Using A Component Search Tool to Find Electronic Replacement Parts for PCB Design

Electronic replacement parts boxed up

Perhaps, an argument can be made against the assertion that component selection is the most important electronic circuit board design decision. Yet, it cannot be refuted that all other design and manufacturing activities are irrelevant without the components. Therefore, your parts selection process must be well-defined and executed.

Unfortunately, selecting and acquiring the parts needed for your design is more difficult today. Although the usual suspects, such as obsolescence, are contributors, there are new challenges to establishing and maintaining a reliable supply chain. Understanding these is an essential precursor to determining how best to locate necessary electronic replacement parts.

Current Component Supply Chain Challenges

Many of us need only go to the corner market to feel the impact of current challenges to the global supply chain. However, the effects are keener for those who work in the design, manufacturing, and delivery of electronics. Specifically, the ability to buy active and passive electronic components as needed. And several merging issues have created this condition.

Issues Affecting the Global Electronic Component Supply Chain

  • Component shortages
    Many industries have been hit hard by the semiconductor shortage, but none more than the automotive industry. Some vehicle manufacturers were forced to shut down production due to acquiring critical parts. Unfortunately, this is not the only significant electronic component that the PCB industry faces. For the last several years, there has been a shortage of MLCC capacitors.
  • COVID-19 restrictions
    The initial reaction to the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, meant to buy time while we could develop vaccinations, by governments around the world was to force many companies, including electronic parts manufacturers, to shut down operations. The uncoordinated implementation of these restrictions and travel bans are a significant root cause of the current supply chain issues.
  • Unforeseen disasters
    Although not typically included in the discussion, factory fires and natural disasters have played a role in reducing the volume of electronic components being produced.
  • Supply chain bottlenecks
    An unforeseen effect of the disruptions in manufacturing and delivery of electronic parts is the bottlenecks created once operations restarted at various points–such as ports–along the supply chain.

What this means for electronics engineers, designers, OEMs and ODMs is that new approaches to component supply chain management must be instituted. And one method that can be very effective is to incorporate the potential need for electronic replacement parts into the development process.

Why Are Electronic Replacement Parts Important?

Good PCBA design necessitates that you create a design that meets performance objectives, is buildable, and incorporates a risk management strategy. You need to assume that Murphy’s law, ”anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” may rear its ugly head and devise a means of successfully thwarting it if it does. For component selection, this means to include alternative or replacement parts.

Electronic replacement parts on reserve

Storage of electronic replacement parts

The utilization of replacement parts is best implemented by purchasing (or having your turnkey CM procure) likely components and keeping them in storage, as shown above.

Finding Replacement Parts with a Component Search Tool

Sourcing primary components can pose a challenge, depending upon your method of searching and whether the part is exotic–highly specialized or rarely used–or not. This is one reason component library management is so important. Additionally, a well-managed library promotes efficiency among teams working on large projects and eliminates the need to reinvent the wheel by searching for previously located and sourced components.

However, the most important aspect of sourcing components is the tool you use. There are several options for searching for electronic components. For example, most of the best PCBA design software packages include parts libraries. However, the online tool shown below is the best choice for the most accurate and up-to-date component schematics, footprints, 3D models, datasheets, and design information.

List of electronic replacement parts from UL

UL listing showing electronic replacement parts

As shown above, with the right online part search tool you can not only find the primary component you need but also select from many electronic replacement part options.

If you’re looking for CAD models for common components or electronic replacement parts to strengthen your supply chain, Ultra Librarian helps by compiling all your sourcing and CAD information in one place. Working with Ultra Librarian sets up your team for success to ensure streamlined and error-free design, production, and sourcing. Register today for free.


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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