Modules

Simulation and design flow technologies that support multi-chip module product development
Modules

Multi-Technology Integration 

RF modules combine multiple integrated circuits (ICs) into a single package, offering a large amount of functionality in a small space. This level of device integration can be an engineering challenge, requiring design teams to model the electrical behavior of many different technologies, including interconnects (transmission lines) and embedded distributed components, as well as RF, analog, and digital components. Electronic design automation (EDA) software is critical for achieving simulation results that are closely matched to the final results. 

Why Choose NI AWR Software
Faster Design
Fast

Design automation accelerates product development with smart workflows for module realization.

Reliable
Reliable

Electromagnetic (EM)-enabled parasitic extraction and design verification provides enhanced accuracy and greater fast-pass success.

Productivity
Productive

The integrated platform supports concurrent electrical and physical design, as well as circuit, system, and EM co-simulation to minimize reliance on multiple point tools.

Solution Highlights

Design Entry and Management

Companies are shifting their module integration strategies from combining similar building blocks in a single package to the adoption of multifunctional front ends based on diverse technologies to meet the ongoing need for higher performance and reduced component size in multimode and multiband-capable handsets.  Module and subsystem designers often use more than one technology in a complete design, including gallium arsenide (GaAs) and gallium nitride (GaN) monolithic microwave ICs (MMICs), silicon (Si) RFICs, and multiple-layer laminates.  Each technology is encapsulated in a specific process design kit (PDK) that details the electrical and physical attributes of the manufacturing process and front-end building blocks (component libraries). A multi-technology design flow supporting multiple PDKs and circuit/ EM co-simulation to model bulk-acoustic wave (BAW) and surface-acoustic wave (SAW) filters and multi-layer laminate package is required for comprehensive module analysis and optimization. 

Simulation

Module performance must be verified through computer-aided simulation and analysis. RF/microwave electronics rely on specialized measurements such as noise figure (NF) and small-signal transmission and reflection parameters (S-parameters), as well as their nonlinear power, gain compression, and efficiency response to large-signal stimuli. While transient and time-domain analysis are used for oscillator design and waveform engineering, respectively, most RF simulation is based on frequency-domain, harmonic-balance (HB) analysis, which provides the circuit simulation technology to analyze nonlinear networks, including power amplifiers (PAs) and frequency converters (mixers). With the advent of digital modulation for communications systems, multi-chip modules must be analyzed using circuit envelop in order to simulate metrics such as adjacent-channel power-ratio (ACPR) and error-vector magnitude (EVM).

NI AWR software provides a hierarchical framework that accurately captures the combined electrical performance of diverse IC and substrate laminate process technologies, complex multi-layer interconnects, embedded passives, and surface-mounted devices found in today's multi-chip RF modules used within numerous wireless applications.

Model Support

Gallium arsenide (GaAs), gallium nitride (GaN), and silicon germanium (SiGe) compound semiconductors continue to evolve in support of MMICs that operate at higher millimeter-wave (mmWave) frequencies for communication and radar applications, while offering improved performance across all frequencies. With the advantages of higher bandwidths, greater output power, linearity, and/or NF offered by each new generation of process technologies comes the challenge of accurately representing transistor parasitic, nonlinear, and thermal behaviors in order to provide reliable MMIC simulation. Software vendors must work closely with leading III-V semiconductor foundries and load-pull test system manufacturers to ensure the latest and greatest semiconductor devices are represented with robust, simulation-ready models for design. In addition, Si RFIC switch, low-noise amplifier (LNA), and PA development are often implemented in Cadence software, which needs to be represented within the module simulation, often in the form of a netlisted intellectual property (IP) block. 

Design Verification

Module integrators rely on circuit/EM co-simulation, along with RF-aware circuit simulation and frequency-dependent transmission-line models, to provide embedded parasitic extraction and design verification. Hierarchical EM/circuit/system co-simulation enables designers to perform in-situ EM analysis to capture and correct harmful parasitic couplings and resonances before tapeout. Simulation with pre-configured and/or customized system-test benches provides design verification of communications performance metrics such as ACPR, bit-error rate (BER) and EVM for modules operating under wireless, standards-specific, modulated waveforms. 

Associated Products

NI AWR Design Environment

The NI AWR Design Environment platform provides a single, complete design environment that seamlessly integrates simulation and design technology and manages the circuit/system/EM components within a project, supporting schematic design entry and fully-synchronized physical design and layout.

Microwave Office / Analog Office

Microwave Office and Analog Office circuit design software feature APLAC multi-rate, transient, and transient-assisted harmonic balance (HB), as well as time-variant (circuit envelope) analysis for linear and nonlinear circuit simulation of PAs and low-noise amplifiers (LNAs), mixers/frequency converters, filters, switches, and multi-functional MMICs/RFICs. Design aids include load-pull analysis, network synthesis (optional), design for manufacturing (optimization, yield, and statistical analysis), device libraries, and process design kits (PDKs). Co-simulation of Spectre- and HSPICE-generated netlists, along with imported OpenAccess schematics, support detailed analysis of radio blocks from large-scale RF/mixed-signal RFICs.

AXIEM

The AXIEM 3D proprietary full-wave planar EM simulator is based on method-of-moments (MoM) fast-solver technology that readily analyzes on-chip passive structures, transmission lines, interconnects, vias, entire matching networks, and MMIC/RFIC amplifier packaging. Designers can extract S-parameters of passive structures directly embedded in an amplifier design and visualize fields and current.

Visual System Simulator

Visual System Simulator™ (VSS) system design software provides virtual test benches that support multiple wireless communications standards for communications performance metrics such as ACPR, error-vector magnitude (EVM), BER and complementary cumulative distribution function (CCDF), transmitter-conformance testing, and receiver-sensitivity analysis. VSS software also supports modulation load-pull analysis or MMIC PA designs and link budget analysis for component specification and system verification.

Analyst

The Analyst™ simulator with integrated 3D finite-element method (FEM) EM analysis enables designers to model MMIC, package, and board interconnects, including wire bonds, air bridges, and ball grids.

Options

PDKs developed to work with NI AWR software are available from leading gallium arsenide (GaAs), galliun nitride (GaN), and silicon (Si) foundries. 

AWR Connected™ third-party software/hardware solutions for NI AWR software provide a more powerful and complete design flow, including layout, EM/thermal analysis, and design-rule checking (DRC)/layout vs. schematic (LVS) technologies. 

Radar and 5G libraries support communications/radar signal generation, specialized component, array, and channel propagation models, and test benches for radar and 5G communications systems.

RF planner™ accelerates development of first-cut radio communications links for radio communications systems, cellular, and/or military radio, enabling designers to efficiently determine spurious-free dynamic range and bandwidths and providing spurious analysis from device nonlinearities, as well as cascaded measurements such as NF, P1dB, signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), and IM3.

Related customer stories

We were unable to EM this entire structure using any other EM solver and turned to AWR to give it a try. The insights gained as unveiled by AXIEM opens up new vistas in mm-wave design for Mimix.
Dr. Simon Mahon
Director of MMIC Design
Mimix Broadband (now part of M/A Com)
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The advanced NI AWR Design Environment platform provides us with a flexible platform for our antenna solution design needs. We can rely on the accurate models and trust the simulation results, which leads to fewer design spins. With Microwave Office we are able to accurately design our complex products and get them to market faster.
Kimmo Koskiniemi
Engineering Group Manager
Pulse Electronics
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This is a tool developed with the designer in mind.The concurrent AWR flow enables us to produce more accurate and robust designs three times faster than in other EDA, giving us a faster time-to-market, and enabling us to exceed our customers, expectations.
Paul T. DiCarlo
Sr. Director of Engineering, PA/FEM Development
Skyworks
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