What Is Electronic Design And How Can This Process Can Be Automated?

Electronic design is one of the most important stages of PCB design. But what is the electronic design itself, what stages does it include, and how can we improve such a process? This article will reveal all these facts to you.

What Is Electronic Design?

Electronic design usually refers to electronic circuit design. It involves analysis and outlining the approximate placement of the elements taking into account the rules on the printed circuit board (PCB). Consequently, the electronic design is one of the stages of PCB design.

 

What Are The Methods Of Electronic Design?

Electronic design can be performed in two ways: manually or with software. A particular method of performing electronic design is usually chosen according to the circuit’s complexity: the more complex circuit, the more software is necessary.

There distinguish two types of circuits: linear and non-linear (complex). A linear circuit is a simple model of how the elements are placed on the PCB. In this case, the circuit outputs depend on the inputs linearly so that they can be checked manually without any additional tools or software. In case of the simple non-linear circuit, manual analysis is also possible. The software is required when the manual method is insufficient.

 

How To Automate The Process Of Electronic Design?

Nowadays, automation is a must-have in any industry since it allows processing a higher amount of PCBs and requires less effort. So the manufacturing PCBs, including the electronic design stage, is no exception. Obviously, electronic design (EDA) automation is achieved by special machines and software that operates them. Such a process is also known as computer-aided design (CAD).

The automated process usually consists of the following stages:

  1. Design
  2. Simulation
  3. Analysis and verification
  4. Preparation for manufacturing
  5. Functional safety

Let’s take a look at each stage more precisely.

 

Design

Design flow includes these primary components:

  • High-level synthesis is a process of interpreting the behavioral algorithm of how register-transfer levels interact with each other into a digital model with the same behavior
  • Logic synthesis is a computer-generated translation of RTL design into a separate netlist that represents logic gates
  • The schematic capturing process refers to creating the circuit schematic by a designer.
  • The layout is a vital step in design flow since it implies setting all the necessary components at dedicated places

 

Simulation

The simulation stage may include these processes:

  • Transistor simulation checks the accuracy, integrity, and behavior of the previously designed circuits
  • Logic simulation refers to predicting the behavior of the circuit
  • Simulation of behavior is a high-level architectural operation simulation of the design
  • Hardware emulation is a simulation of the behavior of one or a few hardware pieces with another one
  • Technology computer-aided design refers to the fabrication of conductors and operation of semiconductors
  • An electromagnetic field solver is a special software where the equation of Maxwell is calculated

Analysis and verification

The analysis and verification stage includes these operations:

  • Functional verification is verifying whether the logic schematic  meets the requirements of the specification
  • CDC (Clock domain-crossing verification) checks whether there exist any potential issues such as signal loss
  • Formal verification refers to a mathematical check of the presence of particular properties in the system and the absence of any potential issues
  • Equivalence check refers to comparing algorithm of RTL description and gate netlist
  • STA (Static timing analysis) refers to measuring the time in a digital circuit and defining the worst possible one
  • Physical verification refers to verifying whether the prototype physically allows all the components to be installed in their places without disturbing the other ones

 

Preparation for manufacturing

Preparation for manufacturing has several steps:

  • MDP (Mask Data Preparation) is layout post-processing that implies interpreting the file with the design into a set of guides for further manufacturing
  • Resolution enhancement is a method of improving the quality of the final prototype
  • OPC (Optical proximity correction) is an enhancement that is used for compensating any image errors for further manufacturing accuracy
  • Automatic test pattern generation is used for generating the most significant possible number of logic-gates and their components
  • BIT (Built-in test) is a self-testing by specific criteria

 

Functional safety

Functional safety consists of analysis, synthesis, and verification.

  • Functional safety analysis ensures that the ready product won’t have any shorts, missing components, etc.
  • Functional safety synthesis is enhancing the existing model so it can detect any issue easier
  • Functional safety verification ensures that the ready system reacts appropriately to any fault

History Of EDA

Initially, the electronic design and layout were made manually. In a while, there appeared some geometric software where the monochromatic images were generated for Gerber photoplotters. However, that software was able only to digitalize the schematic that was manually drawn.

There appeared some first routing software that allowed automating electronic design process starting from the middle of the 1970s. In particular, it was able to layout the components and drew the circuit routes.

At the beginning of the 1980s, the publication about VLSI has changed all electronic design principles.

This publication introduced a method that allowed programming languages to compile straight on silicon.

Meanwhile, the earliest prototypes of software for electronic design were developed for academic purposes. These facts triggered the development of commercial EDA.

 

Nowadays, chip and electronic design is an essential process for the majority of industries. And it doesn’t concern only military or space industries, since it’s crucial for everyday usage. Such manufacture requires particular expertise and experience. That is why not every factory can deal with it. And suppose you are looking for a trustworthy partner who can provide you with quality-made electronic design or even a complete cycle PCB manufacturing. In that case, Axonim is the one who can assist you with it.