Designing and building circuits and devices can be fun. That’s because you’re solving problems while you learn, which is probably one of the best reasons to spend time on CircuitBread.com.
But locating the best parts for your design out of the hundreds of thousands of electronic parts in the market can be confusing, especially when many appear to do the same thing. In fact, our friends at OnlineComponents.com list over 2.5 million parts available on their website at www.onlinecomponents.com. We know that having a choice is important, but how do you ultimately decide what to buy and use?
The Tried & True Process of Component Selection
At CircuitBread, we like to discuss a “9 Step Process” for finding the best part for a relatively simple design. In your case, it may require more or less steps, but here are the basics we think you should consider:
- Determine what the part needs to do (function).
- Define the requirements for the part (power, form factor, mounting, etc.).
- List any other part needs (MIL-SPEC, regulatory requirements, etc.).
- Research components in the market that match your needs.
- Develop your applicable part/supplier list.
- Test and verify part samples in your circuit.
- Decide on cost vs. quality trade-offs.
- Predict the quantity you will need at production.
- Buy the part.
Now, that sounds pretty easy, right? By following these steps, you’ll be building your simple “Bill of Materials (BOM) for your project. But, as an aspiring engineer, or someone refreshing their skills, you know there has to be a catch to all of this, or maybe several. And we’re here to suggest that you are right.
The truth is that while picking the “right” part isn’t always easy, picking the “best” part isn’t always necessary. It may be better to set your sights on choosing the most “appropriate” part. That’s because once you get past the basic steps we’ve enumerated, the process of part differentiation can rest on a number of other factors, any of which may affect your final decision.
Does the supplier offer good documentation to make your use of the component easier? Does your customer have a Qualified Parts List (QPL) or Qualified Manufacturer List (QML) that you will need to consult before you source a part? Can the suppliers you identify meet your timeline for delivery or supply in the quantities you need? Does your purchasing department already have an established relationship with a distributor or supplier of the part you need?
These are just some samples of the other questions you may need to answer before you make your “simple” decision on a part and a supplier. And as you can see, some of these other factors can limit your ability to find or decide on the “best” part.
Your development of engineering skills in designing and producing quality electronic products that people and companies need always comes down to choices. And choosing the most “appropriate” components for your designs involves a decision process that will be unique to your individual situation and the company and market forces in effect during your design/procurement cycle.
The best way to make a decision is to gather as much information as possible, test as often as possible, and reach out to others, like a qualified electronic component distributor, for help. Their experience across multiple products and different suppliers can make your work a heck of a lot easier.