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Choosing & Using Design & Simulation Tools

In our recent survey, we asked you about the design and simulation tools that you used at work. This includes the simple schematic capture (drawing) tools at one end of the spectrum and the sophisticated circuit simulation tools at the other end.

We had enough granularity in the choices to get a good idea of what is being used. So let's drill down into the data and see what it says.

We received 108 responses to the poll, which was set up to permit multiple selections. Hence, the answers selected add up to more than 108.

About a third of you are using a barebones tool that you downloaded for free. I've used some of these, and they are adequate. Some leave a bit to be desired in that they don't allow editing of their symbols and don't allow easy manipulation of symbols and nets (wires). I'm a bit of a stickler when it comes to neat, clean schematics with minimal crossing of nets and nets that are not too close together.

Nearly 40 percent of you paid good money for a schematic capture tool. With these, the problems I cited above can be eliminated. But it'll cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars for that flexibility.

When it comes to circuit simulation and analysis, one-quarter of you went the cheap route and used a free version. Some of you — just under one-half — used one of the circuit-sim tools available from one of the semiconductor manufacturers. These, of course, are loaded with that company's devices plus some generic devices. Both these types of simulator tools are good enough for some applications.

For those times when that isn't good enough, a bit under a quarter of you opened you wallets and got the full-featured circuit simulator tool. For some applications, this is mandatory — e.g., medical diagnostic equipment, guided missiles, and ICs.

For some engineering design work, just under one third of you said that an Excel spreadsheet can provide sufficient design guidance: perhaps an analysis on the sensitivity to component parameter variations. And one quarter of you said that you use pencil, paper, and a slide rule to design and analyze your circuits. We of course hope that these circuits are not used in medical diagnostic equipment, guided missiles, and ICs.

What are your thoughts on these schematic capture and circuit analysis tools? What do you use and why?

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10 comments on “Choosing & Using Design & Simulation Tools

  1. Netcrawl
    October 26, 2013

    @Brad interesting topic, that was great! circuit simulation tool is very imporatnt and key in designing circuits, simulation tools is a very alternative to real experiments, simulation tools are cost-effective, vitual components used in software are only part of software and those components are no cost or technical issues, simulation tools also offer great flexiblity in terms of measurement capability.

    it can measure internal currents, voltage and many more that are virtually impossible to do in using real equipments. I used  Excel purely in analysis and some calculations it pretty good,packed with great functionalities. 

  2. Netcrawl
    October 26, 2013

    In choosing the right design tools, we need to look for software that can add value and differentiate our product from the rest of the competitions, sotftware is critical, it an untapped source of competitive advantage.  Always look for a good track records ( software vendors) and experiences.

    In my case, I used TINA, an extremely powerful integrated design suite, capable of designing and simulation highly complex analog and digital cicuits, it was designed to meet the various need of engineers and companies. 

  3. yalanand
    October 27, 2013

    The simulator permits the user to relate test vectors as ideas to the deliberate circuit and to detect the outputs created in reply. In adding to being capable to observe the pretend values on the Input/Output pins of the circuit, this is also imaginable to probe the inside nodes in the circuit.

  4. Vishal Prajapati
    October 28, 2013

    I will always go for free version first to simulate my design. If that seriously lacks the features I need, I would go for company specific design and simulation tool. I have used TINA form TI to simulate absolutely simple to moderate complex circuit. And I must say it performed really well. I think company specific tools provide very good device modeling for their product, so we don't need to worry about their integrity.

     

    At last if this doesn't full fill your need. One can go for professionally designed third party expensive tool. Fortunately I didn't have to go to this option.

     

    I have used Excel spreadsheet to calculate pretty moderate expressions to calculate device values. It can also generate pretty good error graphs. It is the first choise for calculations.

  5. Brad_Albing
    October 29, 2013

    @Netcrawl – it can measure internal currents, voltage and many more that are virtually impossible to do in using real equipments – yep – I've done exactly that using one manufacturer's simulati.on tool to see what was going on inside a switcher IC. Very useful.

  6. Brad_Albing
    October 29, 2013

    @VP – that's the good sequence to go thru regarding which one to use. No sense paying for it if the free version provides adequate answers.

  7. Brad_Albing
    October 29, 2013

    @VP – and I've prepared some nice spreadsheets for anything from showing standard 1% resistor values or frequencies of the notes in an octave (remarkably similar calculation) to calculating inductor values given the coil parameters.

  8. yalanand
    October 31, 2013

    I will always go for free version first to simulate my design. If that seriously lacks the features I need, I would go for company specific design and simulation tool.


    @Vishal, I think its always better to start with free version of the simulator because it gives us initial idea about the design. Once we are satisfied with the simulation results then we can implement the same system in company specific design and simulation tool.

  9. yalanand
    October 31, 2013

    I have used Excel spreadsheet to calculate pretty moderate expressions to calculate device values.

    @Vishal, excel is very powerful tool. I have seen entire op-amp design was implemented in excel sheet. If we can understand all the functionalities of excel then we can create more bigger models in excel.

  10. yalanand
    October 31, 2013

    In choosing the right design tools, we need to look for software that can add value and differentiate our product from the rest of the competitions


    @Netcrawl, true. But sometimes we can achieve the same results using open source tools. So we should understand the limitations of the tools before we choose any particular tool for our simulation.

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