Interview with Alex MacDougall from Component Search Engine

  • Alex MacDougall - Founder, Component Search Engine

Component Search Engine is a leading provider of 2D and 3D CAD models for the electronics industry. The 3D CAD models are compatible with all the leading software design tools, making it one of the most convenient and comprehensive solutions. To learn more about the platform, everything RF interviewed Alex MacDougall, Founder of SamacSys & VP DesignSense Solutions & Innovation at Supplyframe.

Q. What is the Component Search Engine?

Alex MacDougall: Component Search Engine is the worlds leading website for Electronics Engineers to freely download ECAD Models - Schematic Symbols, PCB Footprints & 3D Models. 

Q. When did you start this and what was the motivation behind its creation?

Alex MacDougallThe first version of the site was available in 2012. We needed a platform to distribute our ECAD Models, so naturally, the best place for that was a dedicated search-engine for electronic components.

Q. What are ECAD Models and why are they important? What did users do before services like CSE were created?

Alex MacDougall: To design any electronic product an electronics engineer needs computer models of each component. They’re important because without them you cannot design a circuit board, which is at the heart\ of every electronic product. Before we provided these high-quality ecad models engineers’ only option was to painstakingly extract numbers and letters from datasheets. This would consume up to half of the development time. So by providing these models we allow companies to get their products to market in less time. 

Q. Are the CAD Models that you develop compatible with specific EDA Software Packages or can they be used in any EDA software?

Alex MacDougallOur ECAD Models are compatible with all popular EDA formats such as Altium, Eagle, KiCAD, Mentor Graphics, Cadence, Zuken, and more.

Q. In 2019 SamacSys was acquired by Supplyframe. What made you decide to sell your company to Supplyframe?

Alex MacDougallSamacSys had become the global leader by 2019, it was time to use that momentum to reach more of the engineers we set out to help. Supplyframe already had over 10 m engineers and buyers using their network of solutions. I loved Supplyframe’s values, so with their vision and proven success, they were a natural fit for our next chapter.

Q. Can you tell us about the synergies that have resulted from the Acquisition?

Alex MacDougall: SamacSys’ ECAD Models and Component Search Engine complemented the other solutions Supplyframe already had. The component search engine has expanded its functionality by adding price, stock, and risk rank for its users. The electronics community can make better, informed decisions all from one provider. 

Q. How was growth in the early days vs now?

Alex MacDougall: From 2011 - 2019 we grew from a little startup to 100s of thousands of users in almost every country. Since joining Supplyframe we’ve been able to continue this growth and now, 2 years on, are seeing double the users signing up and twice as many monthly downloads. This was from a very high starting point which validates we made the right decision joining Supplyframe.

Q. How many ECAD Models do you have? How many new models are you adding every month?

Alex MacDougall: We have over 16 M parts available on CSE and we’re adding tens, sometimes hundreds, of thousands of models each month. These are a mix of requests from our community of engineers or from the growing list of component manufacturers who are choosing us as their ECAD model provider.

Q. If CSE does not have an ECAD model for a product, can a user request this? What is the process and how long does it take?

Alex MacDougall: Yes absolutely, we’re very proud of our quality and welcome requests for Models from our community. Since 2019 we’ve had an average turnaround time of 6 hours.

Q. If a product uses a standard package like 16 Lead 3 x 3 mm QFN or SOT-23. Would all products that use the same package have the same CAD Model?

Alex MacDougall: We assign ECAD models at a full part number level. We can never assume a part shares a model, pin functions or the footprint could differ across a range and with quality being our highest priority, every part is validated against its own specification. We never assume everything is checked against the manufacturers' details! 

Q. We noticed that CSE ECAD Models have been integrated into a number of other websites. Can you tell us more about who your partners are?

Alex MacDougall: I feel very lucky to be the chosen partner for the Majority of leading companies in the electronics space. Companies such as Mouser, Avnet, mentor graphics, and many more. This isn’t an easy task, we’re compared to who else is offering similar services and to come out on top takes thorough due diligence by our partners. Our emphasis on quality and dedication to helping engineers is what we hope shines through.

Q. There are other websites like SNAPEDA and Octopart that offer similar services. What differentiates CSE from these other companies/websites?

Alex MacDougall: CSE has been independently tested and was found to have the widest selection of ecad models, lowest error rate, most integrations, the largest community, fastest request turnaround, and engineers continue to switch from other providers at a faster rate than ever before. Our emphasis has been to focus on one thing and be the best at it. Our solution will always be free to every engineer, everywhere in the world with no restrictions. We continue to invest in providing what our users tell us they’d like, such a the recent addition of highly detailed 3D models.

Q. Who are some of the RF Component Manufacturers for whom you have CAD Models Available?

Alex MacDougall: We now list component ecad models from over 3,000 manufacturers. So we’d hope all your favorites will be displayed. If the component you want to use has only just been released, remember we’ll have that ecad model back with you in 6 hours. That’s the beauty of our approach, the ECAD library is not only great today but it continues to organically grow long into the future.

Q. What is the 3-year goal for the Component Search Engine?

Alex MacDougall: The goal has remained the same since day 1. We want to continue helping electronics engineers to develop world-changing products in less time. Over the next 3 years we hope more engineers hear of our solution, then we can build their ECAD models and they can focus on innovating.

About Alex MacDougall

Alex MacDougall, born in the UK, is the Founder of SamacSys. In 2010 he developed the solution that went on to revolutionize how technology companies design their Electronics products. Now Vice President of DesignSense & Innovation at Supplyframe, he brings 20 years of experience that is helping to shape solutions for Design to Source intelligence. Today there are more than 10 million engineers and buyers using their technology in almost every country in the world. 

Click here to learn more about Component Search Engine.