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ADS 2011 Ushers in a New Era in RF/Microwave Design

Advanced Design System (ADS) 2011 from Agilent Technologies represents the most significant release of the ADS product in over a decade. With improvements to virtually all areas of the platform, it offers something for anyone doing RF/microwave design, whether of a monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC), module or printed circuit board (PCB). What really sets ADS 2011 apart is its ability to design and verify multiple technologies concurrently.

Addressing the Challenge of Multi-Technology Design

Today’s RF design industry is in the midst of a transformation. For evidence, look no further than the commercial wireless and aerospace/defense industries where trends like increasing complexity and integration have become commonplace. Today’s products are no longer single MMICs put into a package. Instead, multiple chips are now combined into packages or modules, and this increased product integration brings circuit elements closer together, within and across technology boundaries. As a consequence, engineers can no longer ignore the interactions between these different technologies. To achieve success requires a platform that works in a multi-technology design space. ADS 2011 meets the challenge with a comprehensive multi-technology design platform.

Existing design tools generally work only in a single technology space. More often than not, the tool used to design the IC is different than the one used to design the module that it goes in or the PCB, making it difficult or even impossible to take into account the important interactions between the technologies. With ADS 2011, not only can engineers design ICs, modules and PCBs all in the same environment, they can also easily assemble these multiple technologies with complete access to all the analysis and design technology within the ADS flow.

Figure 1 Multi-technology 10 GHz amplifier.

Multi-Technology Design in Action

As an example of the ADS 2011 multi-technology design capabilities, consider the design of a 10 GHz local oscillator amplifier (see Figure 1). Here is an IC mounted in a package that is then placed on a PCB. The design encompasses three different technologies. With ADS 2011, one can assemble this multi-technology design without making any changes to the individual designs. There are no worries about any conflicts between component names, PDKs, physical layer definitions, or other aspects of the technology definition. Once assembled, one can perform circuit simulation on the entire structure, ensuring that the entire design will perform to the original specifications.

In addition to circuit simulation, EM simulation can be performed on this multi-technology structure using either the Momentum 3D Planar simulator, or the 3D Finite Element simulator (see Figure 2). This enables engineers to discover EM coupling effects, even across technology boundaries. By resolving these issues prior to fabrication, engineers can avoid expensive manufacturing re-spins and keep product delivery on schedule.

Figure 2 Performing multi-technology EM anaylsis.

Putting EM Technology within Every Engineer’s Reach

Historically, EM tools have been restricted to experts, and therefore only used sparingly. In today’s world of smaller form factors and physical complexity, EM analysis has become a necessity in order to achieve design success. Over the last few years, ADS has brought together a suite of EM technologies including 3D Planar and FEM solvers in a single integrated platform. With ADS 2011, significant strides have been made to make EM analysis accessible to a broader community of engineers.

To start, ADS 2011 features a unified, graphical layer definition editor that makes it easy to define the substrate technology (dielectric, metal, vias and material properties). To set up and run a simulation, multiple dialogs have been consolidated into a single dialog that is used for both the Momentum and FEM simulators. Once the simulation setup has been done, it can be saved and re-used for other designs and even shared with other engineers. In addition, the underlying technology has been improved with the capacity and performance required to solve much larger problems than were possible even a few years ago. Finally, parameterized 3D solid models can be imported as components to ADS 2011 from Electromagnetic Professional (EMPro), Agilent’s 3D EM modeling and simulation platform. These components can then be combined with the circuit layout and simulated as an integrated physical structure.

Figure 3 Multiple data views in ADS 2011.

New Flexibility and Productivity for Design and Simulation

A key improvement for ADS 2011 is the new organization of the design data. Each sub-circuit or component in the design is now a cell that can have a variety of views, which represent different models (e.g., circuit, behavioral and EM), or even design variations (see Figure 3). This makes it easier to explore the design space, make trade-offs between simulation speed and accuracy, and keep the schematic cleaner and better organized. Additionally, a new load-pull controller simplifies data import and shortens the time to design and simulation. Other new features include a Multi-level Hemispherical Model that more accurately models surface roughness for transmission line and Momentum simulations and improved Smith Chart graphing.

ADS 2011 also boasts significant improvements for layout, not the least of which is a new, industry standard database that provides improvements in performance and capacity. Editing “handles” added to all basic layout objects make layout editing more efficient. Bond wires are now easier to create and edit, and can be modeled directly by Momentum. Further improvements to designer efficiency come from a new command line editor with dozens of common functions and a new layout toolbar.

A Foundation For Today’s Challenges and Beyond

With the introduction of ADS 2011, the ADS platform becomes the first RF/microwave design tool that is built directly on the industry standard Open Access database (supported by Si2, an organization of nearly 100 industry-leading companies). This proven design database provides the capacity and performance to address not only single technology design, but also the increased demands of a native, multi-technology design platform. Unlike the proprietary databases found in other RF/microwave tools today, the OpenAccess database has been engineered for industry-wide interoperability, and a variety of other leading EDA tools are currently built on OpenAccess.

With the rapid evolution of RF/microwave design, today’s tools need to keep pace with the critical circuit and EM simulation technologies required to address conventional single-technology design. However, this alone is no longer sufficient to deal with the interactions between multiple technologies being combined into complex systems. What is needed is a true multi-technology design platform that combines the necessary database capabilities and capacity with the advanced simulation technologies needed to find and resolve issues across technology boundaries before going to manufacturing. ADS 2011 provides a comprehensive design environment to address these multi-technology design challenges in a single integrated design platform. For more information, please visit the Agilent ADS web site.

Agilent Technologies Inc.,
Santa Clara, CA
(800) 829-4444,

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