Electronic Design

Design Flow Halves Development Time For Mixed-Technology PCBs

Once found chiefly in the military and aerospace domains, printed-circuit boards (PCBs) with a mélange of analog, digital, and RF circuitry are now everywhere. In fact, the wireless telecom and consumer sectors are embracing them wholeheartedly. But that doesn’t mean they’ve gotten any easier to design.

Mixed-technology PCBs are only growing in density and complexity, encompassing more layers than ever, multiple power domains, and greater sensitivity to intra-board interference. Yet design flows for these challenging PCBs have largely failed to integrate these various design domains. They’re worked on in overthe- wall fashion, with the RF, analog, and digital design teams isolated from each other. The result is many iterations as well as longer time-to-market and lesser quality of results.

It needn't be done this way, or so say Agilent Technologies and Mentor Graphics. The two companies emerged from a two-year joint effort with tight integration of Agilent’s Advanced Design System (ADS) for RF design and simulation with Mentor’s Expedition Enterprise or Board Station XE PCB design flows. The companies claim the combined flow will result in design-cycle time savings of up to 50%.

The integration between ADS and either of the Mentor board-design flows makes communication between the tools all but transparent. Designers can start the RF portion of their board design in either system (more typically done in ADS), create a schematic and perform simulations, and then move the design over to the Mentor flow. The design will appear exactly the same as it did in ADS. At that point, engineers can modify the design and/or alter parameters and then seamlessly return to ADS for further simulation.

The integration extends to the libraries and databases used by the two systems. Furthermore, both Expedition Enterprise and Board Station XE were enhanced with the ability to understand RF circuits for what they are. Both flows now offer full RF design capabilities and can parametrically create RF shapes (see the figure). They're able to create circuit meanders and via stitching for shielding. Also, both flows can drive the creation of shapes from the schematic and auto-arrange them into the end RF circuit.

To facilitate collaborative design across domains and geographically dispersed teams, the combined flow leverages Mentor’s Xtreme technology, which allows for simultaneous design by multiple engineers over a local-area network (LAN) or wide-area network (WAN) with real-time updating of a common database.

Agilent’s ADS, available now, starts at around $9000. Mentor’s Expedition Enterprise and Board Station XE flows are also available now, with prices for either flow starting at around $9000 as well.

AGILENT TECHNOLOGIES • www.agilent.com/find/eesof

MENTOR GRAPHICS • www.mentor.com/go/pcbinnovation

See associated figure

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