Searching for new parts is not for the faint-of-heart. Sometime when you enter a simple search term (like “linear regulator”), you’re going to get results that number in the 10’s of thousands! And digging through page after page of results is no easy or amusing task.
One way to get the search results pared down to something more useful is to use parametric search. This is a key feature of Parts.io and many other search sites available today. You can begin filtering out extraneous results and refine your search to only what you need. You won’t waste your time looking at component datasheets that don’t fit your projects’ needs.
What happens when you have a broad search by design? What happens when you don’t need a part that has truly unique characteristics because you’re trying to see the range of parts available in a part category? There could still be hundreds or even thousands of parts that meet your criteria. How do you view the entire set of parts that might fit your requirements? Where do you start when narrowing down to a part you will take the time to evaluate?
Lately, we have been playing around with the idea of bypassing the raw list view of components returned from a search query. Even 100 results can be an unwieldy viewing experience. It can also be frustrating when a search page has (effectively) the same part listed 5 or 6 times in a row. This is common when you decide to sort on a particular feature like price or package type (see below) ; you’ll find that extremely similar parts (from the same vendor/part family) start to cluster into groups when listed in ascending order. It is left to the searcher to scroll through the page and figure out what is the difference from one part to the next, even though at first glance they are extremely similar.
Why are there so many similar results in the first place? A distributor might stock 5 or 6 “flavors” of the same component, with small (but important) differences between each unique part number. Ultimately they’re doing it to offer you a wide selection of components in the hope that one of them fits your design goals. Some of the differences between “flavors” of components are things like:
- Component package type (SOIC8, MSOP8, SOT23, etc)
- How the parts are delivered to the end user (7″ reel, 12″ reel, tube, etc)
- Speed grade of the component
- Temperature rating of the component
It’s very important to have all of these components uniquely listed in a search result. Having anything but a unique part number for each component could mean you might accidentally buy something that won’t fit the specs of your design. However, it can be a difficult chore in the part discovery process to filter out which part you really need. This is especially true when you start differentiating by which parts are actually in stock at a distributor. It is further compounded when you begin balancing the price vs the features of that particular component.
We’re thinking about showing this data a different way. Now we can search and filter by the “base number” of a component. This allows us to show you the variety of parts available within a family of components (expanded view, Figure 2) while still showing the wide range of options that are available (compressed view). These different vies of available parts can help you make decisions about buying a part for the prototype you want to build tomorrow. Later on, it will allow you to make tradeoffs between price and performance, so you can optimize your manufacturing run.
There are other benefits to this kind of view, as shown above: Say you can’t remember the exact number of a part but know some portion of the component name? Search for something like “LT181” and you’ll get results like above. But now instead of a super long list of every component in the world with “LT181” contained within the part, you see an expandable list of base numbers that can be used to find the family you couldn’t quite remember at first.
This is just one of many features that we are rolling into Parts.io to help improve the search experience. If you have other ideas about what we should be adding or how we should be modifying this feature, please let us know in the comments!