Z-zero announced today the launch of two new software products —Z-planner, for PCB stackup design and materials selection; and Field Solver Sandbox, for quick, accurate impedance and insertion–loss results.

Z-planner is a field-solver based PCB stackup planning and materials selection tool that’s optimized for hardware engineering teams that may or may not be familiar with the exhaustive details of the laminate and PCB-fabrication processes. 

With node-locked pricing starting as low as $5,500 and floating licenses for $9,500, Z-planner includes the Z-zero PCB laminate library, the time-tested HyperLynx boundary-element 2D-field solver, and Z-zero’s “Field Solver Sandbox.” Sandbox is also available as a standalone product. 

Lee Ritchey, author of “Right the First Time” and founder of high-speed design-consulting firm Speeding Edge, said, “Far too many engineering teams leave stackup design, which is critical to signal integrity, to PCB fabricators, who are—more often than not—working with little electrical engineering expertise.” Lee went on to say, “As someone who’s designed more than 1,000 stackups over the years, I must say that I find Z-planner to be an exceptional stackup-planning tool. It has the most comprehensive library of laminates I have seen, and is very user friendly. It would be an excellent addition to any signal integrity engineer’s tool set.” 

Version 1.0 includes an import/export interface with Mentor Graphics HyperLynx signal-integrity software. HyperLynx users can bring legacy stackups into Z-planner, and take advantage of some of the additional features and functionality in Z-planner, including the materials library and awareness of glass styles, resin contents, pressed prepreg thicknesses, the frequency-dependence of dielectric constants (Dk) and dissipation factors (Df), and automation of the PCB stackup design process. Engineering teams that care enough about signal integrity, crosstalk, and EMC effects to have purchased signal-integrity simulation software should find Z-planner to be an accuracy-increasing addition to their high-speed design flow. 

Since most hardware designers are comfortable representing PCB stackups using spreadsheets, Z-planner is architected to look and operate like one. The tool bridges the sizable gap between the spreadsheets many engineers and fabricators use to describe their stackups and the PCB signal-integrity world. High-speed analysis is often done with inadequate materials details, including key parameters that laminate manufacturers and PCB fabricators consider as laminates are produced and pressed into circuit boards.

Z-planner v1.0 also includes a bidirectional IPC-2581 interface, a format supported by many fabricators and electronic-design software tools, and additional interfaces are in work for future versions.

Using spreadsheets, engineers often take Dk and Df values from laminate manufacturers’ datasheets for simulations, ignoring resin content and frequency, or relying heavily on third-party fabricators to resolve final-implementation details with stackup and materials long after signal-integrity simulations have been performed — sometimes inaccurately — on a design.

Prior to the release of Z-planner, no software on the market accessibly considered the major issues —known primarily only by fabricators — surrounding stackup design, and combined them with an accurate field solver and loss-planning environment, a complete dielectric-materials library, and seamless interfaces to popular PCB signal-integrity software — all bundled into a powerful, affordably priced, easy-to-use tool.

About Field Solver Sandbox
Z-zero’s Field Solver Sandbox provides the most reasonably priced path to making what-if tradeoffs between Dk, Df, physical trace topologies, and spacing — with results that include single-ended impedance, differential impedance, propagation delay, loss as a function of frequency, and the effects of copper roughness. 

Pricing and Availability
Z-planner 1.0 is available immediately with pricing starting at $5500 (single user, node locked) and $9500 for a floating network license. An evaluation version of Z-planner software, as well as a PCB stackup design tutorial, are available for free download at z-zero.com. Field Solver Sandbox 1.0 is also available, with pricing starting at $1250 (single user, node locked) and $3000 for a floating network license. Wide-area network (WAN) licenses are also available.

For more information, please visit http://www.z-zero.com/.