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Taking a Cloud-Based Approach to Computer-Aided Engineering

In this Q&A, Dr. Masha Petrova, VP of marketing at OnScale, talks about her company’s cloud-based methodology for solving problems, the 5G arena, and more.

In this Q&A, Dr. Masha Petrova, VP of marketing at OnScale, talks about her company’s cloud-based methodology for solving problems, the 5G arena, and more.

Can you first give us an overview of OnScale?

OnScale is developing and commercializing engineering simulation software, empowering engineers to accelerate innovation across multiple industries, including next-generation technologies such as MEMS, semiconductors, 5G, biomedicine, and autonomous vehicles. OnScale combines powerful multiphysics solver technology used and validated by Fortune 500 companies for over 30 years, with the limitless speed and flexibility of cloud high-performance computing (HPC). By removing the constraints of legacy simulation tools, OnScale allows engineers to dramatically reduce cost, risk, and time-to-market for cutting-edge technologies.

What prompted the company to adopt a cloud-based approach?

OnScale computer-aided engineering (CAE) tools are based on proprietary multiphysics solvers that were developed and validated for over 30 years by one of the largest engineering consulting firms in the world for DARPA, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), and large commercial customers. The CAE solvers were designed for highly parallel mainframe computers to handle very large engineering simulation problems and are a perfect fit for modern cloud-based, high-performance computing.

A cloud-based approached is necessary to enable engineers to fully take advantage of these powerful solvers, give them the ability to solve very large, real-world problems, and to realistically set up and conduct design of experiments (DoE).

Tell us about OnScale’s role in the 5G arena.

5G is being heralded as the next great innovation in technology, as it ushers in a new era of connectivity—with everything being connected to everything else with almost zero latency. One of the biggest markets for 5G is mobile communications—namely cell phones, with AT&T and Verizon already announcing 5G network coverage in the US.

However, there are massive technological challenges in fully commercializing this technology, mainly in reducing the front-end footprint and power consumption while incorporating more advanced components. To meet these challenges, there’s a tremendous global research-and-development (R&D) effort underway to develop the next-gen antennas and RF filters needed to make 5G a reality.

Prototyping is an iterative process that can cost from $100K to $1M per foundry run, depending on the complexity of the process. In addition, prototyping is time-consuming and can significantly increase time-to-market. Simulation that can handle large-scale, real-world problems allows companies to reduce the number of prototyping iterations required as well as cut costs and time-to-market—all while mitigating the risks that come with developing new technology.

When it comes to design, most design groups are only able to explore a few different paths due to limitations of prototyping costs and/or engineering simulation tools. They have to rely on the “gut instinct” of engineers to drive design directions. As technology becomes more sophisticated, engineering software must advance to allow for testing exponentially larger numbers of design permutations. It’s not practical to explore all of these possibilities empirically. However, OnScale’s simulation software enables exploration of multiple designs in parallel.

Advanced packaging techniques for MEMS-CMOS integration, including chip-scale packaging (CSP) and die bonding, induce significant effects on device performance. Process failures lead to reduced yield, and in-service failures lead to returns and poor consumer experiences. Good designs often fail due to packaging challenges such as:

  • Thermal: delamination, induced stress from stacked die, packaging stress, interconnect failure
  • Environmental: vibration, shock, moisture, ESD
  • Process: material variations, dimensional tolerances

Simulation with OnScale allows engineers to identify these issues faster and more cost-effectively than with prototyping alone or the use of legacy CAE software.

How is OnScale supporting RF filter design specifically?

The best way to answer this question is to describe how some of our customers are using OnScale for RF filter design.

Two large chip manufacturers, Qorvo and WISOL, are both using OnScale to quickly explore vast design spaces for optimizing gigahertz RF filter configurations in full 3D for virtual prototyping of blue-sky 5G filter design. This capability was previously impossible with legacy design tools, forcing engineers to constantly fabricate and test to assess hypotheses.

With OnScale being a new company, how are engineers adapting to the company’s solution?

We’re seeing that more and more Fortune 500 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are putting forth large cloud initiatives. In the last few years, it’s become very clear that the cloud is not just a fad. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are hyper-aware that data security is critical to adoption of the cloud. Both AWS and GCP have made great strides to assure companies in the manufacturing and R&D space that their data is just as (if not more) safe than on their own servers. With companies like Salesforce paving the way, we’re seeing a much more accepting outlook toward cloud-based solutions.

In addition, we have heard from multiple customers that OEMs and large suppliers are looking for innovative and novel solutions and technologies. Even companies in well-established and traditionally very conservative industries, like oil and gas, have initiatives in place to encourage innovation within their suppliers.

Smaller suppliers and engineering firms welcome OnScale’s solutions with open arms because of the flexibility of our pricing model. They no longer need to pay tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for an annual license that they might need for a 1-month project. To get started with OnScale, they don’t even need to talk to an account manager! Simply sign up for a free account on our website, go through a few online tutorials, and you’re ready to run your simulations. If a customer does need additional core hours for larger simulations, they can simply pay with a credit card.

Original Interview with Dr. Masha Petrova, VP of marketing at OnScale, published on Microwaves & RF.

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