January 10, 2012
Blurring the line between EDA & Test
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“Sure, you can measure X-parameters with a Nonlinear Vector Network Analyzer (NVNA) to come up with a model of component and then include it with your EDA tool,” opined Charles Plott of Agilent EEsof.
“But the same principles and algorithms used in the measurement equipment are also used in the EDA simulator itself," said Charles. "In other words, at the schematic level you can do a virtual measurement and replace the entire schematic with an X-parameter model that is more efficient & portable, and the schematic-level IP (intellectual property) is protected. Here again, you can see the old lines between measurement hardware and EDA software become pretty indistinguishable.”
System-level Simulation with Measurement Hardware in the Loop
It may be that the area which has seen the most growth in synergies between EDA and Measurement, is the area of system design and verification (i.e. to answer the question, "Is your component or system meeting an overall spec?"). Much of this is driven by the explosion of today’s complex communications standards: there is just a lot more to test than there used to be! Rather than waiting for final hardware prototypes to be available to verify against a spec, such as the latest LTE-Advanced standard (Long-term Evolution – Advanced), it is possible to start this final verification task sooner using simulation. In this way, designers can resolve
conflicts earlier before they even occur.
There are many examples of where EDA and Hardware are used simultaneously in system design, according to
Daren McClernon, a senior member and application expert in the Software Modular Solutions organization of Agilent:
McClearnon explains,”If you look at a project timeline for a typical consumer product, today’s design flows are essentially multi-threaded, not sequential. When several designers are involved in a project, each moves his/her design forward in parallel, and to the extent that each can evaluate the others’ intermediate progress and changes, then overall system verification can begin that much earlier. This eliminates many of the obvious downstream surprises, and allows earlier validation of the architecture as a whole.”
"Agilent’s SystemVue product line sits in the intersection between EDA and Test. SystemVue is an EDA design tool, not simply a test automation tool,” continued Daren. “This is an important distinction – rather than focusing on just being more efficient in testing the same way as always – a better approach is to verify a ‘virtual system’ from the first day of a project with simulation and then gradually incorporate more measurements along the way. This saves time and reduces project risk.”
So here's the thesis of this approach: Take the new 4G standards, for example; they are not only complicated, they are continuously ‘Evolving’ (the E in LTE). To save engineers time, communications system level EDA tools provide flexibility to create, import, or acquire early communication standards and reference designs. Those same reference signals can be downloaded to the test equipment to generate realistic signals for validation or a hardware prototype long before the rest of the system components are ready.
 URL's of past EDA WEEKLIES involving Agilent Technologies
 Interviews with Agilent
The interviews contained in the article between the writer and Agilent Technologies' personnel all occurred in November 2011, prior to the Thanksgiving holiday November 24, 2011. In a subsequent news release by Agilent on December 2, 2011, the Company announced the pending acquisition of Accelicon:
While some if not all of the Agilent personnel interviewed for the EDA WEEKLY article herein were aware of the then-current acquisition dialog with Accelicon, each was to a person 100% silent about it.
Summary of the Entire Article to this point:
"EDA and Test are not so distinct."
Well, that's the assertion of the many credible experts quoted in this article. This writer for one believes them; he has seen the outcomes. That's just the way it is with controlled electricity - you can't "see" it, but you can sure observe its outcomes!
Great thanks to all those quoted in this article, and special thanks again to Agilent's Charles Plott for his time and enthusiasm.
Competitive pressures are driving needs for a blended solution and the examples in this article bring this emerging area into better focus. Beyond that, it is clear that large industry players like Agilent have been investing heavily in this area and
other companies are jumping in as well so this looks to be an exciting area to watch.
SERENDIPITY - Thy name is Mentor Graphics!
The "watching" referred to at the conclusion of the above article on Agilent paid off immediately!
Only two weeks had passed since the conclusion of the Agilent interviews before the writer received this December 12, 2011 news release from one of his former employers:
WILSONVILLE, Ore., December 12, 2011—Mentor Graphics Corporation (NASDAQ: MENT) announced the electronic industry’s
first combined technology for thermal characterization and simulation with T3Ster® hardware test products and its FloTHERM® software. The Mentor Graphics® T3Ster product is the world’s leading advanced thermal transient tester for semiconductor device packages and LEDs. Mentor’s FloTHERM product is the de-facto standard for electronics thermal simulation and analysis to predict airflow, temperature and heat transfer throughout electronics equipment including components, boards, and entire systems.
The interface between T3Ster and FloTHERM seamlessly creates accurate thermal simulation models. The thermal characterization offering is unique because it is the only JESD51-14 compliant solution available on the market today.
Increased design complexity and smaller form factors create heat management problems which represent one of the biggest challenges in electronics today.
Temperature is understood to be the key accelerator in the majority of reliability failures and IEEE Standard 1413 recognizes the need for accurate thermal data at all levels of a system’s implementation.
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-- Russ Henke, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.