Simberian’s 3D Field Solver in Altium Designer

December 10, 2019 Judy Warner

Simberian makes a physics-based 3D field solver tool that helps measure not only the traces on your board but also the materials. Altium recently entered into a formal partnership with Simberian, and Roger Paje - VP of Global Marketing, discusses with us how this impacted Altium Designer® 19 and 20, and what’s we’ll see going into Altium Designer 21 and beyond.  

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Show Highlights:

  • Roger started his career in EDA at a startup in the signal integrity and timing space, called Quad Design, which was eventually acquired into Mentor Graphics. He left EDA for the telecom market and worked on embedded designs for a while. He’s now back in EDA, and the last two companies he worked with used Altium Designer. 
  • According to Roger, Altium’s recent partnership with Simberian embodies the synergistic principle that in the business world, “one plus one equals five”. 
  • Given Simberian’s background and its contributions to the field since its founding in 2006—its contributions to electromagnetic theory, its multiple case-studies, its rich history of exercises with partners on algorithm validation, and its large library—it is apparent that Simberian is heavily focused on electromagnetic analysis and getting it correct.
  • According to Roger, marrying the above “to a PCB tool with a bunch of users… just seems like an extremely logical decision”.
  • Altium Designer 19 saw the first inclusion of Simberian features, starting with their field solver in the stackup manager. This ensured more accurate impedance calculations on the different layers. While Altium Designer 19 was just a starting point for these features, 80% of users were able to use the field solution and impedance calculations to their benefit.
  • The field solver is extremely accurate and essential for the frequencies that users are now moving toward, and the material loss parameters are included in Altium Designer 20.
  • Material measurements are becoming more important with high-speed design. 
  • Considering roughness factors and the characteristics of dielectrics; once you get into higher frequencies, 3 GBps is the inflection point at which loss characteristics of the materials come into play—if those aren’t modelled properly, it introduces simulation inaccuracies.
  • If board manufacturers do not provide characterization and data, both in pre- and post-manufactured cases, analysis becomes almost impossible. 
  • The current collaboration of EDA vendors with designers and material manufacturers makes the industry more complicated than a couple of years ago. 
  • With the Altium Designer 20 release comes more robust geometries for those moving into more exotic materials and geometries. There are also a few algorithmic enhancements. Some characterization exercises revealed that the impedance numbers coming out were measurable.
  • Most of our regular users are in the realm of transition, moving toward DDR-3, DDR-4 and onward, or any of the surreal interfaces, PCI Express, Gen 2 or -3, moving up to Gen 4.  
  • The practical impact and importance of Altium Designer 20 to PCB designers will be, accurate impedance and delay calculations. Even at DDR-3 skew is a big deal and as you go higher, even more so.
  • As designers move toward high speeds, proper impedance modelling is important and we have a lot of confidence in Altium Designer 20 for that with the field solver.
  • Designers will always benefit from knowing their Electrical Design Rules. The layout tool itself is able to find things that impact signal integrity. Some of the design rule checks in Altium Designer 20, particularly the return path checking, will ease the job of analysis.
  • Designers will need less hard-core training to read modeling results and know how to interpret them with the more intuitive nature of Altium Designer 20.
  • The future of the Simberian/Altium partnership already has a couple of philosophies in place, one of them is making the analysis easier. There are also plans for a trace checker, similar to a word processor’s spell checker.             

Links and Resources:

Introduction of Simbeor® Electromagnetic Signal Integrity in Altium Designer 20 (in Altium Designer 20 User Manual)
Visit Simberian Website

See What's New in Altium Designer

About the Author

Judy Warner


Judy Warner has held a unique variety of roles in the electronics industry since 1984. She has a deep background in PCB Manufacturing, RF and Microwave PCBs and Contract Manufacturing with a focus on Mil/Aero applications in technical sales and marketing.

She has been a writer, contributor and journalist for several industry publications such as Microwave Journal, The PCB Magazine, The PCB Design Magazine, PDCF&A and IEEE Microwave Magazine and is an active member of multiple IPC Designers Council chapters.

In March 2017, Warner became the Director of Community Engagement for Altium and immediately launched Altium’s OnTrack Newsletter.
She led the launch of AltiumLive: Annual PCB Design Summit, a new and annual Altium User Conference.

Judy's passion is to provide resources, support and to advocate for PCB Designers around the world.

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