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ANSYS BLOG

March 21, 2023

How the Ansys-powered Autodesk Fusion 360 Signal Integrity Extension Improves PCB Design

As the electrification of so many of the products we use every day accelerates and intensifies, the market demands faster, smaller, smarter electronics at an ever more rapid pace, which means engineers are tasked with navigating increasingly complex challenges in a hurry.

Here’s a metric that brings home the ever-increasing speed of electronic devices: TVs that can handle 4K videos support frequency ranges of 1.4 GHz or higher. That’s moving a ton of data quickly. The chances for signal interference and timing delays in these systems, among other key properties, are constantly increasing.

The shrinking of printed circuit boards (PCBs) and their components with every new product generation requires that the high-speed transmission lines (traces on a PCB) become smaller and more closely packed, increasing the likelihood of signaling problems from noise and interference.

At the same time, customer demands for quicker availability of new products means less time for engineers to design and test their latest innovations. Rushing a design through to production without absolute confidence in its performance and simply hoping for the best could lead to costly re-spins and time-to-market delays.

These concerns are addressed with the Autodesk Fusion 360 Signal Integrity Extension, powered by Ansys. By combining the Fusion 360 cloud-based software platform for PCB design with Ansys’ market-leading electromagnetic capabilities, PCB designers and engineers can gain insights into the performance of their designs at every step of the process to increase confidence that the resulting product will work as planned the first time and every time. 

Srinath Jonnalagadda, VP Industry Strategy - Design and Manufacturing at Autodesk and Steve Pytel, VP of Product Management at Ansys, discuss how the Autodesk Fusion 360 Signal Integrity Extension, powered by Ansys, advances innovation.

A Better Electronics Workflow

The partnership between Ansys and Autodesk is founded on breaking down engineering silos in the product design process and democratizing simulation technology to designers and engineers. Simulation-led design helps better manage innovation and addresses increasing product complexity, shorter product life cycles and growing expectations from consumers. Embedding Ansys simulation technology in Fusion 360 expands the capability for PCB designers developing smart consumer electronics products to access electromagnetic insights during the design process. Four main features account for the value of the Ansys-powered Fusion 360 Signal Integrity Extension to PCB designers:

  1. Simple configuration: Input parameters quickly and easily, then select signals of interest for quick, on-demand analysis.
  2. Impedance matching: Manage and control the impedance for every critical signal throughout your board for optimal high-speed design performance.
  3. Signal insights: Analyze your design signals to inspect parameters that characterize high-speed design, such as signal delays, trace length, impedance, and coupling.
  4. Visual violation flagging: Visually identify any potential impedance or coupling issues with a superimposed color-coded overlay on your 2D PCB design.

See a quick example of the Autodesk Fusion 360 Signal Integrity Extension, powered by Ansys, in action. Learn more here.

How to Design Signal Integrity into PCBs

When we talk about signal integrity, we are mainly concerned about the movement of electrical signals along the traces connecting the components while avoiding signal degradation. One of the most important variables in this process is the impedance of the traces. Impedance is the effective resistance of an electric circuit or component to alternating current. Bends in the traces, discontinuities, reflections, and impedance mismatching can all cause signal degradation. For a given PCB, traces have specified impedance values and tolerances that can be affected by variables such as trace width, the dielectric constant of the trace material, and layer thickness, among others.

When designing or reworking a PCB, an engineer will enter their required impedance and tolerance parameters. The Fusion 360 Signal Integrity Extension, powered by Ansys, overlays a color map on the traces to indicate whether a trace is within the tolerance limits. The engineer can see instantly where there might be problems with the traces, such as discontinuities, and can move them around, perhaps straightening them out or making them wider or narrower, until all traces on the board are within tolerance as shown by the color code. The extension also provides data regarding signal length, transmitter to receiver time, inductance, resistance, capacitance, delay, and more.

Once the impedance and tolerance requirements are met, the board is ready for the next step in the development flow. The engineering team can be confident that the design of the segment of the PCB traces are sound because they have been verified by Ansys electromagnetic capabilities.

The embedded integration builds on Fusion 360’s Ansys Electronics Database (EDB) export capability making it easy to connect to Ansys Electronics Desktop and enables the signal integrity/electromagnetic (SI/EMI) analyst to continue with detailed simulation and reporting of a product’s electromagnetic performance. The combined Fusion 360 Signal Integrity Extension and Ansys Electronics Desktop workflow can help users develop smarter products by embedding electromagnetics in all parts of the development process, improving time to market, achieving electromagnetic compliance (EMC), and increasing innovation agility.

Benefits to PCB Designers

By giving PCB designers near-real time data on the signal integrity of the traces early in the design process, the Fusion 360 Signal Integrity Extension saves time and money by avoiding the building and testing of multiple prototypes, as well as costly re-spins. Companies can keep up with the increasingly challenging demands of developing and manufacturing smart, connected devices with confidence that the signal integrity of their PCBs is up to the task.

To learn more about the Fusion 360 Signal Integrity Extension, powered by Ansys, please visit Autodesk’s website.

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