The Key to Universal Libraries, a Conversation with Digi-Key’s Jeremy Purcell

The Key to Universal Libraries, a conversation with Digi-Key’s Jeremy Purcell

From selling product out of a car to a global electronic components distributor, Digi-Key has been providing the best possible service to its customers. We sat down with Jeremy Purcell, Senior Digital Product Owner at Digi-Key, to talk about the importance of universal libraries. Digi-Key has been working with Frank Frank since the days of Accelerated Designs and now collaborates with Ultra Librarian.

Hi Jeremy, you’re the Senior Digital Product Owner at Digi-Key. Can you tell us a little about the company?

Jeremy: Sure! The founder, Dr. Ronald Stordahl, started selling the extra components from his projects he was working on. One of those being the digital-keyer, which the company is named after.

The business moved into, quite literally, the trunk of his car. He continued selling products this way for a short while, until the company increased in sales and he was able to move into his family’s trucking garage. Eventually, Digi-Key was able to shift operations into its current, larger building that was once owned by Artic cat. We now have three additions to this building and a larger one that you would be hearing about . It’s just amazing growth for a small-town company.

The 2.2 million square foot building that we’re putting up next door really makes me feel like Digi-Key has become a “big company”. It used to feel like this small company that just electronics people knew about, but now we are a company that it seems everybody knows. That’s the story behind the company itself, but I think the real story is the people that workhere. We’re a workforce of over 4,000 employees, many with technical knowledge such as engineers, technicians, and computer developers.

We have such amazing talent working here. They understand our customers and what we can do to help them solve their problems. They’ve got great forward-thinking skills when it comes to what our customers will be facing in the future. That’s what really sets Digi-Key apart, employees innovating new solutions for bottlenecks in the design cycle.

What do you believe are the benefits of a component source, such as Ultra Librarian?

Jeremy: I think the benefit of a universal library is more time saving and less frustration that goes along with building symbols and footprints from scratch. Something like having to build a brand new MCU, spending many hours doing so, and then finding out you made a mistake.

Sometimes you don’t discover a mistake until after you’ve designed a board. We have better simulations nowadays, but I’m thinking back when we started this process. Back in the 90’s we sold a library called Cbardy that was hooked up with PADS and PCAD, along with a few others. So, we had been thinking about libraries for quite a while. Our customers have been asking for this and there are many people out there that aren’t classically trained in engineering and don’t understand the process, so it works well for our broad customer base. You will get tired of making just the smallest mistakes and having to start all over. With universal libraries you get rid of a lot of that worry.

There is an aspect of universal libraries I think a lot of companies miss. It takes a few years to build it up, but the quality behind a universal library grows as more people use it and more eyes are on those parts. After those years of development, you’re getting a good quality product that should have few mistakes that haven’t been caught. Even one step further, is that many customers of those libraries are asking for better models with more features all the time. It just seems like a universal library is the way to go; especially for the smaller companies that can’t afford someone specifically hired to maintain an in-house library.

Why did you decide to work with Ultra Librarian?

Jeremy: It must have been roughly a decade ago that we started talking to Frank Frank about Ultra Librarian. As engineers, right away we were saying, “this is so cool.” He had so many parts in there and we had just been working on some of our smaller board projects, so we immediately saw the potential.

There’s a lot of pain and frustration in building your own parts and the misery of the repeat design cycle when errors creep in. We knew firsthand that this was a good opportunity to do something that would improve the efficiency of the process and be a big time-saver. Ultra Librarian has the largest agnostic library that we knew of and it just seemed like a great fit. Ultra Librarian isn’t dependent on any specific software company and having the most parts was something that our customers really had been wanting for quite some time. Check that off the customer wish list (and ours, too).

I think one of the keys is the conversion format that was missing in other systems out there. You can require additional information to a given platform without changing the original format. Or not having enough information from one platform for a conversion to another. Those are hard aspects to cover. You don’t want to make a decision for a customer. So, the two points that made up our minds was having the most parts in a library and the conversion factor where you didn’t have to rely upon converting to any specific tool or from one tool to the next.

Where do you see the future of component libraries headed?

Jeremy: You know this is a really tough subject. There are a lot of new models and new processes in play here. I think the biggest item in the future will be the platform that can make learning engineering the most efficient and easiest for our customer base. We have a ton of new makers and hobbyists that are diving into circuit board building and they’re not familiar with electrical rules or coding practices. So, the key is going to be how do we make it easier? I think companies are working on the right efficiencies and the easiest ways to make designing possible. The future is going to be getting rid of roadblocks in the design process.

The companies that implement those changes are going to be the ones that stick around and change the future.

Is there anything exciting and new coming up for Digi-Key?

Jeremy: We do have a few things coming up on our site around UI that you’ll be seeing in several releases sometime around the November/December timeframe. We have a lot of new parts coming online with the new venture that we hope will innovate our footprint in the market. We’ve got some big things coming, so stay tuned.

Be sure to follow both Ultra Librarian and Digi-Key on LinkedIn for upcoming events and news.

Digi-Key is one of the world’s fastest growing distributors of electronic components. Digi-Key Electronics has earned its reputation as an industry leader through its longstanding commitment to service and performance. Specializing in board level electronics components and accessories, Digi-Key offers access to more than 9.2 million products from over 800 of the world’s most trusted manufacturers on its top-rated website, The company provides small quantities for prototype design and large volumes for production, with over 1.8 million components in-stock and available for immediate shipment. 

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