Electronic Design Automation (EDA) is an indispensable tool in coming up with optimised circuits. These are nothing new with engineers as most have worked on one or the other tool. From a simple amplifier design to designing multiple layer PCBs, a lot can be done via EDA. Marco-Casale Rossi, product marketing manager, design group, Synopsys, explains the advances in EDA with, “Today, we can floor-plan hundreds of millions of library instances, or we can place-and-route tens of millions of library instances in less than 24 hours.”
Advances have also been in the form of designing complexity. “The complexity is increasing in all areas of electronic design. In the IC world, we moved from bigger technology nodes to 28nm, 16m, 10nm and now marching towards 7nm. In addition to shrinking nodes we are now packing more and more transistors.” says Ruchir Dixit Technical Director, Mentor Graphics. He further adds, “The designs today perform many more functions than ever before. If we look at the system design world, the scenarios are very similar. Gone are the days of a 4-5 layer board being considered complex. Today’s boards can have as many as 50 layers, very high speed signalling, very large pin out components etc. The leading edge tools allow the electronic designers to design and build these complex systems in an efficient manner.”
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The ever increasing number of EDA tools
Since the emergence of EDA in the late 70’s, EDA quickly evolved into a dedicated industry, and new players keep emerging at regular intervals. Today we have advanced EDA tools like Altium Designer 12, LabView and Virtuoso among others that help engineers come up with the best blueprint for complex circuits.
Aside from the industry established tools, we also have some cloud based tools that have revolutionised the way beginners and hobbyists take up electronics. Cloud based EDA tools like EasyEDA and MeowCAD allow students and hobbyists the ease and freedom to work with the latest libraries while providing updated versions of the softwares, without the hassle of updating user softwares.
Cloud based tools becoming popular
Imagine, working on a tablet, because you don’t have to carry your heavy laptop everywhere. You don’t have to think about the storage or appropriate graphics and processor requirements. All you need is a browser and you are good to go.
Popularisation of cloud based tools has been a significant feature in the recent years. Along with the traditional circuit simulation features, these provide ubiquitous access. This allows the designer to travel light with only the concern for internet speed (which won’t be anything new). Using various advances in website designing, these are now accessible over a wide variety of mobile platforms, including smartphones and tablets.
Cloud based tools also feature quick help via dedicated forums, which provide access to community of like minded individuals working on their own problems. Sharing your project with the developer community and your co-workers over the cloud without having to care for the compatibility of software has also come as an advantage in the cloud based EDA tools.
Flip side to the cloud
However cloud based tools are yet to establish themselves suitable for high precision circuit design. These are more in tune with hobbyists, working on their individual projects or students learning to work on EDA. But for professional purposes, system based tools come to be the better choice.
“An efficient tool should be in a system. This removes dependence on internet while working,” says Sreekanth Tamanna, country manager India, Pakistan, Bangladesh & Sri Lanka, Altium Ltd. The processing time in a cloud based tool is also increased. People working in a closed network have to often update their screens to confirm the latest revisions in their designs. Improved performance, more complex designing, local storage, and better working are some advantages with on system EDA tools.
This might sound like the best alternative, but let’s consider other alternatives before judging a tool. Open source tools have serve some interesting features.