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AWR Connected Integrates AWR and Third-Party Tools for Enhanced Design Flows and User Efficiencies


by Sherry Hess, Vice-president of Marketing, AWR Group, NI

Today’s microwave/RF designs require the use of a variety of software tools and test and measurement (T&M) hardware to ensure the final product meets stringent size, operating, and performance specifications. While EDA vendors strive to put forth a complete, integrated package of tools for end-to-end design, there are times when designers need a specialized tool for a specific design challenge. EDA vendors are recognizing this need and collaborating in order to offer streamlined design flows to help customers increase productivity and deliver optimized designs to market faster.

Over the years, NI (formerly AWR Corporation) has partnered with companies such as Anritsu, Rohde & Schwarz, and NI for software-to-hardware solutions and Cadence, Mentor Graphics, and Zuken for software-to-software flows.

This year, two new AWR Connected flows have been introduced that provide cross-company interoperability that allows engineers to address specific engineering issues while leveraging existing/known design information.

AWR Connected for HFSS: RF Module Design Example
Figure 1: AWR Connected for HFSS: RF Module Design Example
AWR Connected for Cadence Allegro: RF PCB EM verification design flow example
Figure 2: AWR Connected for Cadence Allegro: RF PCB EM verification design flow example

ANSYS HFSS: Electromagnetics
AWR Connected for ANSYS HFSS helps designers simulate their microwave circuits while being able to invoke HFSS as their 3D EM simulator of choice. This design flow between Microwave Office and HFSS allows engineers to work in Microwave Office, export an XML file into HFSS for EM characterization (Figure 1), and then import the resulting S-parameters back into Microwave Office for further circuit simulation and optimization.

This AWR Connected flow reduces design time and improves quality by eliminating manual steps and reducing the possibility of errors associated with importing and exporting tasks.

Cadence Allegro: PCB
PCB designers face significant challenges integrating RF circuits on a mixed-signal printed circuit board (PCB) design and incorporating all the design elements, such as digital, RF/microwave, and analog circuits on the same board. To address this complexity, designers must be able to create a mixed-signal design within an integrated PCB design environment. To solve this problem, AWR is partnering with Cadence Design Corporation to expand its AWR Connected for Cadence offering to now support a bidirectional RF PCB design flow between NI AWR Design Environment and Cadence Allegro PCB Editor.

While the RF portion of a PCB may be small, it is critical that the design is accurate for the wireless device to work properly. Because the RF layout is often designed separately and later placed into the final design, the RF performance suffers. Consequently, it is paramount to perform a verification simulation using the actual layout from the full production PCB tool before prototyping.

As microwave/RF and even EM simulation have matured and become much more a part of the front-end design process, mutual key customers have been requesting a tighter, more robust solution. In response, AWR and Cadence began working together in 2013 to ensure model compatibility across tools. The result is a 3D PCB flow that takes the RF schematic and layout from Microwave Office and exports the data into Cadence in a format is quickly and easily read, plugged into the overall PCB design, and simulated/verified.
Additionally, AWR Connected for Cadence Allegro also provides an interface between Cadence’s Allegro/MCM/SiP PCB and package layout tools and Microwave Office. It works by extracting user-specified data from Allegro—conductors, nets, components, pins, substrate, material properties—and allowing for it to be quickly and easily imported into Microwave Office for additional EM verification/simulation (Figure 2).

Through its AWR Connected product offerings, NI has and will continue to deploy innovative cross-vendor design solutions. With this focus, MMIC, RFIC, RF PCB and RF module customers can rest assured that they have access to the best tools for their challenging jobs at hand.