PCB Design in the age of Digital Transformation
How the the role of PCB Designis changing in the development of electronics
What is PCB Design in an age of ever-accelerating Digital Transformation like this? Over the past six decades, thousands of companies in the tech sector have worked diligently to bring new, ever-more sophisticated electronic innovations to market daily, culminating in today’s age of digitalization. This is rapidly changing how we live, travel, conduct business and communicate, and how we manage PCB Design, of course. This pace of digital transformation will accelerate even more rapidly as more companies begin to incorporate innovations like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into their systems. They will allow to leverage and even monetize the exponentially increasing amount of data produced by seemingly “everything digital.”
How to design PCB
PCB design - which is increasingly PCB system design - is constantly challenged to adequately power and cool the new generation of increasingly complex and fast integrated circuits. Meanwhile, it must route and maintain the thermal integrity of every high-speed signal between ICs on a board. Rapidly, the challenges, and thus the technology to design and analyze them, must encompass all the boards on a system and be synchronized with related mechanical systems. Increasingly, design teams must deliver these ever more complex PCBs and interconnected electronic systems with a best-in-class performance at the lowest power possible and do so within shrinking time to market windows. But the challenges are not limited to design complexity and time-to-market pressure.
Siemens Digital Industries Software technologies uniquely enable customers to address product, organizational, and process complexities that have persistently hindered organizations from delivering PCBs and interconnected electronic systems on time with minimal revisions or respins. These technologies are Xpedition Enterprise and PADS Professional design flows as well as the tightly integrated HyperLynx and Valor NPI analysis suites.
5 capabilities for PCB Design
Five core transformational capabilities are required to deliver these keys to product differentiation, profitability, and faster time-to-market through PCB Design:
- Digitally integrated and optimized multi-domain design
- Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE)
- Digital-prototype driven verification
- Capacity, performance, productivity, efficiency
- Supplier strength and credibility
1. Digitally integrated and optimized multi-domain design
Companies must choose a PCB Design environment that not only scales with the complexities of design but also facilitates a Digital Thread that enables design teams and manufacturing to stay up to date on project status and collaborate worldwide across engineering domains.
A Digital Thread between design and manufacturing enables design and manufacturing teams to better collaborate to speed up the design process and minimize the respins. Streamlining the transition to manufacturing requires sharing a complete understanding of the product and enabling early downstream access to the data. Using a digitally integrated platform helps teams develop a complete and accurate multi-domain bill of materials that companies can easily integrate with a wide variety of other enterprise applications. Design teams can also develop templates that help teams enterprise-wide to reuse best practices and enforce standards.
2. Model-based systems engineering (MBSE)
To facilitate a system-of-systems mindset, many systems companies are turning to model-based systems engineering (MBSE), where sub-systems from the electrical, mechanical, and software domains – including PCB Design - are each functionally modeled and brought together in a comprehensive Digital Twin at a systems architecture level before design begins.
With an MBSE methodology, the architectures for the electronic sub-systems are extracted and communicated as a “bill-of-functions”, which are then used to drive the electronic system definition with appropriate configurations.
At the beginning of the process, the system's architects define all the external interfaces for harness and cable design. The electronics, defined through PCB Design, are then placed into their appropriate logical and subsequent physical design implementations.
The comprehensive Digital Twin allows engineers to start working on trade-offs in different domains from a functional level, earlier in the design cycle. Each of these trade-offs may have an impact in each of the individual domains. So the earlier it can be determined what tradeoffs work best for the overall product, the better the product will be. Furthermore, by looking at the entire system from a model-based systems perspective, teams can not only look at the electrical and functional trade-offs earlier in the design cycle but also product trade-offs that might be based on such things as weight, cost, or even available components.
3. Digital-prototype driven verification
To shorten time-to-market and maximize profitability, leading design teams perform analysis during the design process in iterative, short loops. This approach is preferred over-performing analysis only after the design has been completed or is in the lab after a physical prototype of the board or system has been assembled. Environments such as Xpedition allow design groups to perform analysis iteratively and create a digital prototype of their systems for much earlier analysis. Tools like PADS Professional allow smaller PCB Design teams to do the same.
What’s more, having a comprehensive system not only allows for localized iterative loops for correct-by-construction design but also facilitates broad system analysis. In today’s environment, it is no longer viable to analyze only a few individual parts of a design outside the context of the entire system. Performance must be analyzed and verified at the largest system level — from 3D electromagnetic modeling of complex design structures to the creation of multi-substrate, digital, system-level models that feed power-aware system-level signal analysis. Heterogeneous silicon integration and advanced IC packaging require true, system-level thermal analysis along with concurrent analysis, where IC thermal effects on packages and the corresponding PCB are modeled in the context of the entire system.
4. Capacity, performance, productivity, efficiency
The companies who have been most successful in making a Digital Transformation choose PCB Design environments that scale to their organization’s size, challenges, and design team expertise. In addition, the most sophisticated environments enable companies to catalog and leverage design reuse across their organization. In the IC design space, this has proven to have several benefits for reducing cost as well as design time by enabling the development of derivative designs across an organization.
5. Supplier strength and credibility
To embark upon a Digital Transformation and then continue to grow throughout that transformation to deliver generations of innovation to the market requires partnering with reliable suppliers. The latter not only have to offer leading solutions for today but also are committed to formulating new ways to make companies more successful.
Siemens and Cadlog are those suppliers. We can help companies realize their Digital Transformation by offering not only the industry’s most complete digitally integrated, next-generation systems design platform. We can also offer one that works seamlessly with manufacturing, PLM, and enterprise flows.
The electronics industry is fast approaching a new era of digital transfor- mation. In this new paradigm, digital technologies create new business processes, cultures, and customer experiences by bringing together all the aspects of product design, including mechanical and electrical, and streamlining the entire design process – from product inception all the way through to manufacturing.
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Ivano, at the forefront of electronics since the ‘80s, is Product Manager for the EDA (Electronic Design Automation) area. Managing projects in various European countries gives him a very broad vision of the market and its problems.
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