DesignCon 2010 took place this past week at the Santa Clara Convention Center. This industry-leading event included over 95 technical panels and paper sessions, an impressive line-up of keynote speakers and, of course, the exhibition. DesignCon, which is organized by the IEC, brings together electronic design experts to focus on topics that span chip, package, board and system domains, addressing common issues in signal integrity, power management, interconnection and design verification. While it is not a “microwave” show per se, many of the issues discussed are well understood by high-frequency electrical engineers. This fact is reflected in the number of microwave software vendors, test equipment providers and material manufacturers that are present. Listed below are some of the news items announced at the show.

Perhaps the biggest news coming out of the show for our industry was Mentor Graphics’ announcement that they had acquired Zeland Software. With this announcement, Mentor Graphics, a leader in printed circuit board (PCB) design solutions, is now able to offer full-wave 3D electromagnetic (EM) analysis functionality in order to address the simulation needs of engineers designing PCBs and packages that utilize high-speed interconnect technologies such as SERDES, which operate at multi-gigabit-per-second speeds.

Agilent was in booth 301 demonstrating high-speed digital solutions addressing high-performance probing, signal integrity, high-speed interconnect analysis/simulation, jitter analysis, FPGA debug, FBD/DDR memory analysis, Serial-ATA analysis, PCI Express® analysis, HDMI 1.3, DisplayPort, Gigabit Ethernet and Fibre Channel. They were also showing attendees how their tools provided data in time and frequency domain views to reveal underlying problems and enable improvements in multi-gigabit designs.

At the show, Agilent announced its support for IBIS-AMI (Algorithmic Modeling Interface), a modeling standard for SerDes transceivers created to enable fast, statistically significant analysis of high-speed serial links. The company’s work in support of this standard is expected to yield the commercial release of a new version of Advanced Design System, ADS 2010, which will allow signal integrity designers to integrate IBIS-AMI models into their ADS projects.

Anritsu was showing off its latest VectorStar Non-linear VNA and 12-Port VNA models in booth #119. The new scalable 12-port, 70 GHz measurement system based on its VectorStar® broadband vector network analyzer (VNA) can provide accurate and precise multi-port balanced differential and mixed-mode measurements required for today’s high-speed bus designs.

The VectorStar 12-port system is specified over the 40 MHz to 67 GHz range, but is operational up to 70 GHz. It is designed with mobile port modules that are connected to the interface test set with flexible V cables, allowing for the placement of the ports as close to the device under test (DUT) as possible. The result is improved measurement stability compared to alternative systems. The company was also sharing their booth space with solutions partner, AWR. Anritsu and AWR have partnered to incorporate AWR’s simulation software - Microwave Office directly within the VNA’s user interface.

CST was showcasing the latest release of its Studio Suite at DesignCon booth 307. This will most likely be the first time that users will get a live glimpse of the new product, which was just released in mid-January. A new asymptotic solver that is based on the Shooting Bouncing Ray method has been added to the suites various existing solver technologies. This method, which is an extension to physical optics, gives the tool the capacity to address simulations with an electric size of many thousands of wavelengths such as radar cross section analysis.

The simulation efficiency and speed of CST MWS’ frequency domain solver with true geometry adaptation (introduced in version 2009) has been enhanced with the inclusion of third and mixed order elements. The frequency domain solver is also featuring the company’s new sensitivity analysis approach.

The company’s flag-ship time domain solver now includes functional enhancements such as arbitrary order dispersive material modeling, and domain decomposition for cluster computing, also in combination with GPU computing.

Rogers Corp.
Rogers Corporation featured a variety of its advanced materials solutions targeting the electronic design and semiconductor industries at booth 811. Members of Rogers Advanced Circuit Materials (ACM) Division were available to discuss a number of innovative electronic materials, including Theta™ printed circuit materials, ULTRALAM® 3000 laminates, RO2808™ laminates and RO4000® LoPro™ circuit board materials.

Theta laminates and prepregs are environmentally friendly, high-performance FR-4 materials tailored for high-speed digital circuits. With a dielectric constant of 3.8 and low dissipation factor of 0.008 at 1 GHz, these halogen-free, low-cost circuit board materials are compatible with lead-free assembly processes. And with 30% lower coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) than high glass-transition-temperature (Tg) FR-4 substrates, Theta laminates ensure excellent plated-through-hole (PTH) reliability in multilayer designs.

The company also showcased its ULTRALAM 3000, RO2808 and RO4000 LoPro materials. The ULTRALAM 3000 laminates and bond-ply materials exhibit low loss and high reliability for cost-effective, high-volume circuit-board production environments. These halogen-free, liquid-crystal-polymer (LCP) materials are suitable for single- and multilayer high-speed and high-frequency circuits where excellent dimensional stability and high yields are critical.

The RO2808 laminates blend consistent dielectric-constant characteristics with the low profile needed for compact circuit designs. They serve as high-performance replacements for low-temperature-co-fired-ceramic (LTCC) circuits in low-cost electronic designs. RO4000 LoPro laminates are ideal for both high-speed digital and high-frequency analog applications. They combine a low-profile copper foil and low-loss dielectric material, resulting in low loss, low passive intermodulation (PIM), and outstanding signal-integrity characteristics in a wide range of circuit designs.

Taconic’s Advanced Dielectric Division (booth 211) was featuring its new TSM-DS ceramic-filled reinforced material. This dimensionally stable low loss laminate offers a DF of 0.0010 at 10 GHz, the industry’s lowest according to the company. The very low fiberglass content (~5%) assures consistency and predictability in fabricating large format, high layer count PWBs.

For microwave applications, the low x, y and z CTE values assure that critical spacing between traces in filters and couplers have very low movement with temperature. TSM-DS can be used with very low profile copper foils yielding a clear copper edge between coupled lines. TSM-DS has a temperature stable Dk +/- 0.35% (-30° to 120°C) and is compatible with resistor foils.

TSM-DS in combination with fastRise™ 27 prepreg (DF = 0.0014 @ 10 GHz) offers an industry leading solution for stripline designs. The recommended fabrication temperature and pressure is as per FR-4 (epoxy) conditions. These low insertion losses can only be rivaled by fusion bonding, a costly process that causes excessive material movement and puts stress on plated through holes.

Intercept Technology and SiSoft
Signal Integrity Software Inc. (SiSoft) announced an enhanced version of the interface between Intercept’s layout software, Pantheon, and SiSoft’s Quantum Channel Designer™ (QCD) and Quantum-SI (QSI)™ products, allowing users to rapidly determine operating timing and voltage margins for high-speed interfaces. Along with Intercept’s newly released Xtent high-speed design option, this enhanced interface between Pantheon and QCD/QSI provides a powerful tool set for advanced signal integrity. Intercept and SiSoft are pushing the envelope of design integrity and time to market for all high-speed designs. The two companies were on hand providing live demos of this integrated software solution at booth 122 from 4 to 5 PM on Tuesday.

Samtec Inc., booth 315, featured three new products, a Technical Paper on high performance flex circuits and a joint TecForum on high frequency measurement past 40 GHz.

The new products included IsoRate™ board-to-board connectors with Edge Rate™ contacts and cable assemblies with RG316 cable. These high performance isolated transmission lines provide a low cost alternative to traditional RF components. The company was also showing off their high density SEARAY™ open pin field arrays. SEARAY arrays provide maximum grounding and routing flexibility with signal integrity optimized Edge Rate™ contacts. Seventeen standard board stack heights and new right angle designs and press fit tail options are now available as standards.

And the company was also featuring its EyeSpeed™ rugged high speed I/O connector and cable system. This connector/cable system provides a flexible, small form factor, cost-effective, and high cycle life system with two piece Edge Rate™ contacts suitable for performance specs to 4 Gbps and a variety of high speed protocols and standards.

Samtec was also proud to announce that they had been named a DesignVision finalist for the new BullsEye™ high performance, low cost test system.