Tools provide new dimensions in design capture

An Altium product story
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Edited by the Electronicstalk editorial team Nov 18, 2002

nVisage is a novel "multidimensional" design capture tool that allows design engineers to capture the conceptual design of their entire electronic system into a single, integrated environment.

With the launch of nVisage, Altium pioneers a new, holistic design capture methodology that offers engineers the choice of multiple design entry methods and final implementation targets.

Engineers can input their designs using schematic or VHDL-based design entry methods, or a combination of both, and can output the design data to be implemented on a PCB, inside an FPGA, or a combination of both implementation options.

"Multidimensional design capture is the natural successor to current two-dimensional design capture in the evolution of electronics design", says Nick Martin, founder and Joint CEO, Altium.

"It moves beyond the realm of board design to encompass design for all aspects of the electronics system - regardless of the final target implementation or whether the circuitry is physical or virtual.

It moves beyond schematic capture and opens up access to other text-based entry methodologies in a multilayered design environment with full support for multichannel design".

As design cycles continue to shorten, the design process for all elements of the electronics system are under pressure to converge.

For this to be workable for mainstream design engineers, an integrated design platform and a method for keeping design data synchronised need to be accessible to the mass market.

Key capabilities of nVisage include: hierarchical schematic capture for both board-level and FPGA designs; bidirectional Orcad schematic and library translation; support for nested multichannel (channel-within-channel) schematic designs; mixed schematic and VHDL FPGA design; VHDL-driven RTL synthesis for multiple FPGA target architectures; Spice 3f5/XSpice-compliant simulation directly from schematic; VHDL simulation with support for timing back annotation; and prelayout signal integrity analysis directly from schematic.

nVisage integrates multichannel, hierarchical schematic-based circuit and FPGA design with text-based VHDL, and allows a single design to be captured using any mix of these design entry methods.

As well as offering engineers a choice of design entry methodologies, nVisage includes design analysis and verification tools including Spice-compliant circuit simulation, VHDL simulation and prelayout signal integrity capabilities.

nVisage will also include synthesis and compilation tools to prepare design information for its progression to the design implementation stage.

nVisage is based on Altium's proprietary Design Explorer (DXP) platform, which provides design project management features and tool integration.

Notable features of the system include its extensive integrated component libraries and library management, full primitive and macro libraries for Xilinx and Altera FPGAs, the ability to integrate with third-party version control systems such as Microsoft Visual SourceSafe, and support for multiple design variants from a single set of source files.

The nVisage schematic editor provides support for nested multichannel designs, particularly useful in many FPGA design situations.

Unlike traditional schematic tools that simply copy and paste repeated circuitry as additional sheets, nVisage maintains channel hierarchy at all times.

This means that channel circuitry can be edited at any time without the need to manually edit multiple sheets.

Similarly, the number of repeated channels can be changed at any time.

The ability to define "channels within channels" gives engineers infinite flexibility in the partitioning of multi-channel designs, maintaining the readability of the schematics on even the most complex circuits.

The full power of the nVisage schematic editor is available for both board-level and FPGA-level designs.

For FPGA projects, nVisage includes full pre-synthesised macro and primitive schematic libraries for all Xilinx and Altera FPGA families.

Engineers can also use nVisage's text-based coding environment to carry out VHDL-driven FPGA design.

Extensive schematic/VHDL crossprobing and crossnavigation features, combined with the ability to mix schematic and VHDL sources and synthesise VHDL for a variety of target architectures, makes nVisage a true mixed-mode design environment for FPGAs.

nVisage also includes a comprehensive component library management system that continues and extends the integration present throughout the product.

Integrated component libraries allow engineers to associate multiple models with a component.

These models can be schematic symbols, PCB footprints, simulation models, signal integrity models, VHDL representation, etc.

The models represent different "views" of the same component and the appropriate model is selected by nVisage based on the context in which it is used.

Protel DXP, the latest generation of Altium's complete board-level design solution, works natively with nVisage project and document files.

This allows nVisage engineers to work seamlessly with Protel board designers, and provides full synchronisation between the capture and PCB design processes.

nVisage DXP also includes bidirectional Orcad translation to allow engineers currently working with Orcad schematics to easily migrate and take advantage of the additional dimensions that nVisage has to offer.

The nVisage DXP new license list price is US $2995.

However until 31st December 2002, Altium will offer introductory crossgrade/upgrade prices from US $995 for users of other PC-based schematic capture tools/suites such as Protel, P-CAD and Orcad Capture.

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