Adding Real Parts
You have created your board in EAGLE and loaded it in Copper. Now is time to find real parts for the abstract representations in your current PCB layout.
In EAGLE you just add footprints and a value. For a capacitor for example you have decided which package to use (i.e. 0603) and set a value, let’s say 0.1uF. That’s all there is in the current layout. But to get the board manufactured you will have to decide which exact product you want to be soldered on your board. There might be other part specs for the capacitor like its tolerance or material.
Besides the technical specs there are other things that are very important. It might be necessary that the part is available at the moment and in a few years from now for repair or if you want to sell the product in a few years from now.
Costs should and will be a very important aspect, too. If you are buying parts for your prototype at home a major part of costs will be shipping fees, as they are very expensive considering the price for single components. In this case it will be important to buy parts from only one or two distributors to keep these costs low.
There are various tools for professionals that help in part sourcing, but they are out of reach for most hobbyists, and most of the time they are overkill.
There ist a great web page that is here to help: Octopart.com. They do a great job of consolidating part specifications, prices and availability information from all major and minor distributors around the world and provide awesome search and filter features.
But using the various tools available means a lot of manual file and data management. Computers should help in that, but the typical maker struggles with BOM-exports, searching for individual parts, Excel-Sheets, data sheets anywhere on their hard drive. Of course it’s possible to get that chaos handled if you have defined your own workflows and using them disciplined.
Copper offers a great workflow, as we have built Octopart right into our application and defined various workflows that help a lot. Copper uses a database for each layout you open in Copper and stores it alongside the original EAGLE file as a .cop file. In this file all information are stored that you add or even change in Copper. This way your original EAGLE file is untouched, and it’s easy to share all Copper related aspects with team members or the community by just sending them the .cop file. More on this later. All files, like part images and data sheets are stored in another (private) database on your Mac.
Means no exports, no Copy & Paste to web pages and no data and file management. No lost or forgotten or wrong parts. If you ever manage to decrease the number of distributors only once you saved the money to buy Copper!
Ok, that’s been a long introduction. Let’s get started.