Seeing the Forest and the Trees

Oct 11, 2018 | Posted by: David Vye

Thanks to its many empowering capabilities and efficient user interface, NI AWR Design Environment software has developed a remarkably loyal following. With the introduction of the V14 release of the software, our development and product marketing teams have continued their commitment to incorporating more time-saving automation and simulation power into our tools to reflect an ever-changing design landscape and the ongoing need for tools that address real-world design challenges. To quote Sherry Hess’s most recent blog, All About the Face, NI AWR software is even more user-conscious and smarter than ever. But when I think about the features that have been introduced or enhanced in the V14 release, it’s also all about the flow.

To be specific, many of the new features in V14 of NI AWR software further enhance three distinct yet inter-related design flows serving power amplifier (PA), phased-array, and printed circuit board (PCB)/module development. I like to refer to these individual design flows as the three Ps. And while we continue to add enhancements that benefit filter and monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC)/RFIC designers, among others, the three Ps are of particular concern to the largest part of our customer base and will undoubtedly play an important role in the development of RF/microwave components and systems for 5G, internet of things (IoT), satellite communications, and next-generation radar for automotive, aerospace, and sea-based applications.

With that in mind, our marketing and application engineering teams are working to inform and educate NI AWR users about these new features, especially in the context of 3P design flows. I think of it as an exercise in learning to see the forest and the trees – flows and features.  Our goal is to help users understand how these features and flows enable them to focus on developing new products rather than spending their time wrestling with design tools.

Throughout the year, our software development team receives an ever-evolving list of feature requests from the field that are considered for implementation as they fit within our long-term product roadmap. For the NI AWR teams that sell, market, and support our products, as well as our contributing customers, the implementation and delivery of these new features is an especially exciting time as we discover how each new feature translates into capabilities. Since rolling out the V14 release of our software at this year’s IMS in Philadelphia, we have had several months to adopt and truly appreciate how each new feature benefits the various needs of the PA, phased-array, and PCB/module design flows.

Over the next few months, RF designers will be learning more about how the new features in V14 of NI AWR software will serve and benefit these three design flows in a number of ways. Published articles will be appearing in RF/microwave industry trade publications, presentations, demonstrations and workshops at conferences and trade shows, papers at our own AWR Design Forum (ADF), and various videos, webinars, and white papers. Since software features are best understood through working examples and step-by-step demonstrations, we invite all RF/microwave designers to visit our booth and attend our workshops EDI CON USA (October 17-18) in Santa Clara, CA, IME in Shanghai, China (October 24-26), or APMC in Kyoto, Japan (November 6-9) and/or attend an ADF coming to a location near you.

Be sure to keep an eye out for articles too, like the October issue of Microwave Product Digest, where we discuss enhancements to the V14 PCB import wizard, which accelerates EM verification of PCBs by enabling users to isolate areas of interest with powerful net and area selection of imported designs originally created in board layout tools from leading computer aided design (CAD) vendors. As a result, EM analysis is simplified to address just the areas/nets that require further simulation and engineering review, greatly reducing simulation time and resources. The article walks through an example highlighting the capabilities in this new wizard that enable designers to isolate and characterize critical traces within complex multi-layer configurations.

In the October issue of High Frequency Electronics, we present a design flow based on the phased-array generator wizard, which helps designers define a physical-array configuration, assign antenna and RF link characteristics to individual and/or groups of elements, define feed networks and gain taper properties, and simulate the response, inclusive of potential element failure. This enables users to produce a far-field plot that can be swept for frequency, input power, and phi and theta angles using slide tuners to control these parameter values. The resulting antenna pattern view provides designers with a real-time visual aid depicting the impact of design decisions on far-field performance.

The wizard supports the generation of simulation-ready circuit, system, and data file-based designs configured into hierarchical schematics for analysis by Microwave Office circuit design software or Visual System Simulator™ (VSS) system design software and the assigned EM simulator.  Using the NI AWR Design Environment platform with these simulators lets designers address additional design detail and in-depth analysis to support further hardware development. This includes full EM simulation of the entire array along with co-simulation of the feed structure represented by circuit- and system-level behavioral blocks constructed from information defined by the user in the phased-array generator wizard.

Finally, in the November issue of Microwave Journal we will be presenting capabilities supporting PA design flows made possible in V14 of NI AWR software through the introduction of network synthesis for the development of impedance-matching networks. This functionality accelerates design starts and enables designers to more fully explore design options through the creation of optimized two-port matching networks with discrete and distributed components based on user-defined performance goals.  Network synthesis is useful at the earliest stages of a design to help determine reasonable performance targets based on device performance limits, sizing (determination of active-device periphery), part selection for discrete packaged transistors, and other early design decisions. As part of a PA design flow, this new feature complements other design automation and simulation initiatives, including specialized design wizards such as load-pull analysis, stability analysis, and new data-plotting features specific to PA design.

20 years ago, AWR launched Microwave Office software at the 1998 IMS in Baltimore, introducing the power of real-time tuning and a focus on design solutions that worked the way RF engineers did. The long-term goal for our software has been to support engineers with powerful tools that let them focus on their design challenge. The NI AWR Design Environment V14 platform continues this tradition with features and design flows that cut clearer paths through today’s many design jungles.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to your local NI AWR software representative to learn more about NI AWR software V14 or visit