As you know, EDN, is all about connecting you with your peers,
inspiring you with their successes, and helping you to get your design
done--on time, to spec, and within budget--with as few sleepless nights
and long weekends as possible.
We do this in many ways, in print we provide straight
engineer-to-engineer technical features and regular columns from
industry ‘insiders', as well as product and trend features and write-ups
from our engineer-editors, all of whom have spent at least some of
their career dealing with the issues you face every day.
Online, the world opens wide with webinars, courses, webcasts, and
real-time commentary and dialog between writers, contributors and
That's all well and good, but for engineers, all the studying,
coursework, webcasts and peer-to-peer discussion may help you close in
on the type of part you need, but it won't get you find the right part
at the right time from the right vendor. And the right part, as you
know, can make or break a design.
Anyone who's been tracking the business of providing product
information and data knows that companies have risen, striven, and died
based on the belief that they could help you make that device or
component selection easier than anyone else. But some have prevailed!
So, it's with that in mind, that I'm really excited to guide you to our latest service, www.datasheets.com,
and what I think is the best free site out there, bar none, to help you
find, select and get you the part you need, when you need it.
The result of a partnership between our owner, UBM Electronics, and SiliconExpert Technologies,
it hosts datasheets and information on an incredible 185 million
parts-and growing--and is rife with selection features. These features
- Parametric search: This has been done by independent
companies for specific parts, such as microcontrollers, but is really
hard to do for everything from resistors to power devices and
processors. Datasheets.com does it, and does it well. Don't take my word
for it, try it!
- Save Search: This allows you to save your searches and come back to them later.
- Parts Comparisons: Compare up to four parts, side by side
(I'd recommend doing only two at a time, it gets unwieldy if you try
four, it scrolls off screen.)
- Inventory Watch: Get alerts when your favorite distributor gets the necessary amount in stock of a specific part you want.
There's more, of course, but the breadth of coverage and the features highlighted
above are some of the highlights. The site also shows the latest product
announcements so when you register you automatically get a regular email
alert on the latest new products.
What's so hard about finding parts?
I was curious as to what the difficulties involved with putting
together a useful parts-search database, so I reached out to Vineet Chaudhary,
product marketing manager at SiliconExpert. As expected, the difficulty
is twofold: Getting as much of the right data as possible, and then
normalizing it to make it useful.
"Some sites just crawl the web and grab datasheets, and you can't
navigate them," said Chaudhary. "All they want is to get as many as
possible and get indexed on Google."
Instead, he said, SiliconExpert focuses on building solid relationships with
both manufacturers and distributors to ensure a steady feed into their
database of all their products. This gets the results 80 percent there.
To catch the remaining available products, some Web crawling is
necessary to find smaller company's products and close the gap to get as
close to 100 percent of available products as possible.
However, getting the data is only half the battle. The real work
starts with ‘normalizing' it. As you're all likely aware, specmanship is a funny business and some manufacturers may emphasize some
specs over others, or not supply a spec at all if it's not to their benefit to do so.
"You have to read between the lines," said Chaudhary, "there's no
‘standard' to compare so it makes it hard for engineers: that's where we
How does SiliconExpert do it? It has 250 engineers working on the
problem of making datasheets from myriad vendors comparable. And these
are real engineers, he added, making the point that much of the
intellectual property resides in the algorithms used to normalize the
data, algorithms that the engineers are constantly working to optimize.
While SiliconExpert has been doing this since 2000, "We're always
changing," said Chaudhary, "it's [electronics] a mature industry, but
with software we can always add new features." One feature in the works
is customized alerts to engineers for new product introductions.
So, that's how Datasheets.com does what it does. The real question is: What do you think? After all, it's your tool and so I'd love to hear what you think and how it can be even further enhanced.
Looking forward to hearing from you! Patrick Mannion, firstname.lastname@example.org
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