The NI AWR Design Environment Eliminates Repetitive Tasks and Significantly Speeds Up the Design Process of an X-band Transmission Analyzer
The Design Challenge
TU Vienna was put to the challenge to design and realize a complex X-band transmission analyzer for use in real-time material testing. The analyzer was spec’d to gather complex-valued X-band frequency transmission coefficients at high update rates (>100,000 measurements per second). To minimize manufacturing costs, the design team elected to integrate the many RF components required for this device onto a single printed circuit board (PCB). As the device also required a high dynamic range, coupling issues needed to be mitigated between the RX and TX paths. Lastly, numerous distributed elements were part of the design and necessitated EM simulator-based tuning for optimal performance.
This project involved the design and optimization of several breeds of circuits. Everything from the system design down to the final PCB layout was carried out almost exclusively within AWR’s Design Environment™.
This was also the first time the University used Microwave Office for such a comprehensive design. Firstly, Visual System Simulator (VSS), AWR’s communication system design software, was used to model the overall system at high abstraction. This enabled important strategic considerations like finding an optimal RX chain and to estimate the phase locked loop’s (PLL’s) phase noise properties. Secondly, AXIEM 3D planar EM software was utilized for simulating distributed element circuits and to tackle shielding issues in the final PCB design.
As the project progressed, more and more PCB layout-relevant issues emerged. Because all the AWR tools are integrated into a single design environment, structures and circuits could be reused with ease from system models down to PCB layout structures. For example, EM simulations of the actual PCB traces could easily be checked against VSS models to see whether the designed shielding was sufficient. The benefit in this approach was that highly optimized subcircuits could easily be reused in the final PCB design. This eliminated repetitive tasks and, as a consequence, significantly sped up the design process.
Why Did You Choose AWR?
I chose AWR Microwave Office as I already had familiarity with the software, having used it in several courses during my master studies. Furthermore, our research group also had very good experience with AWR’s technical support, including excellent problem understanding, quality of answers, and short response times. Additional key benefits our design team found using AWR software included enhanced user productivity, further accelerated with tight integration of third party tools.
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