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Electronic CAD (ECAD) or Electronic design automation (EDA) tools for aerospace and defense electronics

In today’s world, engineering plays a part in almost everything that surrounds us, and with innovations continuously being brought to market, engineering is experiencing a steady growth extending to all of its wide-ranging facets. Further, the increasing demand for advanced electronic devices with complex designs, and the need to reduce the size while improving the performance of ICs, compels IC manufacturers to increase their R&D investments and adopt EDA tools.


The electronics industry is fast approaching a new era of digital transfor­mation. 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.


Electronic products must meet strict guidelines for their intended operating environments as well as for manufacturability, and in a number of industries products have to meet a set of complicated regulatory standards. To overcome these complexities, a next-generation design platform must support integration, shared data and improved intelligence. Integration across design processes and disciplines optimizes resources to reduce development time and cost.


Modern Semiconductor chips are incredibly complex. State-of-the-art devices can contain over one billion circuit elements. All of these elements can interact with each other in subtle ways, and variation in the manufacturing process can introduce more subtle interactions and changes in behavior. There is simply no way to manage this level of complexity without sophisticated automation, and EDA provides this critical technology. Without it, it would be impossible to design and manufacture today’s semiconductor devices.


Electronic design automation (EDA)

Electronic design automation (EDA), also referred to as electronic computer-aided design (ECAD), is a category of software tools for designing electronic systems such as integrated circuits and printed circuit boards. The tools work together in a design flow that chip designers use to design and analyze entire semiconductor chips. Electronic design automation (EDA) is the name now applied to all of the CAE and CAD tools used to design electronic components and systems.


The electronic design automation (EDA) industry produces tools that assist in the specification, design, verification, implementation and test of electronic systems. These systems can be fabricated as either an integrated circuit, or multiple of them mounted on a printed circuit board.


Electronic design automation tools have largely replaced manual methods for circuit board and semiconductor design techniques. In the past, technicians used tools like a photoplotter to render drawings of circuit boards and electronic components. In the early days, integrated circuits were designed by hand, but as the size of the designs grew, automation was required. The earliest tools assisted with drafting the design, quickly followed by tools that helped with place and route and functional verification.


Electronic design automation has really improved the construction of electronic components, mainly through universal design techniques that eliminate different kinds of bugs or defects in chips, circuit boards, etc. In general, these tools have standardized and streamlined the creation of circuit boards and chips through automation processes.


It is also worth noting that the cost of an error in a manufactured chip can be catastrophic. Chips errors cannot be “patched.” The entire chip must be re-designed and re-manufactured. The time and cost of this process is often too long and too expensive, resulting in a failure of the entire project. So, the complexity to design chips is high and the need to do it flawlessly is also required.


EDA tools reduce development time and cost because they allow designs to be simulated and analyzed prior to purchasing and manufacturing hardware. Once a design has been proven through drawings, simulations, and analysis, the system can be manufactured. Applications used in manufacturing are known as computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) tools. CAM tools use software programs and design data (generated by the CAE tools) to control automated manufacturing machinery to turn a design concept into reality.

Electronic Design Automation (EDA) and Electronic Computer-aided Design Software (ECAD) Selection Guide | Engineering360

Computer-aided engineering and Computer-Aided Design

Electronic Computer-Aided Design (ECAD) systems support the design and analysis of the electronic elements of the product. The availability of online libraries of component data and integration of circuit simulation functionality make the verification of design decisions fast and accurate. The systems can then take the completed design and aid the designer in producing a PCB layout significantly quicker than the traditional manual processes

Visual representations of the completed layout can also be created to provide component placing information for enclosure clearance verification, thermal analysis and to support electronics manufacturing processes. Feedback from these supporting engineering activities can be integrated back into the circuit design process to adjust, refine or redesign elements after identifying conflicts or issues.

ECAD software

In the development process, ECAD software can be used to:

  • Explore different iterations of a PCB, either abstractly as a diagram or in full detail as a layout or 3D assembly. Users can build out different alternatives and options, comparing them to each other.
  • Generate manufacturing documentation, which is released to manufacturing as part of the specification used to source, fabricate and produce PCBs.

Electronic Design Automation is primarily a software business. Very sophisticated and complex software programs function primarily in one of three ways to assist with the design and manufacture of chips:

  • Simulation tools take a description of a proposed circuit and predict its behavior before is it implemented. This description is typically presented in a standard hardware description language such as Verilog or VHDL. Simulation tools model the behavior of circuit elements at various degrees of detail and perform various operations to predict the resultant behavior of the circuit. The level of detail required is dictated by the type of circuit being designed and its intended use. If a very large amount of input data must be processed, hardware approaches such as emulation or rapid prototyping are used.
  • Design tools take a description of a proposed circuit function and assemble the collection of circuit elements that implement that function. This is both a logical process (assemble and connect the circuit elements) and a physical process (create the interconnected geometric shapes that will implement the circuit during manufacturing). These tools are delivered as a combination of fully automated and interactively guided capabilities. Broadly this process is known as place and route. It can also take the form of an interactive process that is guided by a designer. This is called a custom layout.
  • Verification tools examine either the logical or physical representation of the chip to determine if the resultant design is connected correctly and will deliver the required performance. Physical verification examines the interconnected geometries to ensure their placement obeys the manufacturing requirements of the fab. These requirements have become very complex and can include far more than 10,000 rules. Verification can also take the form of comparing the implemented circuit to the original description to ensure it faithfully reflects the required function. Layout vs. schematic, or LVS, is an example of this process. Functional verification of a chip can also use simulation technology to compare actual behavior to expected behavior. These approaches are limited by the completeness of the input stimulus provided. Another approach is to verify the behavior of the circuit algorithmically, without the need for input stimulus. This approach is called equivalence checking and is a part of a discipline known as formal verification.

Diagramming capabilities allow engineers to define what electronic components are used and what signals are used to connect them. Engineers select components from a company-standardized library that is centrally controlled. Layout capabilities provide a means to create the PCB’s outline and dimensionally place components within its boundaries. These capabilities can be utilized in either 2D or 3D models.

Trace Routing capabilities allow engineers to define the path the trace follows in a specific layer of the PCB between electronic components. This can be done in 2D or 3D, with switching between the layers of the PCB. The signals from the diagram, which embody from-to information between components, are carried over into the layout, which defines where each component is placed on the PCB. Automation capabilities, which automatically routes traces from components to components based on interconnect information, is available. This can be done initially and then customized

3D Assembly capabilities provide a way to create a 3D model of the PCB. These models are often used to check for interference within an enclosure as well as checking for managing the dissipation of heat from the electronic components on the PCB.

Multi-Board design capabilities provide the capabilities to diagram and layout multiple PCBs that work together as a single system. IC and PCB Co-Design capabilities offer a means to assimilate Integrated Circuits (ICs) processors into the PCB, optimizing how traces connect to compact footprints. Concurrent Design capabilities enable multiple team members to work simultaneously on the same PCB or multi-board PCB design.



Global Electronic Design Automation Market

According to World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS), the semiconductor industry is expected to grow by 10.9% in 2021, which is a significant growth compared to the previous year’s growth, approximately amounting to USD 488 billion. The electronic design automation (EDA) market share will rise substantially due to rapid development of smart devices targeting a slew of business applications along with increased production of more efficient semiconductor products.


The global electronic design automation tools (EDA) market (hereafter referred to as the market studied) was valued at USD 11. 57 billion in 2020, and it is expected to reach USD 21. 36 billion by 2026, registering a CAGR of 10.


Growing demand for medical and surgical devices as well as consistent advancement of consumer electronics portfolio globally will strengthen the adoption of EDA tools over the projected timeframe.


AI and machine learning-based optimization

The upcoming trend of EDA toolset with machine learning capabilities along with the latest technology such as cloud, AI also contributes to the growth of the market studied. Significant investments that were made during the last couple of years which are aimed at empowering designers for the reduction of the number of errors, thereby saving significant time, are expected to produce results in the future.


For instance, in March 2020, Synopsys Inc. announced a discovery in electronic design technology with the introduction of (Design Space Optimization AI), the industry’s first autonomous AI application for chip design. The design space AI is part of a multiyear, company-wide initiative and strategic investment in AI-based design technology. The solution revolutionizes the process of searching for optimal solutions by enabling autonomous optimization of broad design spaces. Hence, such innovations are expected to support the market’s growth over the forecast period


For instance, in June 2020, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd announced the launch of the Samsung Advanced Foundry Ecosystem (SAFE) Cloud Design Platform (CDP) for fabless customers, in collaboration with Rescale, a leader in high-performance computing (HPC) applications in the cloud. SAFE CDP supports a very secure design condition that has been verified with cloud companies. In addition, customers can utilize various Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tools offered by multiple vendors such as Ansys, Cadence, Mentor (a Siemens business), and Synopsys.


With innovation and product development standing as the key parameter outlining competitive dynamics in the electronics sector, global electronic design automation (EDA) market will garner substantial momentum with the deployment of CAE services. There’s a model emerging for designing commercial decision systems such as EDA tools with embedded machine learning, writes David White, Cadence, an AI expert at Cadence. He stresses on the use of AI and other technologies to improve electronic design automation given that the cost, performance, and reliability of electronics is critical to the mission success of many systems and vehicles. There are also growing concerns about the cost of electronics development and processes related to the verification and support of next-generation AI chips, whether they use conventional or neuromorphic architectures.


Market Segments

Demand for automotive infotainment systems and mobile phones have transformed the manufacturing segment and brought about innovations in PCB design software to meet the changing requirements.


Expanding cloud and IoT space has driven technological progress in the semiconductor industry, encouraging companies to assemble multiple components on a single System-on-Chip, which entails highly complex designing of chips. The design complexity will only increase depending on evolving technology requirements.


Global electronic design automation market is poised to register significant gains from telecommunication applications, as the availability of faster networks create more challenges for chipmakers. EDA software and service providers will look to offer suitable design, verification and testing products for SoC aimed at 5G-compatible smartphones and IoT devices. Keysight Technologies is one such company which is offering a toolset for helping SoC manufacturers streamline 5G device workflow and perform the verification of 5G protocols faster.


5G technology is projected to transform connectivity and impact the pace of innovations in consumer appliances and industrial manufacturing. IoT devices developed for use in various enterprise landscapes will offer considerable opportunities for EDA tool providers to leverage the massive demand for semiconductors and printed circuit boards, as new telecommunication devices are built for imminent 5G deployment, including smartphones. Approximately 732 million smartphones had been purchased in Asia Pacific in 2018, suggesting a vast market for 5G-ready chips in the near future.


Increased utilization of various medical devices aimed at improving patient care will generate remarkable demand for electronic design automation tools required to build critical electronic products. Semiconductor chips are now being designed to suit healthcare applications like patient monitoring, fitness devices and wearables, among many other devices. U.S. spending on medical devices and in-vitro diagnostics had crossed USD 173.1 billion in 2016 alone and was expected to grow further, in conjunction with the robust growth of healthcare spending in the region.


5G Chipsets

IC physical design refers to the creation of geometric representations of ICs, using EDA tools. EDA is used to divide the chip into smaller blocks and then plan the specific space required for each block to ensure maximum performance. These blocks are then placed, using before and after clock synthesis.

The recent technological advancements have been helping several chipset manufacturers to make use of ASIC technology, mainly for 5G. The advent of structured ASIC, having elements of both ASICs and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA), like architecture, has led to the cost of production becoming cheaper when compared to full-blown ASIC which requires the addition of a modifiable layer on top of the base ASIC layer.

In fact, owing to such advantages, several chipset manufacturers and telecom OEMs have been expanding their operations toward constructing 5G chipsets with ASIC technology. For instance, Intel developed Diamond Mesa in January 2020, which is the first next-generation structured ASIC for 5G network acceleration.

Recently, Samsung has also developed 5G mmWave chipsets, which comprise digital/analog front-end (DAFE) ASICs. These are low in power consumption and compact in size, thus, proving to be beneficial for 5G chipsets.

Mediatek, one of the prominent vendors in the chipset market, claims that sales of the new 5G ASIC solutions, along with automotive chip solutions, will be responsible for 15% of its 2020 revenues, instead of the predicted earlier 10%. This is evident by the fact that the company launched ’Dimensity 800 Series’ chips for the premium yet mid-price range 5G smartphones in 2020.



The United States is a significant country in manufacturing, design, and research in the semiconductor industry. The region’s prominence drives the demand in exporting electronics equipment and growing end-user industries that are significant consumers of semiconductors, such as consumer electronics and the automotive industry. For instance, according to the SIA(Semiconductor Industry Association), the semiconductor industry employs nearly a quarter of a million workers in the United States. The US semiconductor company sales totaled USD 208 billion in 2020.


Asia Pacific electronic design automation (EDA) industry size is anticipated to experience a steady expansion over the forecast timeframe owing to widespread presence of electronics and automobile manufacturing companies, as well as a surge in the purchasing power of consumers.


The region has witnessed an unmatched rise in the adoption of smartphones and digitization of business processes, fueling deployment of electronic design automation software to cater to a booming consumer electronics manufacturing sector.


Proliferation of the manufacturing segment in U.S. has resulted from the development of modern production technologies and increased access to faster communication network over the past decade. The country is home to leading chipmakers like Qualcomm and numerous EDA software providers, which serve the consumer electronics, aerospace and automotive OEMs in the region. The U.S. consumer electronics sector is anticipated to reach USD 301 billion valuation in 2019, demonstrating the tremendous potential of EDA market from a higher demand for electronic products.


Several manufacturers in APAC have undertaken efforts for expanding beyond existing territories and boost production capacities for all electronic devices they make. For example, Taiwanese group Foxconn had recently purchased land use rights in Vietnam and invested a huge amount in an Indian subsidiary. Pegatron, which assembles around 30% of Apple Inc.’s products, had also announced plans to increase capacity in India, Indonesia and Vietnam. Higher production of electronic products and components will certainly propel APAC electronic design automation market forecast in the coming years.



Key players outlining the competitive hierarchy of global electronic design automation market include CadSoft Computer, Cadence Design Systems, Invionics, Xilinx, Inc., Synopsys, Inc., Keysight Technologies, Mentor Graphics and JEDA Technologies, among others. Mergers and acquisitions are being preferred by leading companies to expand their customer base and enhance products and services. Software providers are aiming to keep pace with consistently rising challenges in semiconductor IP design and verification, through continuous R&D efforts and higher investments.


June 2021 – Aldec Inc. launched HES-DVM Proto Cloud Edition (CE). It is available through Amazon Web Service (AWS); HES-DVM Proto CE can be used for FPGA-based prototyping of SoC / ASIC designs and focuses on automated design partitioning to greatly reduce bring-up time when up to four FPGAs are needed to accommodate a design.


May 2021 – Cadence Design Systems announced low-power IP for the PCI Express 5.0 specification that targets hyper-scale computing, networking, and storage applications that are made on TSMC N5 process technology. In addition, PCIe 5.0 technology consists of a PHY, companion controller, and Verification IP (VIP) targeted at SoC designs for very high bandwidth to suit the applications.


In June 2021, Taiwan-based Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd (TSMC) started construction at a site in Arizona where it plans to spend USD 12 billion to build a computer chip factory, which will start volume production of chips using the company’s 5-nanometer production technology starting in 2024. The company also announced a USD 100 billion investment plan in April 2021 to increase capacity at its factories over the next three years.


China planning to catch up in electronic design automation to spur its semiconductor efforts

The year-long trade war has shown that the Trump administration is willing to block Chinese access to everything from software to semiconductors to nuclear technology to slow China’s rise. Nowhere is this threat more evident than in semiconductors, after the US put one of China’s top companies, Huawei Technologies, on a trade blacklist that prevents American companies like Intel and Qualcomm from selling it chips.


China still imports 90 percent of its semiconductor components even though the industry became a national priority in 2000. Recently the Trump administration slapped a $1 billion fine on ZTE, which employs 75,000 people and is the world’s No. 4 maker of telecom gear, and to allow monitors to set up shop in its headquarters. In return, the company — once a symbol of China’s progress and engineering know-how — will be allowed to buy the American-made microchips, software and other tools it needs to survive. The recent ZTE incident made us see clearly that no matter how advanced our mobile payment is, without mobile devices, without microchips and operating systems, we can’t compete competently,” Pony Ma, chief executive of the Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings said  at a science forum.


The clarion call came in May 2018 when President Xi Jinping met the country’s top scientists and engineers and called for national self-reliance in core technologies and breakthroughs in key areas.


Ni Guangnan, former chief engineer of Lenovo Group and one of the most ardent proponents of self-sufficiency. Asked which are the weaker links in China’s self-reliance drive, Ni pointed to areas such as operating systems and electronic design automation. Ni conceded in an interview that there was “no need to reinvent the wheel” and duplicate what others had done, except if there were only one or two suppliers in a particular technology that could be vulnerable to being monopolised and used against China. In those cases, China has to assess the risk and decide whether to invest in developing the technology on its own, he said.


Most industry insiders interviewed agreed that China needed to step up investment in the semiconductor sector. Xie, the former SMIC vice-president, said the current expenditure level was a drop in the ocean compared with global industry leaders like Intel, which spends US$13 billion a year on R&D.


China’s industry watchdog has stepped up its efforts to support the development of chips over the past two years,” said Wayne Dai, founder and chief executive of chip design services company VeriSilicon. The new Shanghai tech board also “offers an excellent fundraising platform to attract more and more talented entrepreneurs”. Dai predicts that China will enter a “golden decade” for chip development, with the country producing 40 per cent of the chips that it needs by the end of the decade, up from 14 per cent now.


Verific and DARPA Sign Partnership for Streamlined Access to Industry-Standard SystemVerilog EDA Software

Verific Design Automation  announced in Dec 2020 a partnership agreement with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to provide the DARPA community access to its electronic design automation (EDA) software in production and development use throughout the semiconductor industry. Driven by the DARPA Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI) to forge collaborations among commercial electronics companies, the agreement offers the DARPA community use of Verific’s hardware description language (HDL) software for the duration of their programs.


“Our support of academic use over the years has been on an ad-hoc basis,” remarks Michiel Ligthart, president and chief operating officer of Verific. “This agreement provides DARPA-funded programs easy and streamlined access to our industry-standard SystemVerilog parsers and elaborators, cracking open ways to meet DARPA’s goal to innovate a fourth wave of electronics progress.”


Specific tools covered under the agreement are Verific’s SystemVerilog parser and static and register transfer logic (RTL) elaborators, already serving as front-end for simulation, formal verification, synthesis, emulation, virtual prototyping, in-circuit debug and design for test applications worldwide. For years, Verific’s Parser Platforms have given engineering groups a way to eliminate costly internal development of front-end EDA software, accelerating time to market with improved quality.


Currently, more than 20 DARPA-funded programs promote U.S. microelectronics leadership, including some using low-cost, predictably priced tools such as Verific’s software. “DARPA’s programs within the Microsystems Technology Office (MTO) are a bold accelerator of several technical and economic trends in the microelectronics sector,” says Serge Leef, who leads design automation and secure hardware programs. “Giving DARPA’s community easy access to proven, industrial-strength, best-in-class software frameworks enables the researchers to tightly focus on scientific advances while improving the path to a smooth transition of their breakthrough discoveries into commercial and defense applications.”


Verific’s SystemVerilog, VHDL and universal power format (UPF) Parser Platforms are in production and development flows at semiconductor companies worldwide, from emerging companies to established Fortune 500 vendors. Verific distributes its Parser Platforms as C++ source code and compiles on all 32- and 64-bit Unix, Linux, Mac OS and Windows operating systems.


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