Electronic design automation, also known by the acronym EDA, is a method to improve the production of electronic devices, including integrated circuits, microprocessors and printed circuit boards. Electronic design automation makes use of computer-aided design (CAD) software that helps engineers design these electronic devices. Increasingly, the scope of automated design has expanded beyond straight design to now include the use of software that simulates and tests the components to ensure they work properly before they are manufactured. And in many cases, the digital version of an electronic device created by the electronic design automation process is now used by manufacturing systems to actually produce the item as well.
The use of electronic design automation has grown due to the miniaturization of electronic components. Through miniaturization, each new generation of integrated circuit, microprocessor or printed circuit board contains many more transistors, diodes, capacitors, resistors and wires. For example, the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles roughly every two years. As circuit boards and microprocessors have become more densely packed, electronic design automation software has helped designers more quickly assemble various elements using CAD techniques on a digital palette. Additionally, designers can create and use libraries of pre-existing groups of elements that are frequently needed in a design.
The dense packing of elements onto a circuit board or microprocessor results in very complex designs. Naturally, it makes sense to test a design before moving to the production stage. This has led to the increased use of simulation and verification software that complements the electronic design automation process. Essentially, such software digitally test drives the electronic component to ensure it performs the necessary functions and meets the system specifications. For example, a designer might test to see how much power the circuit or microprocessor uses. Once everything checks out, the digital design of an electronic component can then be used by the photolithography systems that manufacture the integrated circuits, microprocessors and printed circuit boards.
Electronic design automation processes are now used from the concept stage to production, speeding the development of electronic components. The increased use of simulation and verification software as part of the electronic design automation process is helping to identify problems before a design is put into production. This combination of increased speed and reduction of mistakes before moving to manufacturing is highly desirable in a market as competitive as electronic component design.