There are constant challenges in designing electronic devices: to fit more and more capabilities into a smaller and smaller package, and to constantly increase productivity. For those reasons, 3D computer-aided design (CAD) systems have become critical to the design process, to be able to see how (and whether) things will fit together. Equally important is having ready access to accurate information about and models of the millions of off-the-shelf hardware options that exist in the marketplace for use in such devices. So that makes today’s announcement that SnapEDA, creator of the first search engine for electronics design, is releasing its SnapEDA for Autodesk Fusion 360 app a pretty big deal.
SnapEDA, founded in 2013, raised an undisclosed amount in an angel funding round, with investors including Y Combinator, Cognite Ventures, 79 Studios, Georges Harik, Justin Laing, Bernie Thompson, Panos Papadopoulos, and other Bay Area and Canadian angels. The company’s search engine, which has over a million engineers using it already, enables designers to search millions of existing electronic components in the online marketplace for such critical information as symbols, simulation models, footprints, schematics and 3D models as easily as anyone else uses Google or Bing.
Adding that capability to an Autodesk product is a big win. The multinational software corporation that provides software services for industry, architecture, construction and media recently announced they’d beaten earnings expectations for their fiscal fourth quarter, delivering adjusted earnings of $1.18 per share for the period, versus analysts’ expectations of $1.07. Their revenue for the quarter, at $1.04 billion, was up 15.6 percent over the same period last year.
“This is our fourth integration this quarter,” said Natasha Baker, founder and CEO of SnapEDA. “Autodesk is the biggest.” The company previously completed integrations with Proteus, Diptrace, and ExpressPCB. “Our mission is to help engineers design electronics faster.”
With Fusion 360 being one of the most popular 3D CAD tools around, SnapEDA’s app will add another productivity element to the design process. “Finding a 3D model is a lot of work,” said Edwin Robledo, Tech Marketing Manager for Fusion 360 at Autodesk. “Now you have everything you need right there for one of the most time-consuming design steps. One of the most challenging parts of electronics design is the mechanical part—the shape of a printed circuit board fitting the case, hole drillings matching, USB connectors and LEDs positioned where they have to be for case openings. When it comes to electronics, it’s all about the components.” Once the 3D model is downloaded into the design, Fusion 360 provides features that make it easy to modify the design so that everything fits, and even to simulate such critical aspects as whether there’s proper cooling of the electronic components. The SnapEDA app, meanwhile, also features manufacturability assessments to ensure that what’s designed can readily be produced in the factory.
Not only will the app allow designers to pull in such critical design parameters in real time as they work on their designs, but they can search multiple suppliers for a given component, and see business-critical information such as pricing and inventory levels as well. This capability is currently offered by the SnapEDA site and is planned soon for the Fusion 360 app. “We provide insight into where to purchase components,” Baker said.
For suppliers, having information available through the SnapEDA search engine is a win as well. SnapEDA’s internal research shows that over 80% of engineers who download their models end up making a purchase, and that when they buy, they purchase on average over 9,000 units of that component.
Samtec is one big believer in that rationale. A manufacturer of electronic connectors based in New Albany, Indiana, they have over 500,000 components in the SnapEDA database. “They enable us to provide designers drag-and-drop capability for getting 3D models of our parts into their designs,” said Ashley Quinlan, Strategic Marketing Director for Samtec. “A good majority of engineers come to our site not knowing which solution or product they need. It’s our job to guide them to the most optimal solution, through trillions of options, in as few clicks as possible, which is no small challenge. Anticipating what the customer needs next in their process is key, and providing CAD models in a multitude of formats for over 500,000 part numbers was an obvious way to streamline the customer design process.”
As with all industries, the electronics marketplace puts pressures on costs and productivity for manufacturers. “The number one priority here is that time is money,” Robledo explained. “This collaboration allows us to go to market faster, to get to that better mousetrap more quickly.” The fact that it’s cloud-based offers additional advantages. “We can collaborate online with engineers who might be anywhere around the world.”
Quinlan agreed. “Samtec is known as the industry leader in customer service, and we challenge ourselves to evolve and redefine that expectation for our customers year after year,” she said. “Partnering with SnapEDA was an obvious way to celebrate the steps that they are taking to do the same. Together, we’re making an engineer’s job easier and enabling them to work faster. 2020 highlighted the importance of having those efficiencies in place, and we’re grateful for partnerships like these that help us do our part.”
For SnapEDA, this is a big next step in growing their business, which, like most search engines, is free to use, relying on “sponsored components” to make money. “We have more integrations coming,” said Baker. “The biggest thing is that we believe we make life easier for engineers, and in doing so we help make the world a better place. By making it easier to make new devices for all sorts of applications, we can help people get after all the many vertical problems society has to solve.”