Russell Mohnis the Co-Founder and Director of RF/AMS Design at InPlay Inc. and his team has been using WiCkeD from MunEDA for several years. We thought the rest of the world would like to learn about his experiences.
How did you get started in semiconductors and what brought you to InPlay?
I was initially drawn to analog and mixed-signal chip design because it seemed like a direct path to start using what I had learned in engineering school. I’ve stayed in the same field because there’s always something for me to learn and there are always interesting problems to solve, both of which I really enjoy. I like building things, and I’ve always been fascinated by all the fields that make the microelectronics industry possible: photolithography, material science, physics, robotics, chemistry, microscopy, not to mention all the algorithms, mathematics, and computer science that is pushing breakthroughs in the tools we use. It’s a field that keeps capturing my imagination in new ways. I like the idea of casting a design in a mask and having it produced nearly flawlessly millions of times over. I enjoy the pressure in trying to get it right the first time, and I take pride in the fact that there is a lot at stake. The feeling of getting a new part in the lab and seeing it work as designed is incredibly rewarding. And when there are problems, figuring them out is also rewarding.
I joined InPlay because our current CEO asked me to lead the RF and analog/mixed-signal design for InPlay’s chips at the end of 2016. I had worked with the other co-founders at my previous employer, which had gone through two acquisitions in the previous two years or so. I had a lot of respect for them and enjoyed working with them in the past. I always dreamed of starting my own company, so I thought it was a golden, albeit risky, opportunity. The team had a lot of complementary domain knowledge, and knowing the others were great in their fields gave me the confidence to join.
What does InPlay do?
InPlay is a fabless semiconductor company. We design and develop chips that enable wireless connectivity in applications that require low-latency, many devices, and low power … all at the same time. We are also enabling a new generation of active RFID smart sensors and beacons with our NanoBeacon product line. It doesn’t require firmware. The BOM is tiny. And power consumption is very low, so it can be powered by unique batteries and energy harvesting technologies.
What type of circuits do you design?
We design and develop all the necessary circuits for a radio transceiver. Some examples are low noise amplifiers, mixers, programmable amplifiers, analog to digital converters, digital to analog converters, low-drop out regulators, phase locked loops, power amplifiers. We also design the power management circuit necessary for the chip, which includes DCDC converters, really low power oscillators, references, and regulators.
Which MunEDA tools do you use?
We use WiCkeD and SPT.
How do you apply the MunEDA tools to your day-to-day job?
We’ve done some porting work over the past couple years. It was necessary with the foundry wafer shortage, especially for startup companies like us. Using SPT to get the schematics all ported over has been really helpful.
We also use WiCkeD for both optimization and for design centering over process/voltage/temperature variation. If the circuit is small enough, an opamp for example, after choosing the right topology, the optimizer can do the work of a designer to get the needed performance, all while keeping the design centered over PVT.
We’ve also used it for intractable RF matching/filtering tasks and for worst case analysis on startup issues for metastable circuits.
What value do you see from the MunEDA tools?
I see the MunEDA tools as basically another designer on my team. This is huge since we’re a small team, so the impact has been significant.
How about the learning curve?
MunEDA’s support is really great; they care about their customers, no matter how small. The learning curve is not too bad after some built-in tutorials. I see value from the tools every time I use them, from the first time, until now.
What advice would you give a circuit designer considering the MunEDA tools?
I would advise that they keep an open mind, and really look at the resulting data. I think many designers would be happy by the amount of time they can save, and the insight they can gain into the trade-offs in their designs.
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