07 May 2009
Charles Blackwood, UK sales manager, Ansoft
Charles Blackwood, UK sales manager, Ansoft talks with Chris Shaw
CS: How does Ansoft's technology meet the challenges of modern high performance IC design?
CB: Ansoft LLC is a leading developer of high performance EDA software. Our software is based on more than 1000 man years of research and development from the world renowned experts in electromagnetics, circuit, and system simulation. Engineers use Ansoft products to quickly and profitably deliver high performance electronic designs found in the computer, communications, automotive, semiconductor and consumer electronics sectors. We built our solution based on the firm foundation of electromagnetics. Because all electrical engineering is based upon the underlying behaviour of electromagnetic fields, Ansoft can provide unprecedented accuracy and rigor when simulating the performance of electronic systems. Models created by performing electromagnetic field simulation are used in advanced circuit and system simulation to accurately predict behaviour in the time and frequency domains.
Your readers may know that Ansoft was acquired by ANSYS last year. ANSYS is a leader in advanced engineering simulation. Our technology is used by engineers to design and simulate products on the computer without resorting to physical prototypes. Our vision is to provide OEMs with a single platform in which all of their physics can be analysed - from electromagnetics to thermal to structural to mechanical, whether singly or interactively. We have a very strong presence in the automotive, aerospace, chemical processing, power, and semiconductor industries. The Ansoft acquisition allowed the best in class electromagnetic simulation capabilities for high performance electronics and electromechanical design to become part of the broader ANSYS multiphysics solution.
For IC design, Ansoft products are used to extract accurate models for IC packaging, on chip components, and coupled electromagnetic circuit simulation. Our solution is particularly well suited for sensitive analogue and rf circuits that must have accurate modelling of on chip capacitors, on chip inductors and packaging. The oscillation frequency of a VCO circuit, for example, is highly sensitive to the inductance in the tank circuit and coupling between on-chip inductors and other layout structures. Ansoft's coupled electromagnetic circuit solution can predict the oscillator frequency accurately by including all of the parasitics computed by rigorous electromagnetics.
CS: What effect has the recession had on Ansoft in the last two quarters?
CB: We have exceeded revenue expectations for the last two quarters. However, we do see the challenging economic environment continuing until at least the third quarter of this year. Many of our top customers actually increase R&D spending during economic downturns in order to increase their competitive advantage. We still see significant activity from these elite customers who will be the likely leaders out of this current recession.
CS: What are the challenges that Ansoft's signal integrity design products look to address?
CB: Our solution is popular for very high speed serial signalling found in today's telecommunication, high definition video, gaming and data storage systems. SoC designers integrate specialised serial I/O buffers to take advantage of modern serial interfaces such as PCI Express, Serial ATA, Gigabit Ethernet, and HDMI. Adopting these standards is now a requirement, but sending gigabit speed signals from the IC die, into the package and across a system pcb can be a challenge. Impairments along the signal path such as lossy pcb traces, via structures, connectors, and cables reduce the signal quality. Ansoft software is used to analyse and design interconnects to minimise the impairments.
We also have tools that simulate entire printed circuit boards for signal integrity, power integrity, and EMI. Engineers can perform post route simulation for serial interconnect, memory interfaces, simultaneous switching output noise and radiation.
CS: How can Ansoft help designers of high frequency systems meet performance specifications?
CB: Because our tools are based on electromagnetics, we can predict performance of high frequency designs with remarkable accuracy. We worked with CEA Leti on a 60GHz CMOS radio project. Our Ansoft Designer circuit simulation environment was used to build custom distributed elements and an associated component library for millimetre-wave design. Electrical models in that library were generated by dynamically linking to electromagnetic solvers. By performing parametric simulations we developed a complete parameterised component useful for design and optimisation of the interstage matching networks. Comparisons to measurements showed that we predicted full radio performance accurately all the way up to 105GHz. Of course, this is also a testament to the careful measurement methods performed by the CEA Leti engineers as making measurements at such high frequencies is a discipline all in itself. The higher the frequency, the more important is coupled electromagnetics - circuit simulation.