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Zen Liao, CEO of Simplify Design Automation, recently spoke with the I-Connect007 editorial team about his company’s high-level floorplanner for autorouting, which allows engineers to pass their ideas along to PCB designers. Zen discusses the floorplanning technology and his marketing strategies as well as the challenge of getting reluctant PCB designers to embrace autorouters.
Andy Shaughnessy: Zen, can you give us some background on your company?
Zen Liao: Our plan as a company was to provide a tool which could be very low priced, and even free for a certain period of time, that engineers can put their ideas for floorplanning on the PCB. Also, it could be a good entry point for people who want to use our router link. All of the large companies, including the big EDA vendors that have been putting a lot of investment into autorouting, almost gave up the autorouting solution for the whole board.
Now, they say they are focusing on interactive routing instead. A good example is Mentor’s sketch routing, but we still believe that routing the whole board is important and doable. However, you need to do some planning on the board first to be able to produce a good result that is desirable for users. That’s the whole purpose.
We tried to provide hierarchical steps before doing the detailed autorouting. You do floorplanning on the tool to specify what bundle you want to route, which layer you want to route, which channel you want the bundle to go through.
Shaughnessy: I was looking on your website, and you talk about setting up pin groups.
Liao: Right, a pin group is only one way to specify the bundle. You can select it from tools to form the bundle too because we’re also doing pin swap routing. In that case, some pins might not have nets yet or a net ID. In that situation, you cannot select the nets. Instead, you select the pin group to define a bundle. We use the same methodology to define the bundle.
Shaughnessy: So, you’re optimizing the routing before you even begin?
Liao: Optimizing, or just letting the user specify the route he or she wants. Later on, the router can follow that path which is specified to do the route. That’s particularly useful for some bundles of nets coming from a BGA component that you want to specify or a certain direction or certain layers to route on. We think that certain high-level planning on the bundle and on the nets are necessary, and we try to provide the tool to do that.
Shaughnessy: Does this come with the router?
Liao: The floorplan capability itself is also included in the router. If you purchase the router, the planning capability is already there. But we separated the floorplanning capability into a single separate software or product that people can get it to do the planning for almost no charge or a very low price. For a certain period of time, there’s no charge to use it.
To read this entire interview, which appeared in the August 2019 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.