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Q&A: Mentor Graphics’ New PCB Creation Platform

Paul Musto, Marketing Director of Mentor Graphics’ Board Systems Division, talks to Technology Editor Bill Wong about the new PADS PCB Product Creation Platform.

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Paul Musto, Marketing Director, Board Systems Division, Mentor Graphics

recently announced its new PADS PCB Product Creation Platform for the mainstream engineer, which includes capabilities ranging from analog/mixed-signal, high-speed DDRx, and design rule checking for electrical signoff to dc voltage drop and thermal analysis. I talked with Paul Musto, Marketing Director of Mentor Graphics Board Systems Division, about this new platform.

Wong:  What trends do you see that are driving further development of the PCB tools?

Musto: PCB system complexity is increasing exponentially. Monitoring our customers, we realize that they are challenged with higher pin densities, diverse power requirements, increased system functionality, faster signal speeds, and increased integration due to system complexity.  Engineers in every market segment, from the top high-tech companies to the small mainstream, are facing these challenges, and need tools to help overcome them. Also, today’s PCB systems designers need to be multi-disciplined in several technical areas: power integrity, analog/mixed-signal, routing, design for manufacturing (DFM), and thermal management, plus the need to get to market faster. Our continued investment in PADS addresses these challenges.

Wong: Mentor has the Xpedition PCB platform for advanced systems design, so how does PADS differ?

Musto: Xpedition is our global enterprise solution for PCB systems designs. We see PADS as the “product creation platform” for the mainstream engineer. PADS targets the individual engineer and small teams in either a small company or a small independent team within an enterprise organization—a PCB systems design specialist who needs to access a variety of tools to achieve his goals. The PADS user can be assigned to manage specialized projects apart from an enterprise team, or be part of a small team developing production designs that require a broad range of tools.

With today’s design complexity, these engineers need to be tool “generalists” who require a variety of tools across a flow to design, validate, and manufacture their products with ease, speed, and reliability. The PADS platform is an ideal solution for this type of PCB design engineer or team.

Wong: What is Mentor announcing in the newest version of PADS?

Musto: We are announcing the PADS PCB product creation platform, which provides all of the technologies to address circuit design challenges, from design concept through product delivery. New capabilities include analog/mixed-signal (AMS) analysis, DDR simulation, electrical design-rule-checking (DRC) validation and sign-off, plus thermal analysis and dc voltage drop. These are all new features and options that the PADS customers purchase for their specific job requirements. And these new options are affordable. For example, these options for AMS, DRC, and DDR analysis range from $3,560 to $4,995 (USD).

Wong: Tell me more about the AMS product.

Musto: The new PADS AMS Suite is a complete design creation solution that allows engineers to design and simulate analog (Fig. 1), mixed-signal, and digital circuits in one environment. In just one schematic session, analog circuit and topology exploration, using the HyperLynx technology, can be performed. Our technology seamlessly combines native SPICE and VHDL-AMS for analog, mixed-signal, and electromechanical designs to ensure the circuit design intent meets performance and optimization goals. The PADS AMS Suite provides the core capabilities needed to verify and optimize circuits against real-world variables. We have also added PADS AMS Cloud with our offering.

1. The PADS AMS (Analog/Mixed-Signal) Design Suite is a circuit design and virtual prototyping environment that ensures design intent, performance, and reliability. You can model and simulate analog, mixed-signal, and mixed-technology circuits to ensure circuit requirements and performance goals.

 

Wong: What is this cloud feature you mentioned?

Musto: PADS AMS Cloud is a cloud-based circuit exploration and simulation environment that also serves as a user community. It’s free for all PADS users at all levels of expertise, letting the engineer create and share analog, mixed-signal and mixed-technology designs online. This collaborative and secure environment allows users to publish or download designs and models. These designs can then be transferred to the PADS AMS suite for advanced simulation and analysis and integration into the PCB design flow, eliminating the need for the engineer to manually recreate circuits.

Wong: For high-speed design, you mentioned DDR. Is that using Mentor’s HyperLynx technology?

Musto: Yes. We are leveraging our leading HyperLynx technology for this new DDR option for PADS users. DDR memory is now commonplace across electronic designs, so this new option lets engineers quickly identify and correct signal integrity (SI) and timing issues specific to DDRx designs. It addresses typical SI problems such as overshooting, undershooting and ringing; and timing issues like setup, hold, de-rating, skew, and data bus margins. Setup is easy, providing automated whole-bus simulation, and the DDR Wizard (Fig. 2) prompts the user through the setup and simulation, with HTML-based reporting for design documentation and web-based publication of results.

2. Easy-to-use wizards in the PADS HyperLynx DDR tool lead PCB engineers through setup interview steps so that users can simulate designs quickly instead of entering timing parameters. The simple wizard-based interface makes it easy to setup DDR1/2/3 simulations. Wizard configurations can be saved, recalled, and reused with future designs to eliminate errors.

 

Wong: DRC and electromagnetic interference. Is that also leveraging HyperLynx?

Musto: Yes. This option provides a powerful and customizable electrical rule checker for the PCB design flow. Unlike traditional PCB checks, such as trace-to-trace spacing or trace-to-board edge boundary, the PADS HyperLynx DRC option includes a comprehensive rule set that identifies layout oversights that often cause EMI or signal integrity issues. This tool accelerates electrical sign-off so that engineers can be assured their PCB designs are electrically correct before manufacturing handoff.

Wong: Tell me more about thermal simulation. What does it allow the PADS user to do exactly?

Musto: The award-winning FloTHERM technology is from Mentor’s Mechanical Analysis Division. The PADS FloTHERM XT product is a CAD-centric solution for thermal simulation and electronics cooling. This is an option for PADS, enabling designers to use FloTHERM XT early in the design process to quickly identify thermal effects of the entire system. Any board or component layout can be easily imported into PADS FloTHERM XT—the only solution that lets engineers work effortlessly with geometry created in either MCAD or with EDA tools. The engineer can easily import mechanical elements, such as heat sinks, screws, brackets, and the enclosure, resulting in accurate analysis of the thermal performance of the product.

Wong: And for power analysis, you mentioned a dc voltage drop tool.

Musto: Another option, the PADS HyperLynx DC Drop analysis technology, is important for any electronic product because power integrity is a key problem. The increasing number of power rails in modern devices can result in non-functional or hard-to-debug designs if analysis is not deployed early in the design phase. This new option verifies the product’s power-distribution network and identifies current density issues quickly and early in the product development process. Results can then be validated in layout to ensure that proper guidelines were followed, reducing prototype respins. The PADS HyperLynx DC Drop option is affordably priced at $4,995 (USD).

Wong: What are your PADS customers saying about these new technologies?

Musto: We want to provide our customers with a competitive advantage as they get their innovations to market. We believe our breadth and depth of technologies provide the value and productivity they require to achieve their product delivery goals. One of our PADS customers, Dr. Joel Libove of Furaxa Inc., said, “Our products are becoming more challenging to develop due to higher-end requirements. The new PADS products give us access to essential simulation technologies that enable us to produce products at higher complexity, ensuring we can deliver on our commitments to the market in terms of function, price, and delivery.”

Wong: Paul, are all of these new PADS tools available now?

Musto: These products are currently available; more information on the PADS Product Creation Platform can be found at www.pads.com. We realize that the mainstream engineering market requires a broad range of technologies to achieve design and time-to-market success, so we have made these products highly affordable.

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