EE’s Dilemma – Design Parts or Boards

Most engineers would rather design PCBs than libraries. But how can you trust a library with other contributors?

Whenever I talk to electronics designers about what they dislike the most when it comes to creating electronics the answer is almost always the same. Part creation. It doesn’t matter if I’m talking to an experienced designer who’s been doing it for years or to a beginner whose been at it for 3 months, people don’t like “wasting” their time creating their components. Why is that?

There seems to be three basic reasons as to why people don’t like create their own components:

  1. Footprint, Symbol, 3D model Styles
  2. Trust
  3. Time

What if there was a way to solve all these issues and create a centralized database that we can all trust, agree on styling, AND not spend time creating? It may sound like a dream but I don’t think so, I think this is something completely within our grasp. Come with me and I will take you to the promised land.

Footprint & Symbol Styles

The first thing we need to do is to figure out how to solve the problem of style. We all have our preferred way of doing things, a way we like to view our schematics and boards. I propose we do the same thing that schools and the military do, uniforms. We take away the personalization of part creation and create a standard.

Now this isn’t a new radical idea, in fact its an old stale one but somehow it seems to be forgotten.  Way back in 1975 IEEE created the standard IEEE 315. This standard was made to fix this exact issue of how schematic symbols should look. I’m not sure exactly what happened but somewhere along the way people went their separate ways. It could be a new generation of designers or maybe people just didn’t want to change, either way that’s not the point. This standard was made for a reason and it should be followed.

The IEEE 315 standard is extremely comprehensive, so much so it includes schematic symbol elements allowing you to symbolize parts that haven’t even been invented yet. Let me explain. IEEE 315 gives a standard to construct any symbol, every line, dot, and feature has a meaning. With these tools available, one is able to construct any symbol for any possible component that does or does not exist.

IGBT Symbol Meaning

The next thing that we as designers need to come together on is the footprints / land patterns / decals for components. Just like with schematic symbols we don’t have a standard that we all are using despite there being a standard out there available to us. That standard is IPC-7351. IPC-7351 provides information on land pattern geometries used for the surface attachment of electronic components. This includes things like sizing and tolerance to insure there is sufficient area for all the appropriate solder fillets.

Caliper and CPU

So far we’ve taken a look schematic symbol and PCB footprint standards but there’s still one thing missing and that’s a standard for creating the 3D STEP model. And yes there is a standard for that as well, isn’t that great!? The standard for that is the JEDEC Publication No. 95. JEDEC 95 describes the dimensional and geometrical characteristics of “standard” component packages.



Okay, so we’ve talked about how to standardize on schematic symbols, PCB footprints, and also 3D models. But what about the trust and time issue. We solve the trust issue by applying these standards. Once everyone or most people apply these standards to part creation as they should, we can all have a higher confidence that we’ve all done things correctly.

Of course nothing a person does is without error all the time. This is why we need an online database with everyone uploading their component models. And to be sure all components are up to standard we can crawl and verify each component as they’re uploaded. In addition to software verification, having users review and use components will give everyone a solid indication of which part is good and which is not.


As you probably have guessed having this online database where users and professionals can upload their component symbols and models will save time, for everyone. It may surprise you but this isn’t a fantasy, well not completely. EE Concierge is a service that will create a complete component for you including schematic symbol, PCB footprint, and also a 3D model. The EE Concierge component making process follows the above industry standards so you know what you’re getting is correct and transferable to anyone. As for an online database filled with components, that’s where Octopart comes in. Octopart is a search engine for electronic components and industrial products. It includes things like a BOM scrubber, pricing and a bunch  more. It’s definitely worth checking out.


And away we go… Merge!



Since joining Altium last summer we’ve been hard at work on a new version of Upverter. I wanted to give you a sneak peek of what to expect in the upcoming version!

The biggest change you’re likely to notice is that we are merging the Upverter and CircuitMaker communities together. For Upverter users this should be pretty amazing. You’ll notice a lot more users and a lot more stuff in the explore section. You’ll see a bunch of CircuitMaker designs that have been migrated over and can now be edited and forked inside Upverter. You’ll have a more powerful publishing platform for showcasing your work. You’ll also see a lot more activity on the forum, including all the old CircuitMaker forum posts.

Upverter is getting a lot more powerful, including the addition of sheet management, part alignment, spacing controls, reliable pours, and more.

Our library of verified parts is expanding to include all of the parts built and verified by the expert Altium librarians over the past 10 years. We’ve added over 250,000 parts to the Upverter library over the past few months.

One of the hardest and most exciting parts of the merge is that we are making the CircuitMaker desktop editor work with Upverter designs. Two of the biggest feature requests we’ve had over the years were an offline mode, and better routing. CircuitMaker is packed full of amazing Altium technology – hierarchical schematic, push-and-shove routing, batch output generation, Native3D™, and offline editing. Making CircuitMaker work seamlessly with Upverter will allow you to use Upverter for the kind of stuff it’s best at, and CircuitMaker when you need a desktop editor.

Our goal is the best of both worlds. To develop Upverter into the most powerful, but also the easiest to use, hardware product design platform. To remain natively cloud based and collaborative. But also to allow you to work offline, in desktop software and with the very powerful editing features CircuitMaker has baked-in whenever needed. It’s about choice and flexibility and our mission of helping you bring your ideas to life faster and easier.

Finally, we’ve substantially increased the number of engineers working on Upverter and we’re committed to investing in building the best Upverter platform we possibly can. We’re adding new, Upverter only features. We’re building ways to migrate powerful features from Altium Designer into Upverter. We’re making Upverter more extensible and hackable. And we’re working on a new and more approachable system design environment so less technical designers can bring their products to life in Upverter.

We are all pretty excited about this upcoming release and we’ll keep you posted as we work on it. We are also doing an event tour to share our ideas, give previews, and get your thoughts – more on that here. We don’t have a hard launch date for all of this, but it looks like Christmas time 2018.

Stay tuned!!

Zak & The Upverter Team


If you are a CircuitMaker user, you can read about the merge here.