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10 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I APRIL 2021 Simulation tools come in handy, and not just when you're designing a high-speed PCB. ey're also a great conversation starter at a trade show. I'm talking about the live kind of trade show with a group of PCB designers and design engineers standing around a coffee break table eating stale conference bagels. (My kingdom for a stale conference bagel!) Yes, simulation tools rank right up there with design data standards and China in terms of starting a conversation—or an argument—at a conference. Here's how it usually works. I'll ask, "How many of you primarily work on high-speed designs?" Typically, it's a solid majority. How many of you are designing boards that are not high-speed? en I'll ask, "How many of you use simula- tion?" Out of 15 designers, maybe three hands will go up, and the whole group will chuckle knowingly. So, I'll follow up with, "Why don't you use simulation?" Answers oen range from "It's really expensive" to "We just hope for the best" and "Don't get me started. It's complicated." Apparently, it is complicated. en there are the simulation tools them- selves, which are expensive and infamous for their steep learning curves. You can't park a recent EE grad in front of an enterprise-level simulation tool and expect greatness. As Barry Olney points out in his feature interview this month, even today's entry-level simulation tools are not simple to use and require the user to have a solid signal integrity background to get good results. All of this sounds like the makings of a per- fect storm. If the tools are expensive and hard to use, maybe you can get by without them, right? When we surveyed designers and design engineers about their biggest challenges, sim- The Shaughnessy Report by Andy Shaughnessy, I-CONNECT007 A Simulating Conversation

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