Saturday, May 18, 2024

Simulation Before Prototyping

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Coming to automobiles, we all know that today’s automobiles have more electronics than some home appliances. Electric and hybrid vehicles are the future and that is where you have the battery balanced with the motor connected using a power electronic circuit to work on them efficiently.All these pieces need to be designed in an optimal manner keeping in mind thermal and electromagnetic phenomena that take place inside.

Cooling is one of the biggest concerns when developing an electronic device.

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Hardware-in-loop simulation provides the best balance ensuring quality through exhaustive verification and cost-effectiveness. This helps today’s system builders to reduce time to market while still ensuring reliability. The trend that we are seeing is percolation of this hardware-in-loop testing into the RF system design area for validation”

— Satish Mohanram, Technical Marketing Manager, National Instruments-India

[/stextbox]“You don’t want the device to overheat. That is one area where we help a lot. With our product, you can see exactly how each component heats up and how all of these heat up the product when acting together and also what might happen when such over-heating occurs, including development of stress points resulting in eventual breakdown. It can also help to identify accurate ways of cooling down the system. It can tell you if you need forced convection or some novel methods like phase change materials to reach the same purpose,” adds Dravid.

Simulation tools can model the spatial flowof current through a chip as well as induction effects, eddy-current effects and other spatial phenomena, helping you to findout how these can affect both the component and the device.

With embedded software definingthe functionality of most of the electronic hardware used in automotive, aerospace, consumer electronics and medical equipment, flawless functioning of these systems becomes all the more critical.

“Hardware-in-loop simulation provides the best balance ensuring quality through exhaustive verifiation and cost-effectiveness. This helps today’s system builders to reduce time-to-market while still ensuring reliability. The trend that we are seeing is the percolation of this hardware-in-loop testing into the RF system design area for validation,” explains Satish Mohanram, technical marketing manager, National Instruments-India.

“In telecom feld simulation is a very important tool to test network elements, handsets, etc. The cost of a real network is much more than that of the simulator. First-stage design, testing of network instruments and mobile handsets, and application tests are performed using a simulated environment. Simulations also help to achieve repeatable, error-free testing. This reduces dependency on the network, its access, error and testing times,” explains Madhukar Tripathi, manager-telecom segment and indirect channel, Anritsu India.

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First-stage design, testing of network instruments and mobile handsets, and application tests are performed using a simulated environment. Simulations also help to achieve repeatable, errorfree testing. This reduces dependency on the network, its access, error and testing times”

— Madhukar Tripathi, manager-telecom segment and indirect channel, Anritsu India

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“Many test houses use simulation to verify RF, protocol and particular applications on mobile handsets. Network performance too can be tested using a simulator to see how a base transceiver station (BTS) will behave when hundreds or thousands of calls are made within the same BTS area, how download of music will be affected when a user moves from GSM to WCDMA area (handover situation), or how bandwidth is utilised when many users are downloading particular applications.”

In India, even when the LTE network was not ready, test houses and labs were able to test devices using simulators.

All is not always well
While there are advantages of simulation, design firmsalso face some disadvantages during testing. Simulations are usually based upon laws and theories, which may not be true in reality. So actual results often do not get simulated. Additionally, one tiny error in the input of parameter setting can jeopardise the whole setup and results.

Anand shares an incident: “We at Knewron once faced near-failure situation due to simulation gaps in one of the critical projects. The simulation tool would show that the design is perfect while in reality there were stability and reliability issues; and these issues we could simulate only in the user environment on-site. When we realised about these gaps, we immediately switched to real-time testing and got the project up and running quickly.”

“The point I am making here is that simulations may not give near-reality results always as the user environment can play a crucial role in product usage and performance. Design firmsneed to keep tab on such critical points all the time.”

Design firms awai simulation tools that learn from past simulations and actual results. Self-learning capability may help these tools to shrink the gap between simulation results and reality.

Empowering the design engineer
Engineering decisions, which were the domain of analysts till now, are coming to the desk of design engineers. Gone are the days when analysis or simulation used to be a post-design activity. Today, before taking any decision about design, engineers have to simulate and validate it. The simulation domain is growing fast, keeping up with the rapid technological advances that we are witnessing in this era!


The author is a tech correspondent at EFY

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