Creeping system complexity drives growing use of EDA tools for aerospace and defense electronics

BY Courtney E. Howard

The aerospace and defense industry uses electronic design automation (EDA) tools pervasively to design electronic components, explains Todd Cutler, senior manager of planning, marketing, and services at Agilent EEsof EDA in Santa Clara, Calif.

“The benefit of EDA is that engineers can design better products faster,” Cutler explains. “‘Better’ means higher performance—critically important when lives are at stake. ‘Faster’ means that each design prototype is designed in less time due to automation, such as circuit synthesis and optimization, and fewer prototypes are needed due to the accurate performance prediction of high-performance simulation.”

System complexity often is the driving force behind the growing use of EDA tools in aerospace and defense applications. “Adoption of EDA tools is growing because the complexity of the customer requirements, harshness of the operating environment—mobility, as well as passive and active interference—and resulting sophistication of the intellectual property being created to meet these challenges is moving beyond what engineers are capable of developing by hand,” says Jon Friedman, aerospace and defense industry marketing manager at The MathWorks in Natick, Mass. “As with every modern system, military and aerospace electronic system suppliers are looking for ways to deliver better and more innovative products (and IP), faster to the market, in a cost-effective manner that serves the needs of the modern warfighter.

“As the amount of custom hardware is increasing, the need for and use of EDA tools is increasing as well to ensure that the hardware designs are completed in a timely and cost-effective manner,” Friedman continues. Take, for example, a modern communications program, such as the Joint Tactical Radio System. The system must be capable of transmitting and receiving a number of waveforms with a significant variation in the form factor for the transceivers, he says. To create, test, and deploy these types of systems, engineers are turning to modern EDA tools that focus on creating and testing models and prototypes before final hardware implementations to save time and money.

Friedman says tools from The MathWorks, such as MATLAB and Simulink, help engineers develop modern electronic systems more effectively by enabling them to explore more of the algorithm design options and performance tradeoffs within a modeling environment, rather than in prototype hardware. For example, he says, engineers may want to understand the influence of a lower-power component within a design. “Traditionally, components were specified based on a budget of worst-case performance stack up that could be tolerated by the system. Using executable models and simulations, engineers can refine their designs by assessing the impact of a design change at the system level, resulting in potential weight and cost savings, while delivering higher-quality results.”

Perhaps no EDA application is stronger than in the design of radar and communications systems, where high-performance systems are critical to mission success, Cutler says. “Agilent EEsof EDA is seeing an increase in adoption because of the performance gain and cost reduction that are achieved when advanced tools are applied to challenging design problems.” Another example is in the area of signal intelligence, particularly the need to detect and jam IEDs, where high-performance tuned receivers and sophisticated signal processing are needed to intercept and eliminate threats. “Designing such equipment cannot be done with point-tool methods and requires analysis software that combines radio-frequency (RF) analysis with baseband digital signal processing (DSP). There is simply no other way.”

Agilent EEsof EDA supplies electronic design automation software for microwave, high-frequency, high-speed digital, RF system, electronic system level, circuit, 3D electromagnetic, physical design, and device-modeling applications. Agilent EEsof EDA radar and communications product design software enables designers to optimize and trade-off between DSP and RF in applications such as pre-distortion or equalization, says Cutler. “Predictive co-design results in higher-performance systems than can be achieved using point tools.”

EDA software tools are increasingly being employed for myriad military and aerospace applications, and resulting in reduced time to market, cost and time savings, and effectively tested and verified electronics systems. Visit the technology firms listed to learn more about EDA software and its applications and benefits.

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October 2014
Volume 25, Issue 10
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