Many years ago, digital and analog design flows diverged, with digital design benefiting from increasing levels of automation and more importantly separation between the front-end design process and the back-end design process. While digital design still requires linkages between the front and back end, they are well defined and the existing flows handle them in a straightforward manner. The same cannot be said for analog design. Despite the many advances in custom layout tools and improvements in the entire analog design flow, the dependencies between front-end and back-end have remained challenging along with the intricacies required in analog layout on its own.
Pulsic has a long history of providing design tools that can help improve the quality of custom digital designs and have recently turned their focus to solving the long-standing challenges of automating the analog design process. Their Animate Preview product can be used right from inside the Cadence schematic editor to begin creating and understanding the circuit layout. Because layout considerations are critical to design success, having insight and control of the physical design helps speed up the process and improve final design quality at the same time.
Paul Clewes of Pulsic gave me a detailed look at Animate Preview and talked about their upcoming webinar on April 15th. Animate is integrated with Virtuoso and when launched adds a preview window in the lower left corner of the schematic editing view. Animate will automatically detect when an analog circuit is loaded and then identify common structures such as differential pairs, current mirrors, matched pairs, etc. Animate will generate a layout on the fly and display it in the preview window.
Quite a lot happens when this layout is generated. Users do not need to specify constraints, the current technology information is used to create DRC correct results. The resulting layout is DRC correct and fully compatible and editable in Virtuoso. Because Animate is aware of the structures mentioned above, it is smart when it comes to placing devices. The webinar will show several examples of how Animate intelligently places devices to ensure optimal circuit operations.
Analog circuit designers can get quick and accurate area estimates and can then go into the Animate user interface to easily and graphically control device placement, guard ring configuration, dummy device location, etc. It is easy to modify the guard rings and dummy devices as well as control relative positions for devices. Each change made in the user interface triggers an update to the layout inside of Animate.
Users can also select from a variety of aspect ratios and also assign pins to the desired edge of the cell. Under the hood Animate is creating a DRC correct layout with proper spacing. From the user’s perspective it is a bit like using a drag and drop editor, but one intended for analog layout design. My first thought was about how WYSIWYG html editors hide the underlying html but let you move blocks easily to achieve the results you desire.
After talking with Paul, it was clear that Pulsic is onto something with Animate Preview. Because the layout of analog circuits is so important during circuit design, giving the circuit designer a tool to see and control the layout is going to help immensely. A lot of companies have taken a run at solving this problem, but there is a subtle combination of automation and direct control required to come up with a feasible solution. To make your own assessment of how useful this might be, feel free to watch the video here.
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