RF PCB Design

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NI AWR Design Environment offers a layout-driven design methodology for complex RF printed circuit boards (PCBs), supporting accurate modeling of PCB transmission media from the RF signal path to digital control and DC bias lines. Circuit/system and electromagnetic (EM) co-simulation provides first-pass design success with complete PCB analysis of surface-mount components, interconnecting transmission lines, and embedded and distributed passive elements.

Hot Topics

  • New in v13

    • The new PCB import wizard imports large amounts of complex board data easier and more efficient,  supporting IPC-2581 (A and B) and ODB++ (V7 and V8) files that are produced by most enterprise board tools, including Cadence Allegro, Mentor Graphics, Zuken, and more. ​​
    • Enhanced general shape modifiers— sometimes known as defeaturing—transform the layout for faster, more robust EM simulation to study product data.
    • The modifier extends the advantages of EM geometry simplification rules to schematic layout and provides a clean and flexible method for applying layer-based shape editing operations in layout.
    • A new line types pane has been added to the layout manager, offering a fast method for simultaneously drawing line-type shapes with all the layers and layer offsets associated with specific MMIC/PCB process technologies commonly used in multi-metal STACKUPS as defined in the line-type definition in the LPF.  
  • FR4 and Ceramic-based PCBs are popular for RF/microwave circuits and distributed passive components because of their low cost and easy manufacture. Designs using folded transmission lines and innovative multi-layer structures modeled with EM simulation help reduce size while improving performance. 
    Learn more: Miniaturized Lumped-Element LTCC Filter 
  • Signal Integrity challenges occur with PCB transmission lines and inter-layer vias operating at gigabit-per-second data rates. EM analysis helps mitigate the parasitic behaviors that lead to unwanted jitter, crosstalk, ground bounce, and other noise sources. 
    Learn more: Signal Integrity Approaches Meet the Multi-Gbps Design Challenge


Design / Simulate / Realize

  • Microwave Office  - Supporting front-end PCB design with distributed transmission-line models, vendor component libraries, design entry, and frequency (harmonic balance) and time (transient) domain circuit simulation. Co-simulation with Visual System Simulator™ (VSS) uses circuit-envelope techniques to analyze digital modulation of communication/defense board designs.
  • AXIEM and Analyst™ - Perform electromagnetic (EM) simulations for S-parameter extraction of transmission lines and embedded/distributed passive components for post-layout verification. Third-party interoperability with layout tools from Cadence, Mentor Graphics, and Zuken support the import of PCB layout data for extraction with AXIEM and/or Analyst.
  • NI AWR Design Environment - Integrates circuit/system/EM simulation technologies with a comprehensive back-end physical design platform featuring physical layout linked to simulation-ready schematic capture, interoperability with third-party design rule check/ layout vs. schematic (DRC/LVS) tools, and production-ready AutoCAD DXF and GDSII export.

Circuit / System / EM Simulation Products 

  • Microwave Office - Circuit analysis

    • Design capture with industry-leading tuning
    • Linear and nonlinear frequency- and time-domain simulation
      • APLAC harmonic balance for large-scale and highly nonlinear designs
    • HPSICE transient simulation
    • ACE™ automated circuit extraction technology for interconnect modeling
  • AXIEM and Analyst - 3D planar and 3D finite element method (FEM) EM​​ analysis for bumps, bond wires, ribbons
  • EM Socket™ -  Interoperability with ANSYS, CST, and Sonnet EM software products
  • Visual System Simulator™ - Communication systems design, circuit-envelope analysis, and design partitioning/integration

Models and Libraries

Manufacturing and Test

Supported Technologies

  • FR4 - Widely-used fiberglass (copper clad) reinforced epoxy laminate
  • Aluminum Oxide (Alumina) - Available in thin and thick film technologies, used in high-pressure, high-insulation, high-frequency, high-temperature, and high-reliability applications
  • Low Temperature Co-Fired Ceramic (LTCC) - Integrates embedded passives and ICs using a number of independently processed ceramics assembled together into a single device as a final step
  • Systems - Circuit and system co-simulation of wireless communication metrics such as adjacent channel power ratio (ACPR), error vector magnitude (EVM), and related digital modulation analysis

RF PCB Design - Video Gallery