COMPONENT DESIGNATORS

Component Designators

Date Published:
Last Modified:

Overview

Component designators and schematic symbols are used to quickly identify components both on schematics and PCBs. They usually consist of a short acronym representing the type of component, followed by unique number to distinguish it from other components of the same type (e.g. R3, R4, C3).

Over the years, many standards have been released that specify particular designator prefixes for component types. These include:

  • Australian Standard AS1102:1995 (Graphical symbols for electrotechnology)
  • IEC 60617
  • IEEE 315-1975.

However, many schematic and PCB silkscreen designs do not strictly follow any standard (although the similarities are usually quite high). The following list shows non-standard specific, commonly used acronyms and the type of component they represent.

List of Common Component Designators And Symbols

Sorted by alphabetic order.

Some of the symbols below where created with InkScape and saved to a SVG file, which you can view/download here.

Antennas (ANT)

There are a number of different schematic symbols for an antenna, but they all look similar and should be easily recognizable. The designator E is also used, however ANT is my personal preference.

Recommended designator(s):

  • ANT

Recommended schematic symbols(s):

A schematic symbol for an antenna.

A schematic symbol for an antenna.

Another schematic symbol for an antenna.

Another schematic symbol for an antenna.

Assemblies (A)

Separate assembly or sub-assembly (e.g. daughter board). I do not see this designator used much in practice (and I myself have never used it, for things such as GPS modules with an LGA footprint I have always used the designator U).

Recommended designator(s):

  • A

Batteries (BT)

The designator BT is commonly used for a battery. The schematic symbol shown below is typical for a battery, although sometimes the distinction between a single-celled and multi-celled battery is made. If the battery is single-celled, this can be represented by a symbol with only one pair of long/short lines (representing the two electrodes of the cell). If the battery is multi-celled, two pairs of long/short lines with a dotted line connecting them (representing many plates) can be used. I prefer to just use the below symbol for any battery type.

Recommended designator(s):

  • BT

Recommended schematic symbol(s):

The schematic symbol for a battery.

The schematic symbol for a battery.

Capacitors (C)

C is the recommended designator for capacitors (both polarised and non-polarised). Sometimes you will see VC used for a variable capacitor (these are not common). I recommend using two different schematic symbols, flat plates for a non-polarised capacitor, and one plate which is curved for a polarised capacitor.

Recommended designator(s):

  • C

Recommended schematic symbol(s):

The schematic symbol for a non-polarised capacitor.

The schematic symbol for a non-polarised capacitor.

The schematic symbol for a polarised capacitor.

The schematic symbol for a polarised capacitor.

Diodes (D)

The designator D can be used for most diodes. Sometimes Z is used for a Zener diode, and LED for a light-emitting diode, however TVS, Schottky and general purpose diodes are still just D.

Recommended designator(s):

  • D

Recommended symbol(s):

The recommended schematic symbol for an general purpose diode.

The recommended schematic symbol for an general purpose diode.

The recommended schematic symbol for an LED.

The recommended schematic symbol for an LED.

The recommended schematic symbol for a Zener diode.

The recommended schematic symbol for a Zener diode.

Fuse/Fuse Holders (F, XF)

F is the designator used for fuses (wired, electrical, e.t.c). XF is commonly used for a fuse holder.

Recommended designator(s):

  • F (fuse)
  • XF (fuse holder)

Recommended symbol(s):

Ferrite Beads (FB, FEB)

FB is the designator used for ferrite beads. Sometimes the designator FEB is used instead. To learn more, see the Ferrite Beads page.

Recommended designator(s):

  • FB

Recommended schematic symbol(s):

The schematic symbol for a ferrite bead.

The schematic symbol for a ferrite bead.

Fiducials (FID)

Recommended designator(s):

  • FID

Recommended schematic symbol(s):

The schematic symbol for a fiducial.

The schematic symbol for a fiducial.

Ground (GND, AGND, DGND)

Sometimes GND is used for all ground points, and sometimes grounds are split based on noise boundaries such as AGND and DGND (this is common in high-frequency circuits).

Recommended designator(s):

  • GND: For general purpose use.
  • AGND: Specialised analogue ground.
  • DGND: Specialised digital ground.

Recommended schematic symbol(s):

The schematic symbol for a general or common ground.

The schematic symbol for a general or common ground.

The schematic symbol for analogue ground (AGND).

The schematic symbol for analogue ground (AGND).

The schematic symbol for digital ground (DGND).

The schematic symbol for digital ground (DGND).

Integrated Circuits (U)

U is the designator for integrated circuits. ICs include microcontrollers, liner voltage regulators, op-amps, e.t.c.

Why U? One theory is that U was the the designator for anything “Unspecified”. It makes sense that when ICs first came into use that they would of been labelled as such. The name stuck, and now U is used for ICs (and no longer for anything “unspecified”). Another theory is that U stood for “Unrepairable”1.

In older schematics you may also see IC or Z used for integrated circuits.

Recommended designator(s):

  • U

Recommended schematic symbol(s):

Recommended schematic symbol for an integrated circuit (IC).

Recommended schematic symbol for an integrated circuit (IC).

Jack (J)

A jack/socket/female connector. Also defined in IEEE 315 as the least moving part of a connector set (which also includes a plug, P).

Recommended designator(s):

  • J

Jumper (JP)

Jumper or link (L is for inductor, not link). This maybe a simple piece of wire, a physical jumper component, or perhaps a \(0\Omega\) resistor).

Recommended designator(s):

  • JP

Inductor (L)

L is used as a designator for inductors. This is probably in honour of the physicist Heinrich Lenz who was a pioneer in the discovery of electromagnetism (and because I is commonly used to represent current).

Recommended designator(s):

  • L

Motor (M)

Recommended designator(s):

  • M

Mechanical Part (MP)

A mechanical part. This is an umbrella term for many different things, such as screws, standoffs, brackets, e.t.c.

Recommended designator(s):

  • MP

Plug (P)

A plug/male connector. Also defined in IEEE 315 as the most moving part of a connector set (which also includes a jack, J).

Recommended designator(s):

*P

Photovoltaics/Solar Panels (PV)

PV is the designator for photovoltaics (aka solar panels).

Recommended designator(s):

  • PV

Resistors (R, VR)

Sometimes you will see LDR for light-dependent resistors. For more info see the Resistors page

Recommended designator(s):

  • R: Standard 2-pin resistors
  • RN: Resistor networks (more than one resistor in the same package, sometimes sharing a common connection).
  • VR: Variable resistors (aka potentiometers)

Recommended schematic symbol(s):

The schematic symbol for a standard resistor.

The schematic symbol for a standard resistor.

The schematic symbol for a variable resistor (potentiometer).

The schematic symbol for a variable resistor (potentiometer).

Switches (S, SW)

S is the designator used for a switch. SW is also commonly used. Sometimes you will see switches labelled according to their type (e.g. PB for push-button switches, DPDT for double-pole double-throw switches), but this is not recommended.

Recommended designator(s):

  • S

Spark Gap (SG)

Recommended designator(s):

  • SG

Recommended schematic symbol(s):

A schematic symbol for a spark gap. This spark gap is created with two triangles of copper on the PCB, with a gap of 200um between them. As this is made purely from the PCB, there is no BOM component needed.

A schematic symbol for a spark gap. This spark gap is created with two triangles of copper on the PCB, with a gap of 200um between them. As this is made purely from the PCB, there is no BOM component needed.

Transformer (T)

T is the designator used for transformers.

Recommended designator(s):

*T

Transistors (Q)

Q is the designator used for transistors (BJTs, MOSFETs, JFETs, e.t.c). Sometimes Q is also used for an integrated circuit, but I prefer using U.

Recommended designator(s):

  • Q

Recommended schematic symbol(s):

The schematic symbol for an N-channel MOSFET.

The schematic symbol for an N-channel MOSFET.

The schematic symbol for a P-channel MOSFET.

The schematic symbol for a P-channel MOSFET.

Test Point (TP)

Test point. These may be physical components on the PCB, or just places of exposed copper (e.g. pads, holes or vias).

Recommended designator(s):

*TP

Wire/Cable (W)

Wire/cable.

Recommended designator(s):

  • W

Crystals/Oscillators (XC, XTAL, Y)

Timing crystals. XTAL or Y are also used.

Recommended designator(s):

  • XC

Recommended schematic symbols:

The schematic symbol for a crystal.

The schematic symbol for a crystal.

Regex

The regex pattern to match any valid component designator, which is one or more capital letters followed by one or more numerals, is:

^[A-Z][A-Z]*[0-9][0-9]*$

The above pattern also contains the start and end-of-line anchors ^ and $, to enforce that there is no text before or after the designator. These can be removed if desired. More on using regex with component designators can be found on the Altium Scripting page.


  1. https://electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/25655/why-is-u-used-for-ics-on-circuit-diagrams, fetched on 2019-05-03.


Like this page? Upvote with shurikens!

Tags:

comments powered by Disqus