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Cloud Simulators: Powerful Engineering Design Tools Accessible to All

Key Takeaways

  • Circuit simulation and analysis tools in today’s PCB design workflow.

  • What you can expect from using cloud simulators and analysis tools.

  • Where will the power and versatility of cloud simulators take us next?

Simulation using a cloud simulator

With the power of cloud simulators, we may be poised for a new era of home workshop innovations

Although literature and the cinema are replete with stories of do-it-yourself geniuses creating amazing inventions at home, the truth is somewhat different. In Back to the Future, Doc Brown built a time machine out of a DeLorean with the tools on his workbench, but actual electronic developments require more than just a soldering iron and some wire-cutters. To design today’s complex circuitry takes a lot of computer simulation power, and most of us simply don’t have a server farm in our garage to support that level of analysis. Fortunately, there is hope for designers worldwide, not just those at-home DIY inventors tinkering with a Flux Capacitor.

Through the power of cloud computing, engineers can leverage the benefits of simulation and analysis tools no matter where they are. Whether at home or in the office, designers no longer have to wait for slow computers to finish their simulations or set up complex and costly workstations just to complete their work. Cloud simulators give engineers the power they need for advanced design analysis and provide a host of other essential benefits. This article will explore those benefits and paint a picture of what you can expect when you use the power of the cloud in your circuit simulations.

Better Circuit Simulation and Analysis 

As electronic designs increase in their complexity, the need for circuit simulation and analysis during design continues to grow. While breadboarding and prototyping is still an integral part of the design process, engineers need the immediate solutions that simulation tools provide to keep on schedule and within budget. Using circuit simulators, for instance, can solve many design questions during schematic capture that used to require a physical layout of the board for testing. Engineers will also turn to RF, high-speed, and power analysis tools to fine-tune their designs before they go out for manufacturing.

However, for all their benefits, these tools have some liabilities that must be overcome:

  • Hardware: Simulation and analysis tools require a lot of computing power, which typically means they have to be run in the office on engineering workstations. While remote options exist, they are often slow and require extensive IT involvement to set up and run.
  • Licensing: Simulators often run off licenses within the company network that have to be shared between designers, an option that is complicated when running remotely.
  • OS: Simulation tools are also constrained to a specific operating system, limiting the hardware options designers can use.
  • Process: Having to share hardware and licenses can force engineers to wait for tool availability in a multi-step design process.
  • Data management: Electronic design always generates an abundance of data, and simulation and analysis only add to the amount of information that must be carefully managed. Now, with the addition of designers working remotely, the problem only intensifies. 

These constraints can slow the design process down and create some real frustrations for engineers using tools remotely. In some instances, it can take several weeks to juggle tool availability to set up the simulation, run the analysis, and then interpret the results. And while larger companies may overcome these problems with additional licenses, hardware, and cost, where does that leave designers working for smaller companies or on their own? Fortunately, there is an answer to the constraints associated with using simulation and analysis tools by leveraging cloud-based computation power.

What You Can Expect From Cloud Simulators

With cloud-based computing, electronic design simulators and analysis tools can overcome the difficulties that currently cause problems for users. Consider the following examples:

Hardware Requirements

Instead of spending money on workstation computers, design engineers will simply need a system with a good display to connect them to the cloud. Workstation power is not required because the “heavy-lifting” of the simulators will be done through the power of cloud computing and cloud software. Using the cloud for electronic simulation and analysis removes the hardware constraints that hold many engineers back from running their own design simulations.

Operating System

With the ability to choose their own hardware, such as a generic laptop, design engineers will also be able to use whichever operating system they prefer. The requirement for using a specific operating system to support the high-end simulation and analysis tools will be removed, as cloud simulators operate system-independent. Additionally, the infrastructure of the cloud and product data management tools will help ensure the security of simulation and design data.

Design Process

As we have discussed, cloud simulators and other cloud design tools, such as schematic capture and PCB layout, do not require the use of engineering workstations. Instead, thanks to the power of the cloud, engineers are free to open up as many different design applications as necessary and run a co-design process on standard computer hardware. The cloud enables a true design and simulation co-process, bringing simulation and analysis closer to the engineering workflow as opposed to the traditional multi-step design process. With the advantages of cloud simulators, cloud-based data management, and other cloud design tools, a new level of engineering becomes possible.

 Simulation and analysis tool

Cloud simulators can help democratize high-end simulators to every engineer

Where Do We Go From Here?

The use of cloud simulators and analysis tools in electronics design will open the door to the next level of engineering. Designers who had limited access to these tools will now be able to fully incorporate the benefits of circuit simulation and design analysis into their current process with cloud computing. These tools will give engineers the ability to accomplish more in less time with greater precision and accuracy. With access to cloud tools, high-end simulators can be democratized to every engineer and not just those with access to the resources of a large corporation.

Cloud simulators can also potentially change how engineers accomplish their goals by augmenting the design workflow. Instead of creating a design based on previous work or experience and then validating it with simulation, engineers can incorporate simulation results as part of their design flow using cloud-based tools. With cloud simulators, engineers can continuously run side-by-side microsimulations of their design without inhibiting the design process. The future of electronic design is looking better than ever, thanks to the benefits afforded by cloud simulators.

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