Version Controlled Libraries

We are often asked our opinion and recommendation about certain library's methodologies. One of the commonly asked questions is whether or not one should pursue a version-controlled library.

We believe that version control in a library system is unnecessary. In fact, the only time we see such a need being mandated upon is if the company, end customer, or industry-standard mandates it. Even in the medical electronics industry, heavily scrutinized by the FDA, does not require version control libraries; they require the project to be "locked down." Any subsequent changes to the project require review and, very likely, new clinical trials. If a customer demands version-controlled libraries, one should question the requirement.

This is NOT to say that library files should not be kept in a document version control system for safekeeping. However, we question the need for version control at the component level.

Here are some points to consider:

  • Version control will not streamline the library creation process. In fact, it only adds another task to the effort. The process to build a component remains the same, with or without the version control system.

  • If it is a matter of component status (prototype, production, sunset, obsolescence, etc.), this is a life cycle management issue. This is the direct result of having separate databases for engineers/designers, purchasers, and document control. The dysfunctionality of this configuration is caused by communication lags between databases, measurable in weeks and months. The optimal solution is to have one database for all 3 needs. Version control is no the answer to life cycle management.

  • Components don't change once they mature unless there is something incorrect with the component. However, once a component is in the library and has been used successfully, it will not change over time. The modifications are all going to happen during the course of a project. What about a component being developed by one designer and is found by another designer for another design? Again, this is a life cycle management issue in which the part's status needs to be known. Version control will not alleviate this concern.

  • If the manufacturer of the component is going to make a physical change to the component, it is highly likely that they will also change the component number. Besides, if one changes a component for the better (i.e., improves the thermal pad configuration, etc.), is that really an issue for the prior design or the new designs moving forward? In most cases, the answer is 'No.' Even a change to a prior design generally does not entail reviewing the existing footprints.

If you differ in opinion or have successfully implemented a version control database, please contact us. We would like to know the hows and whys.

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