Circuit Simulators: a Revolutionary E-Learning Platform

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1 Circuit Simulators: a Revolutionary E-Learning Platform Mahi Itagi 1 Padre Conceicao College of Engineering, India 1 Akhil Deshpande 2 Gogte Institute of Technology, India 2 Abstract - In present era the field of Electronics and Telecommunication plays an important role in almost every sphere of our life. It has penetrated in every field of our existence. The technology of Electronics and Telecommunication helps us to see, hear and communicate over vast distances and do things faster. It mainly deals with the communication technologies along with the basic electronic components, design of circuits and systems. This paper deals with a brief of various circuit simulators like MATLAB, TINA, NCTUns and CADENCE which are presently the most acclaimed simulators. Computer Circuit simulators are software s that help analyze an electronic circuit and determine much of its performance without physically constructing it using hardware components. It makes analysis of the system quite effectively with easy- to-use technology with speed and accuracy. In this way computer simulation which in simple words is a virtual way of emulating the behavior of a circuit, engages the students by integrating them into the learning experience. By replacing the monochrome class teaching of the working of a circuit, with its simulation, learning and practicals can be done simultaneously and students can grasp more knowledge about computer software and hardware simultaneously. The superlative growth of simulators has brought in a host of new technologies for e-learning and will provide massive support to engineers in the years to come. Keywords - Communication, Electronic Circuits, E-Learning, Simulation I. INTRODUCTION We live in a world that is constantly changing. The presence of computers has revolutionized the world [7]. Starting from the ancient Guru-kula system to the formal classroom learning in schools to distance education, the process of learning in education has come a long way. E-Education is the process of learning where computers are used at each possible step of the process: enrollment, instruction design, content delivery, evaluation, assessment and support [6]. When it comes to the world of electronics, it mainly deals with circuits or devices using passive components like resistors, capacitors or active components like Voltage/Current source, transistors and other components. A circuit is a closed loop consisting of an interconnection of various components, giving a return path for the current. In an electrical circuit the process of studying and analyzing the output the circuit is very important. One way to do this would be putting it down on the paper, analyzing every node, writing complex mathematical equations and finally coming to a solution. This as it sounds is a very rigorous task. The second way is to actually build the design and test it using hardware components or test instruments. After building the circuit if 19.1

2 Circuit Simulators: a Revolutionary E-Learning Platform it does not do what you were expecting or it damages one or more components in the process, finding the flaw in the circuit and even replacing the lost components may be a quite a task. A more efficient way to do this would be to use a computer. Or in other words simulate the circuit. Simulation is a technique where computer software is used for studying and analyzing an electric circuit. By simulating a circuit, software problems in the design can be determined early on, leading to a better final design, efficient analysis and significant cost savings. It helps teach the students the fundamentals of circuit design. Simulation has started to become an accepted tool for the design of electronic systems. In recent past there have been remarkable advances in tools for the simulation of electronics. Not only advances in the user interface of the programs, but also advances in the underlying methods on which these simulation tools are based. The flexibility of internet technology has favored the development of applications that allow performing scientific simulation by using interactive educational environments. pre-made components for the user to utilize in their designs [5]. It is highly reviewed and widely applied among electronics and electrical engineers around the world. First step is to construct the circuit. This software allows the students to select different components from various categories like Basic, Switches, Meters, sources, Semiconductors, and Spice Macros. If there are any errors, an error report is generated that indicates the position of the error. The next step is to test and simulate its functionality. Different types of analysis are available. For e.g. DC/AC Analysis, Transient Analysis, Fourier & Noise Analysis. Fig. 1 shows the circuit construction which involves only the dragging and dropping of components and Fig. 2 shows its output. The output consists of two waveforms. One is the original signal and the second one is the amplified version of the original signal. II. CONCEPT Circuit simulators, first began to appear in the late 1960 s and early 70 s. However, it was the explosive growth of the integrated circuit market in the 1970 s that precipitated the rise of importance of circuit simulation. With integrated circuits, prototypes were expensive to build and difficult to troubleshoot. Circuit simulators were necessary to evaluate designs before they were fabricated. As designs became larger and more complicated, the need to use circuit simulators increased. The following are a few types of simulators used in the electronics/communication tributary: A. TINA TINA is a powerful circuit simulation software for analyzing, designing and real time testing of analog, digital and many other electronic circuits. It incorporates a library of Fig 1. Building an Amplifier Circuit in TINA Simulator Fig 2. Simulation Output of the Amplifier Circuit using TINA 19.2

3 Mahi Itagi and Akhil Deshpande Fig. 3 self explains the complexity if the same circuit was to be constructed and verified using hardware components. Fig 4. Schematic of an Inverter using Cadence Fig 3. Breadboard Implementation of Amplifier Circuit. B. CADENCE Cadence is an Electronic Design Automation (EDA) environment that allows integrating in a single framework different applications and tools (both proprietary and from other vendors), allowing to support all the stages of IC design and verification from a single environment. EDA software and hardware enables everything from the design of individual transistors to the development of software before any hardware is built. These tools are completely general, supporting different fabrication technologies. When a particular technology is selected, a set of configuration and technology-related files are employed for customizing the Cadence environment. This set of files is commonly referred as a design kit [3, 4]. This is the most widely used simulator in the VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) domain. Fig. 4 and Fig. 5 depicts the simplicity involved in the simulation of a inverter circuit using cadence. Fig 5. Simulation Output of the Inverter Circuit using Cadence. C. NCTUns NCTUns Program is an extensible network simulator for teleinformatic networks. It predicts the behavior of a computer network. Network simulation is an important tool in developing, testing and evaluating network protocols. Simulation can be used without the target physical hardware, making it economical and practical for almost any scale of network topology and setup. It allows users to introduce real devices and applications into a test network (simulated) that alters packet flow in such a way as to mimic the behavior of a live network. Live traffic can pass through the simulator and be affected by objects within the simulation [2]. Results are easier to obtain and analyze, because extracting information from important points in the simulated network is done by simply parsing the generated trace files. 19.3

4 Circuit Simulators: a Revolutionary E-Learning Platform Fig 6. Movement of Data in a Computer Network using NCTUns Fig 8. Original Image for Edge Detection using MATLAB Fig 7. Simulation Output of the Data Transfer using NCTUns D. MATLAB Importance of image processing stems from two principal application areas: the first being the Improvement of pictorial information for human interpretation and the second being the Processing of a scene data for an autonomous machine perception. Dealing with images means dealing with pixels. MATLAB stands for MATrix LABoratory and the software is built up around vectors and matrices. MATLAB has powerful graphic tools and can produce nice pictures in both 2D and 3D. It is also a programming language, and is one of the easiest programming languages for writing mathematical programs. In addition it also has some tool boxes useful for signal processing, image processing, optimization, etc. A simple example of how MATLAB helps students would be a task of finding the edge of a given image [1]. Fig 9. Simulation Output for Edge Detection using MATLAB 1) Advantages of Simulation: The biggest advantage of performing a simulation is money. Designing, building, testing, re-designing, re-testing can be an expensive project. A simulation can give results that are not experimentally measurable with our current level of technology. Provides the students with practical feedback when designing real world systems. Determines the correctness and efficiency of a design before the system is actually constructed. Effective means for teaching or demonstrating concepts to students. Consider again, for example, a circuit simulator. By showing the paths taken by 19.4

5 Mahi Itagi and Akhil Deshpande signals as inputs are consumed by components and outputs are produced over their respective fan-out, the student can actually see what is happening within the circuit and is therefore left with a better understanding for the dynamics of the circuit. Such a simulator also permits students to speed up, slow down, stop or even reverse a simulation as a means of aiding understanding. This is particularly true when simulating circuits which contain feedback loops or other operations which are not immediately intuitive upon an initial investigation. Easy to perform what-if analysis i.e. conditions can be varied and the outcomes can be investigated. Portability. Students increasingly arrive at colleges and universities with microcomputers that enable them to conduct simulations on their own. 2) Disadvantages of Simulation: Simulation errors: Any incorrect key stroke has the potential to alter the results of the simulation and give you wrong results. To simulate something a thorough understanding is needed and an awareness of all the factors involved, without which a simulation cannot be created. Complex simulations can require the use of a computer system with a fast processor and large amounts of memory. take individual set-ups. Prototyping and simulation go hand-in-hand to contribute to the overall success of almost any circuit design. REFERENCES (Arranged in the order of citation in the same fashion as the case of Footnotes.) [1] Somya, S., Sunil, K., and Vijay, K.S. Edge Detection using Soft Computing in MATLAB. International journal of advanced research in Computer Science and Software Engineering, Vol. 3, Issue 6, June [2] Shie-Yuan, W. and Yu-Ming, H. NCTUns Distributed Network Emulator. Internet Journal, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp [3] cadence.com. < cadence/pages.aspx>. [4] Antonio, J. and Lopez, M. (2002). Cadence Design Environment. Tutorial, New Mexico State University. [5] tina.com. DesignSoft. < [6] Sangeeta, K., Manohar, L., and Shikhay, S. (2011). E-learning as a Research Area: an Analytical Approach. International Journal of advanced Computer Science and Applications, Vol. 2, No. 9. [7] < positive impact of E-Learning-2012 update>. III. CONCLUSION In conclusion the use of this analysis is very valuable. A lot of time, energy and resources can be saved by a simulation that is more close to testing than it has ever been in case of printed circuit boards. This paper has showcased two important points with regards to simulation: 1. improving student understanding of basic research principles and analytic techniques, 2. investigating the effects of problems that arise in the implementation of research. It gives an added advantage of predicting a myriad of situation that would 19.5

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