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: 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.

Activate Part Sourcing Mode

Coppers main area can be switched into different modes. If you followed this guide you should see the 2D board viewer, showing your PCB layout from above.

Now activate Part Sourcing Mode by clicking this icon in the upmost part of the canvas viewer: partDataIcon@2x.

The canvas editor will change dramatically. The main viewport is now split vertically into two sections. The bottom area feature interfaces to select a Source (where to search parts) like Digi-Key or Recently Used parts and displays a list with found items, as well as a search box.

Your first search

Now it’s time to search your first part and attach it to your PCB footprint. On the bottom left click on “Digi-Key”. This is one of the world’s largest seller of electronic components and has millions of parts in stock and delivers world-wide. Mouser is another great resource.

To find parts you will need to enter a keyword in the search box. But you can also just click on any part in Part Browser. This will automatically enter the parts value in the search field and starts the query. Find C4 (1.0uF) in the Part Browsers list and select it by clicking on it.

The search field will be filled with 1.0uF and the query starts. As you can see Copper shows you everything it currently does in the background in the Status Bar (located at the topmost, middle area of the application window). It should read something like “Searching for parts @ Octopart”.

A few moments later the results will be shown in the bottom area of the screen. Most of the time another split area will be displayed with filters. These filters let you narrow down the list by filtering with specific technical specs. These filters are context sensitive, i.e. if you search for capacitors only technical specs will be shown that make sense in the context of a capacitor.

Click on any item in the result browser to highlight it. Copper will now use the upper part of the screen to show the distributors product webpage with further information about the selected product.

If you have found the part you like to add to your BOM you can attach it to (any) part in your PCB. If you have been following this tutorial the Part Browser should already highlight C4. When you now double click on one item in the result list this item will be attached to the selected part.

Note how the Part Browser immediately shows a small icon. This icon shows you that a real part is attached. If you haven’t yet, you can switch the Inspector to the Part Tab to inspect the selected part(s) by clicking on the small icon at the top of the Inspector section: part@2x.