My last blog post introduced the notion of "product creation," which looks beyond the chip and the board - the traditional focal points of EDA - to also consider software, mechanical enclosures, and everything else required to produce an actual product by semiconductor vendors and OEMs. That includes cross-geography design team collaboration, design data integration into corporate systems, and supply chain collaboration. This post looks more closely at how suppliers of PCB and IC packaging tools can provide more value in overall product creation, and notes several steps Cadence has taken.
The EDA industry, said Keith Felton, product marketing group director for PCB and IC packaging at Cadence, has traditionally focused only on hardware design. But that is only one part of the problem. EDA tools let designers draw schematics, but they don't provide a conceptual, architectural "design authoring" environment that can start with the complete system and then partition it into the various fabrics needed to construct it. The EDA industry is just starting to address aspects of embedded software. And EDA tools generally don't help designers integrate electronics hardware into a mechanical enclosure.
Further, hardware design is typically done by geographically dispersed teams, and most EDA tools are not designed to enable that, Felton noted. Product lifecycle management (PLM) systems often lack metrics and data that need to come from the design environment, making real-time decision making difficult. "We don't want to replace MCAD and PLM vendors," Felton said. "We want to build a bridge to meet them halfway across the river, and we want to own part of that bridge."
One place to start is by connecting hardware development to corporate data systems, as shown in the diagram below. This integration makes it possible to manage cost and quality, support on-time release to manufacturing, and capture information needed to acquire supplies such as components, connectors and cables.
Specifically, Felton identified these focus areas for product creation:
- Design Authoring and Implementation. Instead of just drawing schematics, draw the logical definition of a complete system using a "system-level intent authoring environment." Then partition the system description and run analysis tools.
- Design and Supply Chain Collaboration. Support geographically distributed teams, concurrent co-design, and library data management. Offer a direct interface between PLM systems and design authoring tools, or use an "ECAD collaborative workbench" to facilitate this connection. Feed metric information about ECOs and other design status issues into business decision systems.
- Electrical Verification and Signoff. With the acquisition of Sigrity in July 2012, Cadence can now provide detailed, comprehensive signal integrity and power verification across chip, package and board.
- Moving Design Data to Manufacturing. The IPC-2581 data transfer standard promises a single, intelligent, vendor-neutral pathway from design to manufacturing. In 2011 Cadence led the effort to create the IPC-2581 Consortium, which is leading the validation, adoption, and improvement of this new industry standard. More could be done. As Felton noted, a different set of vendors helps schedule assembly lines, procure materials and supplies, and manage resources on the shop floor. Why not partner with them to better move data from hardware design into assembly and fabrication?
Cadence is taking some steps towards product creation with its Allegro PCB and IC packaging tools. In the recent 16.6 release, Allegro Design Workbench allows designers to plug into corporate data management and PLM systems through Microsoft SharePoint. This can help provide better information about materials, availability, preferred vendors, and more. And most customers already have SharePoint in house.
The 16.6 release also provides PCB/enclosure co-design through an ECAD-MCAD flow based on EDMD schema version 2.0, a proStep iViP standard. Meanwhile, Cadence is building tighter links to mechanical CAD through partnerships with PTC and Siemens. As a result, Felton said, mechanical and electrical engineers will be able to track and exchange changes more easily.
The IPC-2581 data standard also represents an important step towards product creation. New products cannot start generating revenue in a timely fashion if they cannot move from design to manufacturing, and through the manufacturing process, quickly and smoothly. Before IPC-2581, PCB designers were forced to use multiple files and various proprietary formats to move data from design to manufacturing. As a single, open, vendor-neutral pathway to manufacturing, IPC-2581 is attracting broad industry support. An October 2012 blog post provides an update on the status of IPC-2581.
"How do we move up the food chain, and how much further can we help our customers in their entire product creation process?" Felton asked. "If we can move beyond system hardware into helping them design mechanical enclosures, helping them move data into their business systems, and helping them integrate their supplier connections, we will be in a position to provide far more value than companies that are solely focused on hardware creation."