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“Evolution of a simple design into a complex system is commonplace but we still struggle to manage complexity while accelerating innovation,” according to NI Trendwatch 2014. It adds that this cyber-physical design challenge is amplified when designs span software, networks and physical processes. It also warns that failure to tackle this challenge can result in poor designs and stalled innovation. Using a model based design to design and validate systems will allow engineers to derive models from system specifications and environmental analyses.

Semiconductor manufacturers like Atmel are using engineering simulation solutions from electronic design automation (EDA) vendors like ANSYS to model, analyse and optimise their IoT product portfolio. In a recent release, they stated that Atmel design teams around the world leveraged ANSYS HFSS, ANSYS RedHawk and ANSYS Totem to design and validate these complex systems on chips (SoCs) and platforms used across multiple IoT application segments. These simulation solutions helped enable Atmel to meet stringent power/performance requirements, ensure reliable operations across a wide range of frequencies and deliver products with tight time-to-market constraints.

The report adds, “These modelling techniques illuminate the interplay of practical design with formal models of systems that incorporate both physical dynamics and computation. Manual integration and deployment of these models are costly, time-consuming and error-prone. System design tools with the right levels of abstraction allow cyber and physical models to be automatically combined, simulated and deployed, and the same models are adaptable for requirement tracking and HIL verification.”

Protecting your IP
Ever wanted to provide an early model of an amplifier to your client to ensure that he or she gets to test it in the system simulation and know if the design will win?

X-parameter generators are built to do exactly that. For instance, Keysight’s advanced design system (ADS) X-parameter generator allows you to create a model and request specification changes even before your hardware prototype is ready. It even lets you protect your IP by using Keysight’s PNA non-linear vector network analyser to derive a very accurate model from measured hardware. Your customer can then use this virtual component in his simulation system to see just how well your design works out for him or her.

123D Circuits by Autodesk

“Using tools like NI AWR visual system simulator you could either send that component you have designed as a blackbox, or use PXI systems to send signals through this, get the output and just send waveforms. This means that at the other end, you do not have to even see the waveforms. You just have to get these and input these into the system over there,” explains Satish Mohanram, technical marketing manager, National Instruments.

Easier and better R&D
“We have this radio frequency (RF) tool chain that starts with AWR Microwave Office and visual system simulator, which can really help design microwave components and microwave circuitry,” says Mohanram. This means you can design antennae and circuit boards that do all the complex signal processing and generate different waveforms. You could prototype the whole circuit and then certain parts of it can be virtually brought in as models. For instance, if you have built a PCB where all the transmission and reception is going on, you can modify one algorithm in that and optimise it. The benefit of this is that, in the bigger perspective of the system you do not need every component to be ready before you test the whole thing. You can actually have multiple components and then just one component can be refined.

EDA has been well-adopted by chip designers to design and analyse entire semiconductor chips over the last few decades. Jason Guo, senior technical staff member, Fairchild Semiconductor, says, “However, system-level design tools, such as tools for a switched mode power supply design, are not readily available, mainly due to system-level complexities. Recently, some advanced Web based electronic design/simulation tools such as Fairchild’s Power Supply WebDesigner (PSW) have been introduced to enable system-level design of switched mode power supplies.”

These tools are typically driven by knowledge based automation for every decision making point of a design flow, so that even a junior designer can complete a senior-level design in minutes. Web based simulation is used to bridge conventional mismatching gaps between a paper design and hardware performance to further secure a working design.

Announced in February 2015, Altera and Mentor Graphics have teamed up together to provide virtual platforms that contain simulation models of ARM processor sub-systems featured in Altera’s SoC field programmable gate array (FPGA) families. This simplifies embedded software development and reduces the need for expensive hardware by enabling large development teams to perform application development and software regression testing in a virtual environment based on the chip.

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