Left Shift

Building the Efficient Design System

EMA founder Manny Marcano lays out his strategy for untethering methodology and technology.
by Mike Buetow

EMA Design Automation has for years been exclusive distributor of Cadence’s OrCad products in North America and Europe. Through acquisitions and internal development EMA now has a series of its own software products for library management, component supply chain data, and other areas.

Late last year EMA announced it would spin off those CAD-agnostic products into a standalone company.

We spoke in January with Manny Marcano, president and founder of EMA, on the PCB Chat podcast. The following transcript has been edited for clarity.

Mike Buetow: The last time we spoke on PCB Chat, EMA had just purchased Trilogic EDA. Now you are sharing what I think is bigger news: the spinoff of your IP content and services offerings into this new subsidiary. You’re calling this Accelerated Designs, which is also the name of the parts library business you acquired back in 2016. You have developed numerous products over the years, all under the EMA logo. So why a separate company and why now?

Manny Marcano: It’s a great question, Mike. I’ve been doing this a long time, as you know, and the tools are what they are. They all have their way to go to market and capabilities.

But the real emphasis in the market in my opinion is not so much technology as it is methodology. It’s more about how to get the job done than how many clicks or how efficient your router is. Those are all important, but the grand vision is time to market and that’s what we’re addressing with Accelerated Designs. It’s all about getting it right the first time, shift left, instantiate the right part in the schematic so that it’s orderable and deliverable with the life cycle that you need at the procurement level.

It’s really adjusting to the needs of the market and not just one particular vendor. Everybody’s got the same problem, and this is something I’ve observed over the years; something we’ve addressed at EMA as far as selling a methodology versus tools. I’m just taking that to the next level as a supply-chain provider and addressing time-to-market issues.

Figure 1. The spinoff of Accelerated Designs underscores Marcano’s goal to synchronize the schematic, footprints and models, and procurement.

MB: Let’s go through the list of properties included in the spinoff. I know that Ultra Librarian, which is your EDA library product, is prominent among this but it goes beyond that.

MM: Absolutely. Much credit goes to Frank Frank (Ed: Frank was founder of the original Accelerated Designs). We’re old friends, and seven or eight years ago we got together and agreed to merge. I found out very quickly that the library is not just for one vendor; it is tool-agnostic. The VXL that Frank invented essentially is a generic format that can go to any EDA tool. That’s pretty much the foundation of what we’re doing.

From there we’re building an intelligent library. Ultra Librarian right now is a schematic symbol, a PCB footprint and STEP models. But we’re also starting to grow rapidly into the simulation models, intelligent models. This to me is the baseband for the intelligence for NBSC or AI. We’re building that foundation as fast as we can.

When you do that you have to look at what are the needs of other EDA users. They have exactly the same design requirements. They use the same parts. There’s nothing unique about your library other than the specific format for your tool. So we grow from there into things like our component information portal that is a direct integration to (component distributors), so inside your schematic tool you can look at what’s available in inventory at DigiKey and many other distributors.

We also have an integration of SiliconExpert. Now you can get your geometries, your parametrics for that particular part number from DigiKey, and obsolescence and lifecycle information via a SiliconExpert license, and all of that is shifted left to the engineer at their desktop. It’s a pure productivity environment. We believe that this is the future.

MB: Was this something that the marketplace directly suggested you do or was it just your feeling that potential customers felt that you may have been too identified with one CAD vendor and it may have been holding back all the other products that EMA offers?

MM: Absolutely it was holding us back. That was the driver, to just expand to being vendor-agnostic.

MB: Were you kicking this around for a while? I’ve known you for years, and you have lots of ideas and visions. You really think ahead. But when you make up your mind, Bang! It’s done.

MM: I appreciate that, but like most lessons in life I learned the hard way. So yeah, specifically on the library issue, we lost a big deal because we didn’t have a library and it wasn’t about my schematic beating their schematic. The other vendor had a library and I didn’t and literally that was a pretty big bump in the road. That’s when I reached out to Frank and we did our deal.

That hard lesson convinced me to move forward but over the last five years or so we’ve been selling methodology. We’ve been selling solutions. We have lots of multinationals that have multiple EDA systems that need to talk to each other. A common library for a global account …  our customers say this is what they need. We just address the need.

MB: Who will make up the management of Accelerated Designs?

MM: That’s a work in progress. [laughs] We’re not venture-funded or private equity. We’re doing it the old-fashioned way, a little bit at a time. I’m doing a lot of the heavy lifting and I borrow staff from EMA now and then. It will eventually evolve to getting some degree of funding, either from customers or outside, but this is a slow work in progress.

MB: I imagine your bookkeepers must not be happy with you right now.

MM: That’s why I travel more.

MB: As I understand it there’s a distribution agreement with Accelerated Designs as well. How will that work?

MM: What we’re looking at, as you pointed out earlier, we do have a vast network of EMA sub-VARs, if you will. I merged with Flo-CAD a couple years ago, so I have my own entity in Europe. We’ve got the UK, Ireland, South America, India, and so on. Accelerated Designs would be available to all of those folks, depending on what their areas of interest are, and if that particular team isn’t specifically interested in that strategy we can still sell it directly ourselves. We’ve already built an ecommerce platform worldwide and we have a network of people that can sell and support these products anywhere. We’ve got well over 250,000 registered users of Ultra Librarian alone worldwide. We’ve got a hell of a good base to build on.

MB: Does the library tend to act as a pull through for the CAD tool or is it usually the other way around?

MM: It really is a pull through for the CAD tool. The better your methodology, the more pristine your library, the better your CAD tool is going to behave. We go through these exercises with a customer where they want to import all their legacy library into the new CAD system. You don’t want to do that. We explain to them that it’s hazardous because you’re bringing in garbage. Some of these obsolete parts number in the thousands. You still have to maintain that library.

Our initial pass is to help the customer understand to cleanse the library, and get it in the format they need for their tool. Now you have a pristine library to move forward and that’s very applicable to multinationals that have five different geographic locations, and five different libraries. You’ve got to be able to converge that to one corporate library, for lots of good reasons, not the least of which is economies-of-scale.

MB: What was Cadence’s reaction to all this?

MM: I think they’re generally very supportive of it. I think they’ve even mentioned some different strategies of their own. For example, the Autodesk play; they see the need to be more agnostic than just a monolith of technology.

MB: Are there other areas where you see that you can build off the new subsidiary?

MM: Absolutely. Simulation is probably the biggest one, so we’re also at Sovar; we’re selling the simulation products from them. Most vendors say, “Here’s your simulator but you’re on your own for your content, your models.” We’re aggressively pursuing aggregating vendor-approved models … the simulator’s an engine, but the engine’s useless without the fuel. The library becomes the fuel and if you don’t have simulation models – PSpice, IBIS models or thermal models, even to the extent of RF models for AWR … you have to have all that stuff tied in if you want to have an efficient system.

All this is available, but an engineer spends an inordinate amount of time searching websites for a model, so just like in UL they could search millions and millions of parts and get the one they want, but now I want to have the extension of that simulation model attached to it.

MB: I reached out to you late last year to address some of the market trends in the EDA industry. There’s only been three down quarters over an extended period. Now that the Consumer Electronics Show is just wrapping up and you see some of the products coming out of there – transparent TVs, IoT, medical wearables, electric vehicles – all sorts of products are driving the marketplace, would you agree there is reason to be very optimistic about what the future holds for electronic design?

MM: I think it’s an understatement everything is going to be electrified. There is no end to it. When you look at wearables and EVs or any level of technology, everything is going to be electrified. And no matter how fancy or how leading-edge your chip is, you know the saying is “chips don’t float without a board.” What are you going do with your chip? Whether it’s a reference design or production design. it’s got to go on a board. That board may be something that’s implanted in your body but is still a printed circuit board. There’s no end to it.

MB: Care to share your expectations for 2024?

MM: I think 2024 is going to be absolute chaos. But you know in our mainstream world, there is no end to the opportunities and really the key is our ability to execute and reach out and find those folks in pain. And we just start doing the best we can.

I’m always the optimist. I see lots of upside for everything we’re doing.Article ending bug

Mike Buetow is president of PCEA (pcea.net); mike@pcea.net.