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PCB tools link on a single platform

Posted: 01 May 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:pcb tools? asp model? syncron? board design? udn?

Startup Syncron Technologies has launched its Universal Design Network or UDN, a Web-based software platform that looks to breathe new life into the application service provider licensing model for design automation tools.

Syncron's ambitious hope is that the platform will solve the interoperability problems of PCB tools in one fell swoop. By using a common database to link board design, parts procurement and manufacturing, far-flung design groups can collaborate on projects and share expertise.

Syncron rolled out the platform at the PCB Design Conference West in Santa Clara, California. The company licenses its technology through an application-service-provider (ASP) model, an approach that has never gained traction in the EDA community. Still, CEO Phil Calhoun, who founded Syncron in 1999, called it the right approach, despite not yet having any customers to speak of. The venture-backed company has spurned the ASP terminology and calls itself a "design environment service provider." It has 29 full-time and eight part-time workers.

A unified design database is at the heart of the company's offering. The database is a central location for importing and exporting EDA tool files and parts data, and also serves as a hub to interconnect the platform's various application modules.

Users of the Universal Design Network will pay Syncron a monthly fee for a seat license to access the system, plus separate nominal monthly fees to license modules. The database runs remotely on AT&T-hosted servers and is accessed via Java-enabled Web browsers. The various tools and modules are downloaded and run locally.

Application modules include one for design and validation, another for parts management and another that links to the Parts Research Web site of Siliconexpert. Other modules feature a device modeler for importing Ibis, Spice and user-specified parts models, or a link to Valor physical parts data to facilitate the hand-off to manufacturing.

To utilize the full UDN design flow, users must first populate the universal database with logical and physical design files produced with Syncron's or third-party tools. The company's schematic-entry tool links to the parts management and Siliconexpert sites. Users of the schematic-entry tool can populate a design with "up-to-date" part information, said Mike Maginella, vice president of sales at Syncron. "We can then allow engineers to collaborate on preplacement and placement," he said. "Users can actually place the board, run analysis and generate a robust set of routing rules that can go into the third-party routers or our own router."

Manual device

The Syncron-built router is manual and does not have the automatic features of many commercial routers, Maginella said.

Because the UDN system runs via an ASP, multiple users can collaborate on a single project, Maginella said, as long as they have a Syncron-licensed seat.

"In our system, users choose actual parts instead of generic parts. At that point, procurement people linked to the system can see if pricing and availability are a problem for a chip. If so, designers can make a change at the beginning of the design flow," Maginella said.

? Michael Santarini

EE Times

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