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Agilent software promises smoother RF design

ADS, the modeling package used by GaAs manufacturers worldwide, now also simulates electromagnetic interactions in three dimensions, helping to avoid packaging issues than can scupper well-designed RFICs.

Agilent has extended its Advanced Design System (ADS) software to include full 3D electromagnetic simulation, promising to improve the speed and accuracy of RF chip-making.

“ADS 2008 Update 2” from Agilent EESof EDA enables users to model the effects of packaging a RFIC without having to resort to standalone tools.

“Using different tools can lead to inefficiency in the design process and unforeseen errors in the design,” Jack Sifri, MMIC design specialist at Agilent EESof told compoundsemiconductor.net.

“MMIC designers are continually challenged to reduce costs and get their devices to market fast. The integration of the Electromagnetic Design System (EMDS) into ADS enables them to address these challenges head-on.”

Agilent anticipates the most common applications of EMDS to be in RF modules based on low-temperature co-fired ceramics and laminates with embedded passive structures.

“It s important to verify the MMIC prior to wafer fabrication,” Sifri said. “What good does it serve if it fails its intended specification when you mount it in a package and insert the bond wires?”

To gauge the accuracy of EMDS validations, Agilent offers a large collection of data comparing measured results with outputs from its simulations.

Existing incarnations of ADS claim around 70 percent market share of all electronic design automation software used by compound semiconductor companies globally, Agilent estimates. Sifri says that all the large GaAs power amplifier vendors are major users, while foundries partner with Agilent to develop process design kits for their customers using ADS. He also estimates that compound semiconductor users outweigh silicon users 10:1.

One of the key features of ADS, Sifri points out, is its statistical design capability. This function produces yield sensitivity histograms that help pinpoint sensitive components in a circuit, delivering high yields first time. Also, rather than allowing small changes in manufacturing processes to increase the proportion of sub-standard devices produced, Sifri says ADS statistical design tools make circuits “immune to process variation”.

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