Using IP in electronics more effectively – Library Management with Nuggets
Intellectual Property (IP) – the greatest treasure in companies. Many years of development and a lot of expertise may have been invested into it. The times when people kept their most valuable belongings under their pillows are over. A secure place is needed: digital libraries filled with IP. But what actually is IP in the electronics industry? They are self-contained parts of PCB-modules. A final PCB board consists of several of such modules, a lot of know-how and time has been invested into them. In an ideal world, these modules are saved and organized in a library in a way, that every electronics developer has access to it. Due to this, it could be avoided to do the same work over and over again.
Limits of Snippets
Modules have many different names. One frequently used name comes from the software development: Snippet. It originally describes a piece of code that has a certain function – analogous to the electronics development. Using Snippets in practice, developers often come up against limits since the manual building and maintenance of the database requires much time. In many companies, modules or snippets are only listed in Excel Sheets, which makes it almost impossible for an engineer to find the right one for their specific use case. When in doubt, an engineer must develop a tool from scratch.
(Gold-)Nuggets as the first step
We from CELUS know that IP is as valuable as gold for companies – especially if the limits and problems of working modularly are solved. This is why CELUS’ Nuggets are the next step after Snippets. Nuggets are built on the principle of a module, but additionally contain something specific. The gold of the modern industry is knowledge. The marked difference between Nuggets and Snippets is that Nuggets are enriched by the knowledge of the electronic engineers: The functionality of the module, for example, as well as where and how it can be used. A Nugget can speak many languages and the file can be deployed in projects within every arbitrary CAD tool. This opens up completely new possibilities of how modules can easily be reused and can significantly reduce development time. This makes it much easier to identify the exact module since the functionality is saved in the Nugget readable by machines. This means that the algorithms can find the precise Nugget that the developer needs.
In the gold rush: looking for Nuggets
When starting a project, developers only know the requirements defined by the project management. This made it difficult to search in a manual list, as the developers have no idea what they are looking for at that moment. If this task is now done automatically, the foundation will be laid for modular working: Instead of specific modules engineers can now search for requirements, which they already know at the beginning of the project.
The search engine then crawls through the library and drops step by step into deeper subcategories. If the developer, for example, needs a voltage transformer, the algorithm searches for different kinds of converters – imaginable in a tree diagram.
The algorithm has to match the entered parameters one to one, because results that only roughly match the requirements of the project are useless. This can be compared to a flight search engine. The date, start and destination must fit exactly the parameters again. For example, if the destination only approximately fits the searched one, you will end up in the neighbouring country of the actual destination - a vacation nightmare.
A glance into the future
The great advantage of a database that is accessible for everyone is to avoid errors and repetitive work. Modules stored in the database can be reused and therefore it saves a lot of time, which can be invested elsewhere. By using nuggets, many problems, that often appear using snippets, can be avoided and solved. However, additional time is still required to keep the modules up to date and to maintain the database. If individual components change or are no longer manufactured, the respective module must be adapted. This not only affects the electronics Development, but also other departments, such as Logistics or Purchasing. In this way, a lot of time can be saved, but still some effort must be made to maintain the database.
As already mentioned, the word snippet comes from software development. The software industry is already a few steps further in many areas, compared to the classic electronic development. In this whitepaper, three areas, modularization among others, have been identified that can inspire the electronics industry.