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Exploring product-level architectural validation

05 Jan 2016  | Bob Potock

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The new generation of design exploration tools provides a platform for concept and design creation through, for example, logical, 2D physical, 3D geometrical, and parametric views. These four main modules work together or standalone and may appear individually or simultaneously on the screen for real-time interaction with each other. All of the views are integrated so that when the user makes a change in one view, the others automatically update. The user interface is designed to be simple enough for use by both occasional users as well as everyday architects and engineers.

Figure 2: Logical design module.

The first step usually involves creation of the functional design using reuse blocks, functional blocks based on a list of components, or any existing detailed design. A common approach is to start with a fully supported previous generation of the product. Many companies are beginning to standardize on a design platform, which may also be used as the starting point. Users can also make use of engineering data management software that manages reusable circuitry in the form of blocks, greatly simplifying the process of reusing existing schematics, parts lists, and layouts. The engineering data management system stores and controls access to reusable blocks, manages information that is critical to design reuse such as the layer structure of a routed block, and interfaces easily with the design exploration tool.

The user working on the new design can easily call up blocks representing the RF, baseband, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other sections of previous designs. The engineer can then check the documentation for each block that he or she plans to use to ensure that it is a fit for the new design. Then the engineer can drop the blocks into the design. Integration with the ECAD library provides accurate floorplanning with exact footprint shapes and automated parts list creation. Design reuse saves time during functional block design and also reduces downstream circuit design effort. Reusing routed PCB blocks offers considerable potential advantages such as avoiding potential signal integrity and thermal problems by utilizing modules whose performance has been proven in previous product generations.

Blocks partitioned onto PCBs

Figure 3: Physical design planning and validation module.

The blocks are partitioned onto multiple PCBs by dragging them into the 2D PCB partitioning and floorplanning view. The user can manage multiple boards in one view and arrange the layout of the design as a complete system. Alternative configurations are evaluated by moving blocks between boards, reshaping the boards, and adding/removing PCBs as needed. Top and bottom board density can be calculated as a quick routability check during this phase. The user can select a combination of PCBs, packages, and SoCs comprising one design and complete its layout as a full system. Signals can be highlighted and analyzed across the entire interconnect length.

Figure 4: 3D geometrical design and validation module.

Users can import the mechanical enclosure directly into the geometrical module to verify the fit of the boards. Bidirectional exchange of STEP and IDF data with 3D MCAD systems makes it possible to share enclosures, PCBs, and complete system assemblies. The integration with the ECAD library provides accurate floorplanning with exact footprint shapes and part creation. By importing accurate 3D enclosure and component models, engineers can design to the actual 3D enclosure and conduct interference checks to reduce data exchange iterations and optimize multi-board floor-planning and design. Users floor-plan the PCBs within the enclosure in real-time, optimizing placement capacity and capturing interference violations earlier in the design process. Design teams can optimize multiple boards within a single model to ensure precise positioning of PCBs and other components to avoid interference and to mate connectors.

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