Component Price Comparisons and Cost Selection for Design Processes

Component price comparisons with an electronic parts search engine

Use the right component search engine for component price comparisons during design.

Your new design won’t work at all without electronic components. There are plenty of component distributors in the marketplace that compete with each other on price, lead time, and range of component selection. Component price comparisons are often an early part of the design process, but you shouldn’t have to compromise your design requirements just to meet budget constraints.

If you’re looking to produce a few boards for a small project, a single board for a small system, or you’re prototyping, component prices may not even enter the equation during design. You’ll likely focus only on the design requirements for your product without worrying about prices. However, if you want to produce a new product at massive scale, each cent you save on a component will add up to huge savings, and the savings could possibly cover your design and prototyping costs. If you have access to sourcing data alongside component specs and prices in a search engine, you can identify savings, reconcile design tradeoffs, and prevent production delays.

Design Requirements vs. Component Prices

Anytime you need to design a complex system from multiple components, you’ll need to make certain tradeoffs in component selection to satisfy your design requirements. Once you start factoring in the price of each component, it’s easy to succumb to the pressure and default to the lowest-priced components you can find that will meet minimum requirements. The pressure is greater when your planned production run is larger as small savings per component add up to huge numbers. Your goal should be to stay within your budget while building the highest quality product that meets form factor and performance requirements. This is often a difficult balancing act, even in electronics design.

Although there are millions of components on the market, there may be only several components that provide the functions you need without exceeding your price point. For passive components, you generally won’t need to worry about these tradeoffs except in specialized applications, such as high power electronics or microwave/mmWave boards. The difficulty often comes when selecting ICs, which vary in terms of features, prices, I/O interfaces, package, and many other aspects.

High-quality electronics require high-quality PCB layouts with reliable electrical performance, so price is usually the last place you should start when selecting components. A typical component price comparison that considers electrical specifications might look like this:

  1. Minimum performance margin: Does the component meet or exceed minimum performance specs within the desired safety margin? If yes, go to #2.
  2. Form factor: Does the component fit within the desired form factor, package, and/or mounting style? If yes, go to #3.
  3. Price: Is there another component that satisfies #1 and #2 for lower price? If no, use the current component. If yes, select the alternative component.

In this case, component price is the last decision, rather than the first decision. This type of component price comparison requires getting parts data from across the supply chain alongside electrical specs and CAD models.

Use a Search Engine for Component Price Comparisons

A component search engine is an excellent tool for component price comparisons as these services compile pricing information by quantity into a single location. Here, we’re not talking about using the search features on distributor websites. The search and filtration features on distributor websites can give you an idea of which components are on the market, but you won’t have visibility across the supply chain; you can only see prices, stocks, and lead times from that distributor.

Instead of sticking with a single distributor or jumping between different distributor websites, a component search engine gives you a number of benefits for component price comparisons and selection. You’ll be able to see:

  • Prices by order quantity. Whether you need to produce 1 unit or 1 million, you’ll need to see component prices based on your planned order quantity. The right parts search engine will show you this pricing information for a range of components, as well as from multiple distributors (authorized and unauthorized). You’ll also be able to see minimum order quantities, giving you another critical piece of information for accurate budgeting.
  • Stocks and lead times. The lowest price component that fits your design requirements might be out of stock, and you need to see this before you complete your design. You can avoid a redesign and ensure your components will be delivered on-time for assembly.
  • Electrical specifications. You need to see package and mounting styles, input/output voltage and/or current, operating temperature, and other part-specific specifications in your search results alongside pricing data. You can then quickly compare multiple components by price and specifications.
  • 2D Symbols and footprints, 3D CAD models, and simulation models. This will give you everything you need to begin working with your new components in your ECAD application. These data should be available in vendor-specific and vendor-neutral file formats.

The ability to see prices alongside component dimensions is just one aspect of comparing design requirements and costs. If you can see the PCB footprint for your component in your search results or in a datasheet, you can quickly see how the component can fit into your PCB layout.

Component price comparisons 3D CAD models

Early access to footprints and 3D CAD models lets you see how a component can fit into your layout. You can create a more compact floorplan with cleaner routing if you plan your design around specific components.

With this information, you can quickly reconcile design tradeoffs against component prices. After some quick comparisons, you may find that the lowest priced product is not always the best choice in terms of functionality and the ideal part for your board may not be available without lead times of multiple weeks. A service like Ultra Librarian is ideal for these component price comparisons; you’ll have access to aggregated data from multiple distributors and even other search engines in a single location. You won’t need to build your own footprints from datasheets or browse multiple distributor websites when searching for components.

When you need to expand your component footprint library with new components, you can use the parts search features in Ultra Librarian for quick component price comparisons and to view sourcing information from worldwide distributors You’ll have access to verified CAD models in vendor-specific and vendor-neutral formats, which can be imported into popular ECAD applications. All component data on Ultra Librarian can be accessed at no cost and is verified from component manufacturers.

Ultra Librarian helps you perform component price comparisons by compiling all your sourcing and component information in one place. Working with Ultra Librarian sets up your team for success to ensure any design is going through production and validation with accurate models and footprints to work from. Register today!


The Ultra Librarian Team

Ultra Librarian offers the world’s largest PCB CAD library, putting cutting-edge materials at your fingertips so you can build better products faster—all for free.

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