Nine Dot Connects offers simulation services, but it’s one thing to simply list the services, another to show the whole picture. We feel that it would be a disservice to you if we did not take a moment to do just that.
Simulation is an ambiguous term. It can represent the verification of a design while it is being drawn in a schematic capture tool or it can represent the design after it has been physically laid out. For example, a tool like SPICE is used to verify that an analog circuit will operate as expected. This activity is performed when the circuit is being designed in the schematics. On the other hand, simulation such as signal integrity and power integrity are best performed on the physical copper of the circuit design.
At Nine Dot Connects, we can provide training in the use of SPICE tools in Altium Designer. However, our expertise is in the use of simulation tools prior to and upon the completion of the PCB layout. We use the iCD and Cadence Sigrity tools to provide accurate information about signal integrity, noise and power distribution in a design. Because we are well versed in these tools, we can quickly and accurately simulate and analyze the board.
Though we at Nine Dot Connects are not in the business of chip design, our collective experiences in chip design gives us good insight. On an ASIC chip level, it makes sense to simulate as much as possible. A design start for a new chip is in the millions of dollars. Respins also cost millions of dollars in addition to potentially missing a market window, measured in weeks. In fact, when one really looks at the software design market, most of the simulation tools seems to be geared for chip design rather than board design.
We don’t believe that board simulation is overkill or unnecessary; however, we must consider its economics. Though a designer can obtain equation-based simulation tools for a minimal cost, the “best in class” tools use 3D field solving engines. Simulation tools of this nature cost tens of thousands of dollars. Then one must include the training cost involved in bringing the individual up to speed on the fundamental scientific concepts, the running of the tool and analyzing of the data. This could be a multi-year effort before the individual becomes fully effective in the tool. Though these concepts are introduced in most college undergraduate programs, few engineers grasp the them and even fewer engineers use them in their careers.
Are there alternatives? In many cases, yes, the time and cost it takes to purchase such tools outweighs the cost of several planned respins. Also, experience plays a vital role in an engineer’s learning and understanding. What is learned on one project propagates to the next, perhaps reducing the need for costly tools. Of course, this becomes tribal knowledge which the company must carefully preserve.
Another alternative is to seek a third party to perform the simulation. This can be very useful, as the simulation will be done by an independent party which removes the potential for bias. Finding a reliable third-party source is important. It’s also important to understand what service is being provided. Some companies will simply run the simulation and leave the interpretation to the customer.
At Nine Dot Connects, we have all the pieces in place to provide accurate results:
- Experience in designing complex boards
- Know how to use the Sigrity and iCD tools
- Scripts to assist in the transition between Altium Designer (or Allegro) and Sigrity
- Simulation setup up based on requested analyses
- Interpretation of the results
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