Mentor Graphics and Agilent Technologies aim to streamline RF PCB development

RF designers are getting some really good news today. Design teams from Mentor Graphics Corp and Agilent Technologies put their heads together and found a way to integrate their flagship products, Board Station® XE and Expedition Enterprise™ from Mentor Graphics and Advanced Design System (ADS) EDA software from Agilent. This isn't just file swapping either, the companies have built a new product that allows real-time cross-probing between the RF and board level systems.

I met with the two companies recently, and they reported that they expect the RF Design Solution, as it has been named, to cut PCB design cycle times in half and improve the quality of mixed-technology designs.

Designers who have used both board level and RF circuit design products from these two companies in the past were frequently frustrated by using ASCII interfaces, which had to be manually updated, and different libraries, where, for instance, an optimized RF device would drop onto the board layout as a simple CAD outline. Now, the RF components come in as functioning circuits, allowing RF devices to be optimized and positioned in context on a board layout design. Then, after the circuit is tweaked, the RF portion can be quickly pathed back to ADS for additional testing and simulation to ensure the performance has not been compromised.

For RF Design Solution to be developed, Mentor Graphics had to do most of the heavy lifting. “We needed to add intelligence to the RF layout,” said John Isaac, director systems market development for the Systems Design Division of Mentor Graphics, “and the libraries had to be 100% identical. This new integration takes care of that.”

I was lucky enough to see a demo of the RF Design Solution by Per Viklund, director IC packaging & RF at Mentor Graphics. The figure below is a still shot from the demo. This figure aims to show how specific parametric RF shapes can be imported from ADS and all parameters are maintained. The board traces are recognized as RF components and circuits, making interaction between the Mentor and Agilent systems significantly faster.

In addition, the new RF Design Solution benefits from Mentor Graphics' Xtreme Technology, which allows collaborative design for multiple designers, allowing them to view each other's progress in real time, right down to the movement of a cursor. The system allows up to 15 designers to work collaboratively on RF, analog, and digital designs.

Once the board design is complete, it can be verified against industry safety standards, such as specific absorption rate (SAR) or hearing aid compatibility (HAC) by activating Agilent's 3D electromagnetic simulation feature. The 3D feature can also be used to verify correct placement of embedded passives and coupled RF structures in multi-layer boards.

If you want to know more, I suggest you view the online overview hosted by Per Viklund,
Or check out the data sheet.

U.S. Pricing and Availability
The RF design solution is available now as an option to Mentor's Expedition Enterprise and Board Station XE flows, with prices starting at approximately $9,000. Click here for additional product information.

Agilent's Advanced Design System is available now, with prices starting at approximately $9,000. Click here for additional product information.

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