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 as:
- Analyzing the proper force for airbag deployment sensors.
- 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 for Ansoft.
According to Nick Csendes, "Our technology solves the underlying physics problems and gives users an accurate electromagnetic analysis."
Ansoft's family of software consists of three separate product groups:
- Ansoft EM analyzes the electrical performance of product designs to increase yields in electromagnetic and electromechanical systems.
- Ansoft SI analyzes the degradation in signal integrity for high-speed applications.
- Ansoft HF analyzes electromagnetic radiation emissions from electronic systems for high-frequency applications.
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 analysis industry.
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 tools.
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 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."