There are times in the lifecycle of a PCB layout that components will need to be swapped, removed, or added. Sometimes, components will go obsolete and need upgrades, or other times the components are simply out of stock. Depending on the situation, finding electronic components can be very difficult, as it requires locating compatible specifications, footprints, package sizes, and even processing. Therefore, whenever the need arises, designers require resources to help them find alternative electronic components.
Ultra Librarian is one resource designers can use to locate alternative electronic components and quickly import them into a PCB project. A comprehensive search engine is the main tool designers should use to find their desired components. Ultra Librarian offers an industry-leading search engine to help you select components for your next design.
How to Find Alternative Electronic Components Using a Search Engine
When you need to find an alternative part for a design, what is the best way to start searching for a replacement? Usually, designers likely start with one of the following options:
- Look on the manufacturer’s website for a lower or higher grade component.
- Look on distributor’s websites for similar components.
- Start searching the internet for alternatives.
These options don’t always produce quick results, or they rely on a designer compromising on an alternative with different specifications, prices, lead times, or CAD data. The last item (CAD data) is vital, since, ideally, designers would not need to manually create symbols or footprints for replacement parts. However, in some situations, such as finding an emergency alternative part for a fabricated bare board, the footprints must be compatible; otherwise, a build may need to be scrapped.
There are a few approaches you can take with Ultra Librarian’s search engine to help you find the right parts to prevent these problems and ensure alternative electronic components will be highly compatible.
Search by Part Type
Many parts are named based on the function they perform. Using a query like “voltage regulator,” “level shifter,” or “interface bridge” is one of the simplest ways to generate a long list of components with varying specifications. This gives you a good view into the supply chain and allows you to see what’s available from multiple manufacturers and some of the basic specifications for each part. An example for the query “interface bridge” is shown below.
Some results for an “interface bridge” query
While this is a simple way to see what parts are available on the market, it’s best used early in the design phase when the desired component is unavailable. Generating a long list of parts allows you to develop an alternative solution without locking your design into a specific footprint, package style, pinout, or function. If you’re already past this stage and need much more specific information, you can start using the search strategies for alternative electronic components below.
Search by Electrical Specification
This is probably the most common type of search for alternative electronic components and CAD models after a design has been constructed around a specific set of components. In addition, if you add an electrical value (input voltage is common) to a part-type-based search, you can narrow it down to a smaller group of search results that is easier to manage. If you’re a fan of specific manufacturers, you can always type in a company name and browse all their available components within a specific category. This is best combined with a part type-based search to narrow down to a specific set of components that match electrical specifications for an existing part in your design.
Search by Package Type or Mounting Style
Searching by package type (e.g., TO-220) or mounting style (e.g., SMD level shifter) is an excellent way to find alternative parts after a footprint has already been placed in the design. If you don’t want to change out the footprint or make a new one, you’ll want to find a drop-in replacement that can match the existing footprint. This is critical if your board has already been fabricated but is waiting to go through assembly. Once you click into a component, you’ll be able to see the PCB footprint and you can open the datasheet to see the pinout and ensure compatibility.
Example footprint and 3D model for a component
Search by Application
This is another front-end strategy you can use if you’re unsure of the type of component you need. For example, take a look at the query “WiFi” in the Ultra Librarian search engine: you’ll see a long list of components used in some portion of a WiFi system. Results will be available from multiple manufacturers and a range of specifications. This is a good strategy if you need to browse for an alternative solution to your desired component or if you’re having trouble with another search query.
Data to Help Select and Use Alternative Components
The data in Ultra Librarian’s search results and parts database is all provided directly from manufacturers and distributors. Thanks to Ultra Librarian’s partnerships with major semiconductor manufacturers, designers can rest assured that the CAD data and supply chain data they find are accurate. In addition to the search engine features highlighted above, Ultra Librarian provides additional resources to help designers select alternative components, procure them for assembly, and understand how they work:
- Access to sourcing data: After clicking into a part in the search results, you’ll be able to access a list of distributors for the component in question as well as inventory and pricing information. The availability filter shown in the example search results above lets you narrow down only to components you can immediately order from distributors.
- Access to datasheets: Components in Ultra Librarian’s PCB library and search results will contain a link to a datasheet, including for generic part numbers and hard-to-find components. Other technical data, such as application notes or compliance statements, is also available for some components.
- Access to reference designs: Once you’ve found a component you like, head over to the Manufacturers page to search for new components and interactive reference designs. You might find a reference design that you can use as a good example for some of the components selected.
When you need to select alternative electronic components and find the CAD data you need, use the electronics search engine features in Ultra Librarian. The platform gives you access to PCB footprints, technical data, and ECAD/MCAD models alongside sourcing information to help you stay ahead of supply chain volatility.