The roots of traditional PLM systems are in mechanical CAD systems. As a result, these PLM systems always had some gaps in electronic and high tech industry. If I look back electronic design automation vendors developed their own eco-system of tools to manage design, component lifecycle, project collaboration, bill of materials and manufacturing processes.
My attention caught by two acquisition announcements made by Altium – software outfit focusing on PCB design and manufacturing. The first one is about Octopart – search engine for electronic and industrial parts. More details is here – Octopart is joining Altium. Octopart founder, Sam Wurzel provided an interesting perspective on merging Octopart into Altium environment:
We live in a time when electrical engineers, makers, and hackers have high expectations for their design tools and for component search. Octopart users expect rich content like CAD models and reference designs at their fingertips when doing component selection. Users of PCB design software expect supply chain intelligence at hand when they are designing new products. Bringing Octopart together with Altium will make this possible, and more. We envision a future where going from prototyping to production is a seamless experience and we’re going to work together to make that vision a reality.
The second Altium acquisition is Ciiva – a startup company developed tools to simplify electronic components and bill of material management. You can read more on Ciiva blog.
Ciiva was started with a vision to bring fast, easy access to electronic part data and provide a platform to help people overcome common BOM and component data management challenges. Our products and services will complement the advanced PCB design and development tools that Altium has had much success in serving the electronic design industry with for the last 30 years. This will help Altium to deliver unparalleled capabilities to the wider electronic design community, while providing us with a solid platform to continue to grow and expand our capabilities.
Both acquisitions is clear indicating that EDA vendors are thinking about future of cloud tools and ability to help engineers working in a very connected world. It is specially true for electronic manufacturing industry.
Traditional PLM vendors are aware about importance of electronic design and management both mechanical and electronic data. The work to provide better integration with electronic design tool is on going. You might take a look on what Dassault Systemes, Siemens PLM and PTC MKS did in mechatronics and software integrated design. Autodesk also provided some indication of growing interest in accessing product data from electronic tools. You probably noticed that Autodesk recently acquired ecad.io technology (previously known as intertiacad). The following article – Fusion 360 – “The ultimate CAD/CAM/CAE/PCB design tool set” gives you also some hints about integrating of 123circuts.io with Autodesk Fusion360.
What is my conclusion? Modern products are presenting a growing needs to integrate mechanical, electronic and software design. PLM tools are not perfect in this. I shared my thoughts earlier – Why PLM is failing to manage multidisciplinary bill of materials. EDA and MCAD tools were developed their own silos. For many years, PLM was playing a leading force in product development defining product shape and mechanical characteristics of products. But modern product design requires better integration of electronic design tools into networked eco-system of product development and manufacturing. It can raise an importance of electronic PLM development. Just my thoughts…