Virtual Systems Engineering (VSE) focuses on software for coordinating and integrating various aspects of printed-circuit-board (PCB) design and analysis.
- Developing capabilities that fit seamlessly into customers’ workflow
- Focusing on products that are both easy to use and capable of solving complex problems
- Responding to the need for advanced manufacturing in the United States but with an eye toward international growth
The flagship product is PREVIEW (Predictive Environment for the Visualization of Electromechanical Virtual Validation), which is the result of years of research conducted through the University of Iowa’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology (AMTech) Program.
- A single platform for both mechanical and electrical engineers to evaluate and test their products using a common protocol.
- A platform for system integration, useful for both technical analysts and high level program managers.
- A “game-changer” for advanced manufacturing technology.
VSE is continuing its relationship with AMTech with an exclusive license to the new technology that grows from AMTech’s R&D. In essence, VSE is a growing software company with a flourishing R&D department. Consequently, VSE is able to continually provide its customers with cutting-edge capabilities.
A response to industry challenges:
With today's increasing rate of technological advancement and adoption, electronics manufacturers are being simultaneously challenged to develop increasingly complex products over increasingly shorter development timelines. Creating virtual models of these products for testing and design significantly accelerates the development process. In turn, this increases quality, and reduces time and costs required to bring products to market. But, these virtual models are only useful if they are an accurate and comprehensive representation of the final, physical product. Within this environment, VSE is responding to a variety of challenges:
PCBs and printed circuit assemblies (PCAs) are widely used in all types of devices. And, as devices that use electricity get “smarter”, they involve a growing number of circuit boards. Improving the PCB and PCA design process has a significant effect on the bottom line.”
Electronic design automation (EDA) describes the category of software tools for designing electronic systems. EDA software packages are available for electronic system design, simulation, analysis, and manufacturing preparation. The EDA industry is moving toward the increased use of virtual testing as a means to save time and money by greatly reducing the number of prototypes.
The problems with printed circuit board design affect all aspects of the electronics market, especially low volume, high expense, specialty manufacturers such as luxury automotive manufacturers and the United States Department of Defense (DoD). DoD electronics are exposed to a variety of extreme environments, which could lead to potentially grave consequences if a PCA fails. ManTech International, one of the United States’ government’s leading providers of technologies for national securities programs, recently issued a report that deficiencies in modeling and simulation can cost the Department of Defense as much as $70 billion per year.
Use of computer-aided design (CAD) and simulation tools is minimal with respect to the physical testing of PCBs and PCAs. Yet, PCB and PCA testing can comprise a significant portion of labor costs for manufacturers. Many tests that occur with physical test equipment during the manufacturing process for low volume, high technology products can involve significant failure rates. The majority of repair time entails removing the product from the test fixture, moving it to a repair station, repairing the product, and then re-running the auto test equipment. Furthermore, there is difficulty in determining the exact component failure, and this causes test technicians to remove and replace 2-3 parts at a time, rather than the one specific component that actually failed. This process is incredibly costly and time-consuming.
- VSE helps to automate the testing process virtually and can conduct virtual tests under various conditions, thus helping to determine the exact root cause of a failure more efficiently.
With respect to visualization, electromechanical systems are 3D, while many current design tools involve only two-dimensional 2D analysis. In addition, although some virtual tools are available for visualizing single boards, there are few tools available for visualizing and/or analyzing multi-board systems, which constitute the majority of electromechanical systems.
- VSE provides innovative tools for visualizing PCBs/PCAs and analysis results.
Current tools fail to integrate system-level analysis with component-level analysis. Without this, it is impossible to determine how components affect each other. Furthermore, there are no integrated tools for concurrently considering and analyzing multiple aspects of electromechanical systems. Thus, users rely on different disconnected tools, detracting from efficiency. There is a distinct need for easy-to-use system-integration packages that allow a non-specialist to aggregate and digest various types of information.
- VSE develops software that is easy to use and fills the niche of system integration for PCB/PCA design and analysis.
The design process for printed circuit assemblies, especially multi-board systems, is labor-intensive, repetitious, and expensive. Currently, a PCA design is developed using electrical CAD (ECAD) for the circuit configuration and layout, and that design can be put through only abstract electrical functional tests. Physical prototypes undergo the rest of the tests in order to assure that the end product will be able to function properly in its target environment. Other disciplines/ departments are responsible for the mechanical and cabling portions of the end product. If the end product fails these physical tests, then requirements for the PCB/PCA, module, cable, or system design must be updated, communicated back to the design team and re-implemented. The process must be repeated until commercial fitness is reached for the end product. Consequently, manufacturers commonly complete as many as three design cycles for every PCB/PCA, if not more.
- VSE helps reduce the number of design cycles, and provide significant savings with the design of every new PCB design.