March 23, 1998 Design News
Software built on vision
By solving the underlying
physics problems in electromagnetic design, Ansoft's software provides engineers the tools
to grow with the ever-changing electronics industry
by Anna Allen, Staff Editor
Dr. Zoltan Csendes, a professor at Carnegie Mellon
University, founded Ansoft in 1984 to capitalize on
his work developing better solutions to electromagnetic
problems. "We began with no product or organization,
only a vision," says Nick Csendes, president and
CEO of Ansoft, recalling the early days of the company.
Fourteen years later Ansoft has positioned itself as
a key software provider in the electronic design automation
(EDA) industry. According to Dataquest, that market
is estimated to grow to $3.5 billion by the year 2000.
Ansoft's revenue for Fiscal 1997 increased 63% over
the previous year--totaling $14.2 million.
Engineers use Ansoft's software to design high-performance
electrical devices such as cellular phones, computer
circuit boards, motors, and anti-locking breaking systems.
As the electronics in these products become increasingly
more sophisticated, there is a growing need to properly
address the underlying electromagnetics problems, such
Analyzing the proper force for airbag deployment
Evaluating the performance of a connector used
in high-speed computing.
Designing high-fidelity transmitters and receivers
used in wireless communication devices like pagers
and cellular phones.
Historically, engineers could achieve a working design
by applying various rules of thumb and approximation.
Now, "the ever-increasing push for better quality
and lighter and faster electronic products is forcing
engineers to deal with the physics from a standpoint
that cannot be achieved through intuition," says
Adrian Perregaux, EM application engineering manager
According to Nick Csendes, "Our technology solves
the underlying physics problems and gives users an accurate
Ansoft's family of software consists of three separate
Ansoft EM analyzes the electrical performance of
product designs to increase yields in electromagnetic
and electromechanical systems.
Dr. Hamid Toliyat, a professor of electrical engineering
at Texas A&M University, private consultant, and
researcher, uses all of Ansoft's software in his work.
He is currently designing a permanent magnet motor
for a major appliance manufacturer, mainly using Maxwell's
2-D and 3-D Simulators. "By using this software
it is possible to refine and optimize the motor design
for appliance applications," says Toliyat. "The
software helps us produce a small-size final product
for a low cost and with increased efficiency, without
violating any constraints," he adds.
Toliyat also notes that the software is user-friendly
and convenient for students using it in his PhD course
entitled Computer-Aided Design of Electromechanical
Motion Devices. "For products we're designing,
the software solves the underlying physics problems
much better than rule of thumb."
Getting started. Ansoft's first product, the 2-D Field
Simulator, was introduced in 1986. This product provides
electromagnetic field simulation at the product design
stage from physical design information. A parametrics
capability allows the user to perform "what-if"
analyses by automatically wrapping varying physical
dimensions, material properties, and excitation levels.
Then, in 1989, Hewlett Packard (HP) sought Ansoft's
expertise to develop a high-frequency structure simulator.
"We look upon that as a very important milestone
for the company. It reinforced the value of our product
and made us aware of the real market potential. That
is when the company took off," acknowledges Csendes.
Today, Ansoft, which is headquartered in Pittsburgh,
PA, has 175 employees in offices throughout the world.
"We cross many ethnicities and country regions,"
says Perregaux. "That helps in many instances and
I think it adds to diversity."
Expanding business. Three major additions have contributed
to Ansoft's growth. In 1996 the company acquired the
Electronics Business Unit (EBU) of The MacNeal-Schwendler
Corp. to complement its EM products in the electromechanical
In 1997 it acquired Compact Software Inc., allowing
the company to complete its wireless solution suite
with a full line of RF and microwave circuit-design
Most recently, Ansoft acquired Boulder Microwave Technologies
Inc., bringing on-board a simulator for printed microwave
circuits such as couplers, filters, and antennas.
"Those acquisitions have enhanced our overall
product suite and the company's ability to reach more
customers with a better and more-complete solution,"
says Perregaux. "Our goal is to maintain our industry
leadership and aid in the advancements of the EDA industry.
We feel that the growth potential is enormous."
Creating culture. "I often tell people that there
are two things I am most proud of: One is our customer
base," says Csendes. He refers to his customers
as the "Fortune 500'' of electronics companies.
Among them: General Motors, TRW, Motorola, Siemens,
Sony, NEC, and Hitachi. "The other," says
Csendes, "is the absolute quality of our people."
Says Perregaux, "Ansoft is by far the best work
experience that I've had."
Most employees possess a Masters degree, which allows
multiple avenues for peer reference or exploration when
designing the software, notes Perregaux.
"We have an extremely approachable management
team," he continues, "there are very few stratas
and this structure supports teamwork."
"One of the biggest challenges for a software
company is actually getting a product out the door on
time. When a new product is about to be released, a
number of people from each section of the company play
a role in making sure it's ready," Perregaux says.
"The world is sort of coming our way," says
Csendes, "and for a small company and for our people,
this is a very exciting challenge." He notes that
it is extremely gratifying when engineers say, "I
never knew that you could do that." "There's
a great feeling of reward there that permeates throughout
the company," says Csendes. "We feel very
excited about what we are doing."
Vision goes to work
Traditional EDA tools rely on circuit theory to approximate
the electromagnetic behavior of simple systems involving
large isolated components where electrical signals vary
or switch relatively slowly.
As frequencies and structural complexities are increasing,
the amount of electromagnetic interaction in the systems
is also increasing dramatically. Ansoft believes that
circuit theory, which only approximates electromagnetic
interaction, cannot accurately model these systems.
To this effect, Ansoft has incorporated the work of
physicist James Clark Maxwell into their software. Ansoft's
software applies Maxwell's equations to complex, real-life
problems in the following three CAD and CAE design stages:
Preprocessing: Building a computer model
of the simulated device by developing a solid model
of the device geometry and then defining the physical
The complexities of the design process can lead to
multiple iterations between the stages. To minimize
these iterations and thereby reduce design time, Ansoft's
software provides estimates of critical design characteristics
such as performance, miniaturization, and yield.
Ansoft's software includes electromechanical (EM),
signal integrity (SI), and high-frequency (HF) products.
Here's how Ansoft describes them:
EM software products enable designers of electromechanical
components and systems to optimize the electrical performance
of their designs while increasing manufacturing yields.
The products in this category include the Maxwell 2D
Field Simulator, the Maxwell 3D Simulator, the Electromechanical
System Simulator (EMSS), and the Electromagnetic Analysis
The company's SI software enables the design of computer
interconnects, IC Packaging structures, and electronic
systems. It accurately captures the degradation in signal
quality due to higher clock speeds and smaller physical
dimensions. These products include Maxwell Spicelink,
Maxwell Eminence, Maxwell SI 2D, and Maxwell SI 3D.
Ansoft's HF software is for designing radio frequency