How to Beat Google at a Big Industry Challenge: PCB Component Libraries

Ask any PCB designer what they would put in Room 101, and chances are managing component libraries would be up there. It is an industry challenge with massive cost implications, as engineers spend around half of their development time managing component data. Simply put, less time spent managing component data means more time for product innovation, fewer errors and reduced costs. All things every product development company needs to win them a competitive edge.

PCB Part LibrariesSamacSys is unique in the industry in offering a live, quality-checked component library, along with software tools for creating and managing electronic component ECAD data. The company has been working with Zuken for a while to make its library of free PCB symbols and footprints available in CADSTAR PCB design software – and it’s now live! Using the SamacSys Library Loader, it means you can now search and place components instantly from the Component Search Engine into CADSTAR without needing to unzip or load files, which some users have described as: “like magic”!

When Alex MacDougall, Founder and Managing Director at SamacSys, mentioned to me that they have succeeded where so many others, including Google, have failed, I had to find out more:

Can you explain the scale of this industry challenge?

Consider how many millions of components are available, made by thousands of manufacturers, sold through hundreds of vendors – and you get an idea of the complexity of the issue, and the challenge of maintaining up-to-date component data. Other companies have tried to develop systems based on storing and downloading a static file, but this quickly goes out of date and is painful to load the files into the ECAD tools. Even Google tried to fix this problem through its Google Ventures initiative, so at one point they were a competitor of ours.

How did SamacSys start?

I’ve worked in EDA for many years. After lots of conversations with our customers about the frustration they felt with the daily time sink of library management, a few of us began to shape some ideas about how we could solve the problem. We developed the idea in our spare time until we became confident enough to quit our jobs and set up SamacSys to work on it full-time and take our first product to market, around five years ago. We launched our first product within a few months, which was critical to maintaining momentum and giving us the financial stability to drive forward our next developments.

What are the elements of SamacSys’ success?

Looking back, I’d say there are four main aspects that have set us apart from our competitors:

Understanding the issues: We were in a unique situation being engineers, developing a solution for engineers. We knew the problem well because we had felt the pain ourselves; whereas most of the other companies trying to solve the problem were/are venture capitalist funded, and motivated by financial gains.

Company structure: We’ve kept the company lean on purpose and because we’re privately owned we can move quickly on developments and make swift changes based on customer feedback: we don’t have to satisfy shareholders or investors. This makes a big difference to us as we don’t need to align our technical objectives with third party investment goals and can focus on doing what’s right to solve this market challenge.

Technology: Our software and database is incredibly sophisticated technology and ensures that our content is of the highest quality. Thanks to our relationships with ECAD companies such as Zuken we can communicate directly with the ECAD tools to make life easier for engineers. Anyone who uses a part and registers a change can note they have changed a component to communicate with all other users of that part. It is a live, rather than static solution that never goes out of date when new parts are introduced into the market.

Approach and skills: We have a fresh approach and I have a great team, including some very experienced industry leaders. Of course, you have to add in a bit of luck too! This isn’t a problem you can just throw money at: it’s an incredibly complex issue requiring a unique set of skills that I believe we’re lucky enough to have.

What advice would you give to others with a good idea?

The truth is, there are no shortcuts. The only way to get there on a problem such as this is to work at it for a long time, put in lots of hard work, build a great team and develop the best technology. You need all the pieces of the puzzle if you’re to become a global leader in the tech industry.

What now for SamacSys?

We’ve turned down large acquisition offers to carry on concentrating on solving this problem; we truly are dedicated to solving this market challenge. We’re looking to increase our network of customers, component manufacturers and suppliers. Our goal is to offer engineers the ability to design in components with a single click from any website displaying an electronic component. Our solutions value now lies not only with our technology, but also with the infrastructure we’ve developed. We have great relationships with manufactures, suppliers and ECAD solution providers.

  • Watch the movie: SamacSys’ free high-quality PCB symbols and footprints are now available for CADSTAR.
  • Read the press release: Zuken Partners with SamacSys to Offer Rapid Component Creation for Seamless PCB Design

Written by

I manage Zuken’s Corporate Communications out of the Bristol office in the UK, as well as focusing on regional PR across Northern Europe. Outside work I can usually be found outdoors and I enjoy watersports, especially scuba diving and white water kayaking.

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