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A Shorter, Predictable Design Cycle for Complex PCBs -- Electrical Constraint Sets (ECSets)

Comments(0)Filed under: PCB Layout and routing, PCB design, Allegro PCB Editor, DDR3, Allegro, Allegro 16.3, "PCB design", Predictable PCB design, Constraint-driven PCB Design flow, ECSets, DDR2, XAUI

This is the first in a series of blogs focused on how you can make your design cycle predictable and shorter for PCB designs that are increasing in complexity. PCB designers have to deal with increased complexities while design teams are dispersed geographically, and the time to finish the design is continuing to shrink. Some of these PCB design trends are being fueled by the desire of consumers for smaller, cheaper, faster and more functional electronic products. This trend is not just limited to the high-end consumer electronics market segment.

One of the major contributors to the complexities on PCBs is the increase in the number of constraints on a net. A few years ago the metric used was number of nets that are constrained in a design. Each net at that time had a limited number of constraints. Now, with the increased use of standards based interfaces such as PCI Express, DDR2/3, and Serial ATA, the number of constraints on a net are also increasing. Additionally there are intra-group and inter-group constraints. For instance all the signals in a byte lane on a DDRx interface need to be matched within 50 mils of each other, and the byte lanes must be within 800 mils of each other.

With the increase in the number of constraints and complexities, you cannot just rely on a system that captures and stores constraints, like a fancy properties editor. What you need is a system that not only helps you create design intent (connectivity and constraints together), but also makes it easy to implement your PCB designs easily using these constraints. It should highlight any errors created during PCB implementation through netlist changes, from interactive etch edit to manufacturing prep. Real time feedback on basic constraints like inter- and intra-group constraints is important to avoid unpredictable design iterations at the tail end of the design flow right before going to manufacturing.

Creating and managing Electrical Constraint Sets (ECSets, for short) is easy with the Allegro PCB Design XL suite. This suite offers PCB designers the capability to “apply” the topologies specified in the ECSets. Topologies for today’s standards based interfaces like DDR2, QDR, XAUI often call out for T-Points and constraints for managing lengths/delays from Driver to the T-point. "Topology Apply" in the Allegro PCB Design XL suite automatically creates t-points, applies rules to a group of signals, and monitors adherence during design implementation of a complex PCB. Topologies in ECSets allow users to specify optional pins to reuse an ECSet to additional buses with same constraints with additional receivers on one or more nets in a bus.

To learn more about how you can use Allegro PCB Design XL suite to Apply Electrical Constraint Set (Topology Apply) to groups of nets (interfaces/buses) quickly and then monitor any violations during the design flow, watch this archived webinar -- Predictable, Shorter Design Cycles for Dense, Complex PCBs.   The webinar uses real design data to show how you can use this capability in the Allegro PCB Design XL suite to shorten your design cycle while making it more predictable.

Feel free to comment or ask any questions about this topic. You can also send email directly to me at shah@cadence.com for a private exchange of information or queries.



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