During the circuit design process, Dartmouth researchers realized that manual testing and prototyping multiple designs with surface-mount technology (SMT) would be inaccurate and time-consuming. The number of possible design combinations made physical prototyping impractical. To overcome this challenge, they decided to use state-of-the-art finite element analysis tools from ANSYS.
They imported CAD designs of circuit components into ANSYS electromagnetic simulation tools and created simulation models of each component. The position of the SMT elements on the PCB board was parametrized and all parts of the design were linked in the Designer system simulator tool. During the simulation models were exported to ANSYS HFSS for co-simulation. In a short time researchers were able to test hundreds of possible design combinations.
Using the ANSYS Nexxim time-domain circuit simulation engine, they were able not only to change the position of the elements, but also to change the parameters (values) of the SMT elements on board, without changing the structure. Because the solution data was cached, the entire design could be quickly resimulated. With this approach, they could change everything and still accurately and efficiently simulate the design. Researchers explored the multidimensional design space without making any real prototypes. Computer simulation made the design models come alive on the screen.