Many of you know Matt Ozalas, RF Design Engineer at Keysight Technologies, and his infamous YouTube video series, How to Design an RF Power Amplifier. I got a chance to talk to him about what he’s most excited about in the latest ADS release.
Kaelly: I heard ADS 2017 is being called the “3D release”. What 3D capabilities are you excited for?
Matt: It’s 2017, we’ve got hoverboards and self-driving cars -- we should be designing in 3D by now, right? Besides the “wow” factor, some tasks are really useful to do in 3D. I think a lot of designers will feel the same way after trying the new capabilities in ADS 2017 out. In ADS 2017, those 3D capabilities span design, simulation, and visualization. So, physical design becomes more realistic early on, the simulation is easier to set up, the results are more accurate, and the analysis becomes more meaningful.
In ADS 2017, you can design a layout in three dimensions. You can route a trace or stitch a VIA more precisely in a dense module or chip, and you can select complex structures much more easily in 3D. This might seem trivial but we’ve all been in that spot where a VIA gets missed or the routing goes to the wrong layer and that causes big problems down the line. Designing in 3D prevents these mistakes from the outset. The 3D selection also helps if you’re trying to do an EM simulation, getting all the right structures selected is not always easy. You can even thermally simulate multiple technologies at the same time, like a chip stacked on a substrate. Let’s face it, no one can afford to overlook these things in the design process anymore, mistakes cost too much and reliability problems are too critical to leave to chance. Just ask those people making hoverboards.
Kaelly: Designers are always looking for ways to save time. Is ADS 2017 faster than its previous release?
Matt: Yes, let’s look at EM simulation for example. The Momentum 3D planar EM simulator now uses multi-threading for substrate calculations in ADS 2017. What does that mean? Well, typically substrate calculations only use one processor, but for example, your Windows machine probably has four processors. In ADS 2017, Momentum farms those calculations out to the different processors and so on that Windows machine, you will see a 4x speed improvement in the substrate calculation. By the way, in Momentum, the substrate calculation is usually the most time-consuming piece. Now, what about 3D Finite Element Method (FEM) Simulation? Well, in ADS 2017, this 3D engine has a turbo mode which distributes the simulation frequencies to different processors, and that of course, speeds up the simulation time dramatically.
Kaelly: I know there are many usability improvements in ADS 2017. Which ones are most exciting to you?
Matt: The way I look at it, no matter how good a capability is, if it isn’t easy to use, I probably won’t use it. So 3DEM simulation is faster, right? Great, but what about getting your design into that EM engine? If that takes too long, all the speed improvement is less meaningful. In ADS 2017, we looked closely at the EM setup process, like what steps designers take before they run an EM simulation. They set up a substrate, then perhaps if they want to analyze a sub design, they’ll cut that part out, remove unwanted metal, add ports, go play around with some EM settings, and finally click run. A lot of steps.
In ADS 2017, you will find that every one of those steps is easier. The substrate editor has a table definition feature which enables you to easily create and modify highly complicated substrates with lots of layers. A grouping capability allows you to much more easily group items you want to be modeled. There are even features that allow you to more easily place multiple ports and pins, and assemble and define ports. Separately, these features might not seem all that exciting, but put them together and the result is undeniable: fast and simple EM simulation setup.
Anyone who has ever used the ADS Electro-Thermal simulator knows that defining a substrate involves a text-based file, but not anymore. With ADS 2017, you can accomplish that task using the substrate editor. Just imagine how much easier it will be to visualize your thermal stackup using the substrate editor, rather than writing it into a cryptic text file.
Another great new feature in ADS 2017 is its multi-technology support (e.g., Chip on Package). In the past, if you had a chip that went into a board or module, you then had to simulate those two technologies. You could do it, for sure, with the ADS Electro-Thermal simulator, but it required a 3-page procedure and was impossibly difficult. With ADS 2017, that simulation of multiple technologies just works.
Kaelly: What’s the ADS Python Data Link that I keep hearing about?
Matt: I have been using this capability for all kinds of neat things. This is what I’m most excited about in ADS 2017. In essence, you can take your ADS simulation result and run it through a Python script by just using an equation in data display. The ADS data goes into Python, the script gets run, and the results come back to ADS in one step. It’s like hooking a rocket engine onto ADS Data Display – and the best part is you never have to leave the simulation environment. The possibilities are endless: 3D plotting, instrument connectivity, loadpull contours from measured data, all that stuff becomes easy to do, and you don’t even need to know Python to take advantage of it because the scripts already exist and they just run in the background. The best application I’ve seen of this feature so far is plotting ADS simulation data on a cylindrical 3D Smith Chart, called the “Smith Tube”. Look up the Smith Tube on IEEE Explore, it is so cool. It will change the way you think about circuit design – seriously!
Kaelly: Thanks Matt! I’ll have to check that out.
If you want specific information on any of the features Matt mentions, and some that he didn’t, check out the ADS 2017 release webpage.