly optional excercise. You are not required to fill out these details in order to use the Live Links to Supplier Data feature, they simply offer additional benefits for those users that are existing customers of a particular supplier, should they wish to access them.
     
  2. The Customer Id and Secret Key used with Farnell and Newark is not a login to that supplier's respective website. Rather, these are separate credentials provided to certain customers of those suppliers upon request. For more information, refer to each supplier's respective website.

Searching for Supplier Items

Main article: Supplier Search Panel

The interface to the live supplier data is provided courtesy of the Supplier Search panel. Access to this panel can be quickly made from the menu associated with the System panel access button, at the bottom-right of the main design window.

Accessing the Supplier Search panel - the portal into the live supplier databases.

Enter keywords relevant to the supplier item you wish to search for, then click the Search button. The upper region of the panel – the results region – will populate with all Supplier Items matching the search criteria, and in accordance with any advanced filtering options.
 

Only the databases for those suppliers that are enabled will be searched for matching items. Enable/disable suppliers as required from the Available Suppliers region, on the System – Suppliers page of the Preferences dialog. Quick access to this page can be made by clicking the button, at the top-right of the panel.

Adding a Live Link to a Supplier Item

Main article: Live Supplier Data - Managing Supplier Links

Creating a 'Supplier Link' – a live link between an Altium Designer component and a Supplier Item – is a simple, straightforward process. Simply click on the required Supplier Item, in the results region of the Supplier Search panel, then drag and drop onto the target component. Exactly where to 'drop' depends on the type of component:

  • Schematic Library component (SchLib) – anywhere within the main editing area of the Schematic Library Editor, ensuring the source Schematic Library document is the active document in the main design window and the recipient component is focused. You can also add the link to a component by dropping onto the component's name (in the Components region of the SCH Library panel), or by dropping into the Supplier Links region of the SCH Library panel.
  • Database/SVN Database Library component (DbLib, SVNDbLib) – onto the required component record, in the Table Browser tab of the relevant Database Library file or SVN Database Library file, ensuring the DbLib or SVNDbLib file is the active document in the main design window.
  • Placed component on a schematic sheet – onto the schematic symbol of a placed component, ensuring the source schematic document is the active document in the main design window.

 

A Supplier Link can also be created by right-clicking on the Supplier Item entry in the results region of the Supplier Search panel and choosing the Add Supplier Link To command. If a Schematic, Database or SVN Database Library is active, the Supplier Link will be added to the focused component/component record. If a Schematic document is active, you will be able to click on each part to which you want the Supplier Link added.

 
In each case, creation of a link adds two parameters to the component:

  • Supplier n
  • Supplier Part Number n

n is an integer suffix, used to distinguish between Supplier Items where multiple links have been added to the same component.

Example of a Supplier Link added to a schematic library component. Here, the Supplier Item - a DIP Switch - is added by dragging the item into the main editing area of the Schematic Library Editor. The resulting two
parameters - the fundamental elements that make the link possible - can be viewed in the associated properties dialog for the component.

Importing Data from a Supplier Item

Main article: Live Supplier Data - Import to Libraries and Schematics

For any given Supplier Item found through a search in the Supplier Search panel, you can import its parameters, data sheet links, pricing and stock information, as parameters of a target library component (SchLib, DbLib, SVNDbLib), or placed component on a schematics sheet.

Import Supplier Item data as parameters to library components or placed schematic parts.

Adding a Supplier Link and Parameters Simultaneously

It is possible to add parameters, data sheet links, pricing and stock information for a Supplier Item, along with a Supplier Link to that item, all in the one step. This allows you to setup your components in a far more streamlined way, rather than adding each stage independently. To do this, simply right-click on the Supplier Item entry in the results region of the Supplier Search panel and choose the Add Supplier Link And Parameters To command.

If a Schematic, Database or SVN Database Library is active, the parameters and Supplier Link will be added to the focused component/component record. If a Schematic document is active, you will be able to click on each part to which you want the parameters and Supplier Link added. For parameters, pricing and stock information, the import will proceed in accordance with any defined parameter import options.

Consider, as an example, the following resistor array component MNR34 in a Schematic Library, which has no links to Supplier Items and currently has no parameters defined.

Initial library component - no Supplier Links and no parameters.

After searching for a suitable Supplier Item in the Supplier Search panel, we can simply use the command on the right-click menu which targets the component, appearing as Add Supplier Link And Parameters To MNR34. The result is a new Supplier Link to the item – verified in the Supplier Links region of the SCH Library panel – and all imported parameters populating the Parameters region of the associated Library Component Properties dialog for the component.

Add a Supplier Link to, and import all information for, a Supplier Item, using a single command!

Creating a New Library Component from a Supplier Item

A new library component can be created directly from a Supplier Item. The method used to create the component depends on the type of target library:

  • Schematic Library – simply drag the item, from the results section of the Supplier Search panel, and drop onto the Components region of the SCH Library panel. Alternatively, right-click on the Supplier Item and choose the Import Into LibraryName.SchLib As ComponentName command.
  • Database Library – ensure the Table Browser tab in the target library file is focused, then right-click on the Supplier Item and choose the Import Into LibraryName.DbLib As PartNumber command.
  • SVN Database Library – ensure the Table Browser tab in the target library file is focused, then right-click on the Supplier Item and choose the Import Into LibraryName.SVNDbLib As PartNumber command.

The ComponentName/PartNumber for the new component will be named using the Supplier Item's Manufacturer Part Number parameter.

A Supplier Link to the item will be added to the component, along with all parameters for that item (parameters, data sheet links, pricing and stock information). Parameters will be imported in accordance with any defined parameter import options.

Example creation of a new Schematic Library component from a Supplier Item. Being able to create a new component in this way, enables you to build libraries of components quickly and effortlessly.

Currency Conversion

Main article: Live Supplier Data - Currency Conversion

Pricing information is an inherent part of the data available using Altium Designer's live links to supplier data feature. Different suppliers operate in different, often multiple, regions of the world and, as such, it is common to see product pricing reported in different currencies. Altium Designer provides you with the facility to convert the display of such pricing information into one of a number of supported currencies.

Display pricing in your preferred currency - updated exchange rates are accessed when signed in to your Altium account!

Including Supplier Data in a Bill of Materials

Main article: Live Supplier Data - BOM Generation

Once you have set up supplier links for your design components the live supplier data, including pricing and stock information, can be included when generating a Bill of Materials for your design project.

Supplier data included as part of the Bill of Materials.

The Excel template file BOM Supplier Links.xlt provides an example BOM template that includes supplier link information. This file can be found in the \Templates folder of the installation.

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