Published Tuesday, August 15, 2008 | Last Update 8.15.08
Here are your replies to the August Expert Advice column

While user interfaces in microwave CAE software have remained relatively stable, important strides have been made in simulation technology. Today, more designs incorporate integrated chip, package, module and board systems which are more difficult to design, analyze, debug and deliver in high-volume than the typical design of 10 years ago.

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Comments: Mr. Lefebre's article hits the nail right in the head. While in school (graduated in 2003), I was lucky enough to be exposed to a few of the industry's major software packages, two of them being Agilent ADS and Ansoft HFSS. The user friendliness of these tools has improved by leaps and bounds (Remember Libra IV and HFSS 7.5?). I saw Agilent incorporate a 3-D EM simulator in their package(though later dropped) as well as Ansoft Designer come into the picture to put Ansoft in the competitive arena of circuit simulators. I sure thought these packages were used extensively in industry and would see them right away when I got my first job after graduation. At my first job I was surprised to find out that only a handful of engineers knew their way around these software packages, and for the most part, they were younger engineers. While some of the more experienced engineers were open to learn about the software capabilities, most were quick to dismiss the idea of designing a complex system without their older, proven methods. I quickly learned that the "if not broken, don't fix it" mentality was the reason why some engineers had not taken a smarter approach to solving their problems. I can definitely relate to what Mr. Lefebre's article covers because I've lived throught it in my short time in industry.

Lester Lopez, Harris Corporation
8/25/2008 6:11:38 PM

Response from the Author: Lester, Thank you for the comments. I think it is important to remember that, in our industry, the build-test cycle was the primary design methodology for a very long time. Seasoned RF designers know how to do this pretty quickly for circuits that they can actually get their hands (or a soldering iron) on. One reason for this design methodology was the large number unknowns and parasitics that the designers didn't include that essentially made the simulation an approximation. Only relatively recently has electromagnetic or nonlinear simulation of entire circuits with real parasitics become practical, making first-pass success a real possibility. Engineers are pretty smart people, and they will use tools when they see a benefit. As circuits get more compact, move on chip, and get more complex, the build-test cycle no longer works. While there are still some holdouts, at Agilent I am seeing seasoned engineers everyday learning to take advantage of the power of our simulation capability. Rob

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Comments: Your perspective, and information contained in the article are interesting. But I try to launch a proposal. What do you think to start an initiative (your employer Agilent and competitor like ANSOFT) similar to SysML/UML initiative, in order to standardize System, Circuit, EM and RF modelling ?

Angelo Bruno, selex communications
8/20/2008 2:28:07 AM

Response from the Author: Thank you for your suggestion. Agilent EEsof has always been a leader in providing standards for exchange of modeling data, dating back to the 1980's. For example, the popular S-Parameter file format is still referred to as the Touchstone format in recognition of the EEsof product which established the standard. More recently, Agilent has established the use of X Parameters for modeling data. I expect Agilent EEsof to continue to establish standards that will benefit our entire engineering community. Thanks, Rob

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Comments: Hi Rob! The increasing use of CAE is also due to high rate computers and high memory architecture computers. This can be seen especially in 3D EM simulations tools. Still, as you mentioned above, the 'real power' and optimal useability of CAE is the ability of the designer to achive first-pass success process. I think that the major CAE company know that and try their best to instruct the users with the knowledge to achieve that. However, the need for senior EM modeling expert is always true and could be applied well at the management level. And finally, the complexity of the EM designs would increase in future and the CAE software should know how to handle this adequately. Thanks, I.H.

Itzik Chaimov, RF-Dynamics,
9/10/2008 5:09:51 PM

Response from the Author:

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