Xpedition Enterprise Blog

Learn about the industry's most innovative PCB design flow, providing integration from system design definition to manufacturing execution.

We'll keep you updated on the latest design trends, and other interesting tech tidbits in the industry.

25 July, 2017

Your ECAD library. Not exactly the most exciting topic of conversation to bring up in the company break room; but few would argue that it is a critical component (no pun intended) of any engineering team’s product development process. I once had an engineering manager provide me with the following analogy for her company’s ECAD library: The ECAD library is like air. You don’t see it, but you expect it to always be available and of high quality. If it’s not available, or becomes polluted, the entire product development process will suffer.

The ECAD library is the key module within the engineering environment for providing decision support data in the context of the design environment. Given its critical nature, most would agree that robust processes are required for both component development and library management. The two terms are often used synonymously; however, they are of course two different pieces that must come together in any successful ECAD library implementation. Specifically, best-in-class component development and library management processes should include the following features and characteristics:

  • User Interface that is intuitive and easy-to-use for both editing and managing of all library objects.
  • Part Request process used by both librarians and engineering teams to initiate the request, add appropriate supporting documentation, develop the part, and also provide appropriate monitoring and notifications.
  • Part Wizard that can use existing parts as templates and source part information from on-line manufacturer part data systems, to not only reduce part development time, but also to improve part quality.
  • Approval Flow and Quality Control that are both an integrated part of the component development process.
  • Integration with business systems to incorporate company-specific information, such as availability and cost.
  • Scalability, from a small work group, to a large multi-user multi-site enterprise, with a common user paradigm.
  • Automated distribution and synchronization of the single library to all design teams at all sites.

Rapid construction of high quality parts that comply with all company standards is the mission statement of any best-in-class library development team. The Xpedition tool suite delivers all of the above stated features and characteristics to effectively implement all aspects of the component development and library management process required for today’s complex PCB systems. Two short videos, Component and ECAD Library Management and ECAD Challenges: Multi-Site Team Library Management, along with an on-demand web seminar entitled Xpedition Library and Component Management, are all available for more in-depth information.

19 July, 2017

“Yes, you can” are the three words that every hardware engineer, librarian or PCB designer wants to hear from their ECAD tool provider when inquiring about support for a feature or technology that is critical to their new product development. Responses like “No, but we have a workaround” or “Not at this time; you will have to wait for the next release” limit a product development team’s ability to focus on the task at hand, turning their best ideas into finished products. The teams developing today’s high-speed, high-density, highly constrained leading-edge electronic designs are continually asking:

Can we

  • Work concurrently on the system definition, schematic, constraints and PCB layout, both across tools and within each tool?
  • Efficiently collaborate and co-design with the mechanical, FPGA, RF, manufacturing, and procurement teams?
  • Optimize multiple boards as a complete system, rather than as individual, unrelated designs?
  • Design quality and reliability into our product by using integrated analysis and verification tools for:
    • Power Distribution Network (PDN) modeling
    • 3D EM analysis and electrical DRC sign-off
    • Board- and system-level thermal analysis
    • Pre and post layout Signal Integrity analysis
    • Vibration analysis
  • Easily reuse existing certified logical and physical circuits in new designs?
  • Manage work-in-progress data at the site and/or enterprise level to ensure process efficiency and data security?
  • Optimize our product for manufacturing by identifying potential fabrication and assembly issues early, during the design phase?
  • Design rigid-flex PCB’s in 3D in order to ensure correct bend parameters, view the bent state in the context of the enclosure, and perform 3D DRC?
  • Design very large PCB’s (i.e. over 3 feet in diameter with over 40 layers) with very high pin counts (i.e. over 100K pins) without having to split the design into multiple smaller designs?

Yes, you can!

In the Mentor Xpedition flow, the answer is a resounding “yes, you can” to all of these questions, plus many more. The fact is, product development teams around the world count on the Xpedition tool suite every day to solve their most complex design challenges. For real-world examples from various industry segments, please check out the past winners of the prestigious Technology Leadership Awards. Additionally, Whats New in Xpedition provides high-level information and supporting videos that demonstrate innovative technologies for design reuse, automating the layout of high-speed topologies, facilitating the configuration of advanced constraints, enabling the design and verification of 3D rigid-flex structures, and robust data management for both libraries and designs.

While other tool providers are focused on trying to achieve the breadth and depth of functionality provided in the Xpedition flow, the Mentor family of tools, including HyperLynx, Valor, and PADS, are all focused on ensuring that NOTHING comes between your BEST ideas and the finished product.

5 July, 2017

Engineering Data Management, or EDM, is broadly defined as the administration of documents and data related to engineering applications. Most electrical engineers and PCB designers, however, would prefer a more detailed definition that speaks to the robustness of the system. After all, the EDM system should be adding value, not just at one or two touch-points, but throughout the entire product development process. For today’s complex designs, the engineering data hub needs to include more than just check-in and check-out functionality; rather it needs to be an enabler for improving both the design process and the decision making process. Specifically, a robust EDM system should include the following base set of attributes:

  • Access Control that manages who can access the corporate IP, potentially across multiple sites. This is especially important for sensitive, confidential or restricted parts and/or designs.
  • Versioning to provide traceability, along with managing and comparing parts and designs as they mature over time.
  • Search and Where-used not only to locate parts and designs based on key attributes, but also to identify where they are being used.
  • Replication that includes automatic distribution and synchronization of both library and design data to all sites and teams.
  • Web Interface to facilitate collaboration and design reviews without the need to install software.
  • Output Generation from the fully synchronized design, ensuring a complete production data package from the most current design files.

Library and design data are critical data elements that need to be properly managed and shared to support the PCB design flow. The Xpedition tool suite provides a robust Engineering Data Management system that facilitates the creation and management of PCB design data to ensure quality, integrity and security of the data used throughout the product development process. These tools include functionality that ranges from supporting concurrent design, design reviews and approvals at critical milestones, to library requests, archiving and distribution. Two short videos, Work-in-process Design Data Management and Enterprise Design Release Process, along with an on-demand web seminar entitled Xpedition Work in Progress Design Data Management, are all available for more in-depth information.

21 June, 2017

While attending a conference last month, one of the presentations that caught my attention described a concept whereby circuit board modules were connected together in order to create a wrist watch band. The modules (GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, etc.) could be interchanged in order to allow the user to easily add and remove functionality. Throughout the session, the speaker described the various benefits of modular (reusable) circuit design. Modular design is commonly defined as subdividing a system into smaller parts that can be independently created, and then used not only in the original system, but also in subsequent systems. The presenter explained that the concept of designing, validating, and reusing information is common in the software and IC domains, but not nearly as common in the PCB realm. Based on my experience, I have to agree; formal modular design in the PCB domain requires planning and investment that many product development teams consider a luxury. After all, a goal of being first to market seems counter to a goal of investing time and effort in establishing a repository of reusable modular circuit blocks.

Most new products are based, to a large extent, on existing products. For example, a cellular phone is not redesigned from scratch with each new version. Sure the industrial design changes, and some features are added or removed, but many of the schematic blocks (and at times the PCB blocks) are often reused. Why redesign the RF block or the video controller with each version of the product when the existing circuits have been proven to perform to specification? Design teams are all too aware of the benefits of reusing known good circuitry; however, according to the presenter, unless the reuse is formal and planned, many of the benefits could potentially be lost.

During the session, the presenter mentioned that companies investing in a modular design methodology will often assign engineers solely to designing modules, not designing product. Going back to my previous examples, this means there are engineers solely focused on designing RF blocks or video controllers. Clearly these companies have made a conscious investment in modular design. They are playing the “long game,” understanding that devoting time, effort, and resources to formally developing and managing reusable modular circuit blocks will ultimately help ensure they are not only first to market, but that a product developed with tested and validated circuit modules will be of high quality.

The Xpedition tool suite provides innovative technologies that recognize the importance of modular circuit design. Xpedition support for this advanced technology includes enterprise-wide data management of the reusable circuit blocks from both the library and design perspectives. A short video overview of the Xpedition block reuse process, Managed Block Reuse, along with an on-demand web seminar entitled Get to Market First with Reusable Circuit Blocks, are both available for more in-depth information. With Xpedition, reusable circuit blocks can jump start new designs, thereby accelerating the product development process and providing a key differentiator in addressing the challenge to get to market first.

1 June, 2017

This year’s ECTC is one of the best attended in recent history that I can recall.  The hot topic is FOWLP with standing room only sessions (see left). The great key note given by Babak Sabi from Intel was very insightful, discussing heterogeneous packaging to address bandwidth and interconnect needs of high-performance computing.

Many of the customer discussions in the Mentor booth echoed the theme of the keynote, with emphasis on the disruptive impact on high-density advanced packaging (HDAP), and the key challenges of heterogeneous  planning and implementation of multi-die packages, as well as verification (DRC, LVS, LVL) of 2.5D/3D package assemblies.  Customers were very interested in learning about our new IC package design solution, and Calibre 3DSTACK and how it provides the key to heterogeneous package design challenges.

31 May, 2017

Congratulations! You used the tools and techniques described in part one of this blog series on component libraries, Finding the Perfect Part, to research and find the perfect part to meet your design requirements. Now you need that part available in your component library as quickly as possible. To recap from part one, every hardware engineer at some point will encounter one or both of the following situations:

  1. Struggling to find the perfect part to meet design requirements
  2. Not being able to create the perfect part in an efficient and timely manner

You’ve passed the first hurdle, now what are your options to create the perfect part in an efficient and timely manner?

When creating the perfect part, hardware engineers and librarians need tools and techniques that:

  • Reduce the amount of time spent building the symbol and footprint
  • Provide a correct-by-construction methodology
  • Allow for association of electrical and/or mechanical models
  • Provide ECAD data import options directly from the part search/research portal
  • Allow for parametric entry of part information
  • Are compliant with the latest IPC, JEDEC and ANSII standards
  • Contain high quality information, eliminating frustration with issues such as incorrect part numbers, pin number errors or part attribute errors to name just a few
  • Include features to help keep track of parts and also to create custom project folders
  • Use a secure and release-independent format for conveying the component data
  • Support both vendor created and custom created footprints that can be adjusted to your manufacturing process

In the Mentor Xpedition flow, the PartQuest component portal delivers all of the above listed features. PartQuest contains symbols and footprints for over 850,000 Digi-Key® parts, and all of the schematic symbols and PCB footprints are ready to import into Xpedition using the Enterprise Data eXchange or EDX data format.

Two videos, How to Use PartQuest with Xpedition and PartQuest – Build Parts with Footprints demonstrate how PartQuest is used to deliver components for your project. The PartQuest portal includes access to a community that not only provides a discussion forum, but also includes detailed documentation and how-to videos.

Thanks for following along during this two part series on component libraries. Hopefully you have gained insights into how you and your team can use PartQuest to quickly and efficiently find and create the perfect part!

26 May, 2017

If you’re coming or planning on coming to DAC this June and interested in HDAP such as FO-WLP then you need to join us on Thursday for an exciting seminar.

On Thursday 22nd June Mentor will be hosting a half-day morning seminar focused on HDAP with specific focus on FO-WLP. Join us and listen to two informative industry guest speakers, hear from Mentor on its latest technologies and solutions for FO-WLP and HDAP and see live technology demonstrations.

Interested, sign-up here as seats are limited and going fast. We even provide a nice lunch to round off the event!!


We look forward to seeing and talking with you!!

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24 May, 2017

If you’re planning to attend ECTC’2017 next week, then stop by the Mentor booth, #521, to talk with some of EDA’s foremost experts in High Density Advanced Packaging (HDAP) and multi-substrate co-design. Swap stories, ask tough questions, and find out why Mentor has the best flow for HDAP, from connectivity capture and prototyping through to detailed design, verification and sign off. Find out more about ECTC’2017 at http://www.ectc.net/

17 May, 2017

The component library. It’s at the heart of every product development process. At a minimum, it contains logical symbols for schematic design and physical footprints for PCB layout. Many companies also include some level of digital and/or analog and/or RF models to facilitate electrical simulation; and in recent years 3D models for ECAD/MCAD co-design have become more commonplace. Yet with all of the time and effort that companies invest into the component library, every hardware engineer at some point will still encounter one or both of the following situations:

  1. Struggling to find the perfect part to meet design requirements
  2. Not being able to create the perfect part in an efficient and timely manner

In this two part series on component library, we will examine tools and techniques to address both of these situations. This first part looks at the first situation above, struggling to find the perfect part to meet design requirements.

When searching for the perfect part, hardware engineers need a tool (best case a portal) that will:

  • Reduce the amount of time spent performing component research
  • Provide direct access to industry leading component distributors
  • Include extensive search options that allow for both search and research
  • Clearly convey all part attributes, such as tolerance, operating temperature, and size (including height)
  • Contain high quality information, eliminating frustration with issues, like incorrect part numbers, pin number errors, or part attribute errors to name just a few
  • Provide one-stop access to hundreds of thousands of different components from hundreds of different component suppliers
  • Include features to help keep track of parts and also to create custom project folder

In the Mentor Xpedition flow, the PartQuest component portal delivers all of the above listed features. PartQuest contains symbols and footprints for over 850,000 Digi-Key® parts. The search engine is designed to provide an intuitive and straightforward method to find the perfect part(s) in the Digi-Key database. All of the parts include schematic symbols and PCB footprints that are ready to import into Xpedition.

A short video, PartQuest: Connecting Part Suppliers with Mentor PCB Tools demonstrates the portals powerful and easy to use search and research functionality. The PartQuest portal includes access to a community that not only provides a discussion forum, but also includes detailed documentation and how-to videos.

Please be sure to check back in a few weeks when we continue this discussion and examine how, after finding the perfect part, you can then move on to creating the perfect part!

27 April, 2017

The first three parts of this series on concurrent engineering discussed the key features associated with systems that support real-time concurrent schematic design, collaborative management of design constraints, and concurrent PCB layout. In each case, we focused on tool-based concurrency, where multiple team members work on the same design object simultaneously. In this fourth part, we’ll wrap up the series by examining flow-based concurrency, where multiple team members work on multiple design objects simultaneously. Flow based concurrency has the potential to both reduce total design time and minimize the impact of frequent ECO’s.

While tool-based concurrency is important at particular points in the design, flow-based concurrency is critical throughout the entire design process to properly manage changes occurring simultaneously in multiple tools. For example, an electrical engineer may add or delete components resulting in connectivity changes that must be reflected in the board by forward annotation.  Alternatively, a PCB designer may perform pin/gate swapping or trace tuning, resulting in changes that must be reflected in the schematic, and potentially in the constraints. Managing these interactions is no trivial task, given the various disciplines interacting with design objects. In the real-time concurrency approach supported by Xpedition, functionality embedded in the flow automatically maintains the status of design data between the various tools. This automated functionality allows all team members to work concurrently without worrying about design synchronization issues. As the design progresses, the various design disciplines can easily incorporate changes into their design session at times that best suit their particular design process.  In the example of the schematic and PCB, project synchronization is maintained via indicator lights in the status bar of both applications (Fig. 1) that provide for immediate notification of pending changes.

Fig. 1 – Design synchronization indicator lights in Layout

In order to maximize the competitive advantage that can be realized through the utilization of this product development process, design teams need to be aware of concurrent engineering best practices, including:

  • Ensure that all team members have access to a tool suite that truly supports a team-based design model.
  • Communication is still essential. In a concurrent flow, any action taken in any tool has the potential to impact everyone on the project team.
  • Disruptive updates, such as a significant ECO, should ideally be coordinated to minimize design cycle interrupts that impact all members working concurrently.
  • Everyone has their own style for designing, as such team members should resist the urge to recreate/change the work of others, lest the gains of concurrency can quickly be lost.

In the real-time concurrent engineering approach supported by Xpedition, not only can all tasks occur simultaneously, but multiple individuals can also simultaneously contribute to each task. The ability to both perform tasks in parallel and to shorten the duration of each task can significantly reduce the product development schedule and improve time to market.

A webinar, Concurrent Engineering for a Sustainable Competitive Advantage, is available for more in-depth information, as is an article recently published in SemiWiki.com entitled The 4C’s of PCB Design.

Thanks for following along during this four-part series. Hopefully you have gained insights into how concurrent engineering can be used to accelerate and improve the product development process through value-added and automatically managed collaboration from concept through to manufacturing!

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