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3D physics within 2D circuits

By combining 2D circuit design with 3D physics-based models of certain circuit components, engineers can develop simulations that are much more true to the real

world. Paul Schreier looks at a few companies who are spearheading developments in this area

developed using a schematic capture and simulation system, and tested in software before initial prototype circuits are built on a printed circuit board. IC designs are a more extreme version of the same process, because producing prototype silicon is costly, so extensive software simulations are


readboarding circuits has long since been replaced, to a large extent, with circuit simulators. Modern circuit designs are generally

performed before fabricating prototypes. One of the best-known circuit simulators

is SPICE, which has been in use for decades. With it, you describe the circuit with a series of models in a script (or ‘deck’), and the results are voltages and currents at every circuit node. However, simulations are only as accurate as the device models – and, for complex circuits or subtle behavior, results can be misleading or incorrect. The results can also be deceiving, because they’re

generally free of noise, crosstalk interference, etc., unless you make a point of including them in the models. Also, SPICE isn’t the best predictor of component failures.

SPICE alone won’t do the trick Today, though, many more aspects must be considered beyond just the parameters encapsulated in a SPICE model. A whitepaper from Ansys(1)

states that simulation is a

proven way to move beyond evaluating a single design parameter to evaluating the interaction between limitless design parameters across electrical, thermal and mechanical engineering disciplines. Obviously, for example, powerful electronics components crammed into tighter spaces must not be allowed to overheat. On the mechanical front, how do shock and vibration loads affect a component’s reliability?

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