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Jake Janovetz' Introduction to Bills of Material (BOM)

Gareth Halfacree

For many makers, the idea of sharing a creation is both appealing and scary. Sure, the thought that others will directly benefit from your work is exciting - but there's the worry that projects need to be commercial quality to be publicised. That's nonsense, of course - one of the benefits of sharing your work is that someone else with more experience can come along and tidy it up to the benefit of all - but it's also easily avoided with a little learning. You can start with this great explanation of the whats and whys of a bill of materials (BOM) from Jake Janovetz of component search-engine Octopart. While its conclusions are unsurprising - namely that you need Octopart's technology to really succeed - and some of its recommendations more applicable to commercial ventures, there's some great advice in there for makers and hobbyists in how to create a useful and readable BOM to go alongside your other documentation. Even if you have no intention of ever sharing your projects, documentation is important: you may find yourself wanting to rebuild a widget years down the line, and if you've got a schematic and BOM to hand it's a lot easier than trying to reverse-engineer the finished product when you've long forgotten the decisions you made and conclusions you reached. Even if you've never made a project of your own from scratch, a read through Octopart's post will help familiarise you with the concepts and terminologies of BoM and make it easier to read others' work.

In the electronics, mechanical, and chemical industries, a Bill of Materials (BOM) is a list of the raw materials that are required to manufacture or formulate an end product. A BOM is most often used to communicate material requirements to manufacturing partners and typically accompanies other data such as schematic drawings, procedural documents, or pick and place data for electronic assemblies.

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