VLSI & RF Software

This page contains information about the software used within the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in Very Large Scale Integrated (VLSI) circuit design and Radio Frequency (RF) design, including tutorials on how to use them and a debugging page that lists all the common problems and their solutions.

Cadence University Program

Below is information about the Cadence software used at Iowa State University. For more information about the vendor or any of its other products, please visit the Cadence Web site.

Iowa State has been involved in teaching and research in the VLSI area for more than 20 years. Currently, there is substantial teaching and research in the areas of analog and mixed-signal design and digital VLSI CAD. The Cadence design environment incorporates the main tools that are used for those purposes.

We use the tools developed by Cadence Design Systems in graduate and undergraduate research and teaching. To be more precise, we use them to design, and simulate circuits at the schematic view, draw circuit layout, perform post-layout simulations of the transient, frenquency and dc type, simulate hardware description language files and perform the elaboration, floorplanning, placement, and routing of a digital system.

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering offers the following courses in this area: EE 330, EE 435, EE 465, EE 501, EE 505, EE 507, EE 508,  EE 514, CprE 563, CprE 564, and CprE 566. See more information on ECpE courses.

Faculty members associated with the VLSI program are Morris Chang, Degang Chen, Chris Chu, Ayman Fayed, Randall Geiger, Nathan Neihart, and Santosh Pandey. Learn more about the VLSI research group.

Frequently Asked Cadence Questions

See the Frequently Asked Cadence Questions Web page.


For tutorial on the Cadence design environment at Iowa State University, please refer to the EE 434 course Web site.

Design Kits

At ISU, we use different design kits along with the Cadence environment. The users chose a certain kit depending on class or research requirements.

For teaching purposes, we use use a kit that has been developed by NC State University. More documentation about it is on NCSU’s Web site. This kit is free of charge and includes the following processes:

  • AMI06
  • AMI16
  • HP06
  • TSMC04_4M2P
  • TSMC04_4M
  • TSMC02
  • TSMC03

For teaching purposes, the AMI06 process is the one currently used, along with standard cells for digital placement developed at Iowa State University.

Other kits are used for research-oriented work and are given access to after signing a non-disclosure agreement form. Examples include: TI90, AMI06, IBM 6HP, TSMC018, TSMC025, and TSMC035. These contain proprietary information.

For permission to use these kits, please contact Randall Geiger or Nathan Neihart.

HP Advanced Design Systems

We use the HP Advanced Design Systems (ADS) tools for designing and simulating RF circuits. ADS is  a software from Agilent Technologies. It is a versatile and powerful CAD program for RF and microwave design. Among other items, it can do much of what Spice can do, as well as perform harmonic balance and microwave frequency-based design.

It has a large palette of microwave components and transistor devices and can accommodate VLSI devices. It has a good geometric-to-schematic linked capability so that PCBs and chips can be fabricated with the database generated. Currently, our license is limited for academic use only (i.e. it is not for funded research, but can be used for graduate student theses and dissertations).

ADS is used in EE 414/514 and other microwave courses. Graduate students can use it for computations directly benefiting their theses and dissertations. There is a possible link in Cadence to ADS. It can be an alternate computational tool to SpectreRF for RF design.

Iowa State University thanks Agilent for providing the software license under the university discount licensing. All work performed at Iowa State that uses ADS tools should be restricted to academic purposes only. If you are unsure about your case, please contact Nathan Neihart.