Mason Overview

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Mason uses signal flow graphs to calculate the S-Parameters of RF circuits in the frequency domain, with is coupled with a graphical user interface to simplify use. The program handles circuits with an arbitrary number of ports, allows for design using variables and calculations, and has several optimizers and statistical tools built in. Variables can be defined with units (e.g. pF, nH, mils). Mason can be run through the command line or using the TinyCad GUI.

Circuits can be built up with one of two types of components: static and dynamic models. Static models refer to Touchstone files, which are commonly available from vendors and test equipment. Dynamic models (known as primitives in Mason) generate S-Parameters from some number of argument, e.g. using a capacitance or the physical properties for a microstrip. Additionally, Mason handles subcircuits (using a circuit description as if it were a component), and these subcircuits can be nested.

Mason has an integrated 2D finite difference code. Currently the application is for microstrip or stripline couplers.

The optimizers (including the statistical tools) can operate on the arguments for the dynamic models. Additionally, Touchstone files can be aggregated (for example, a family of capacitors) and the specific component used can be optimized.

The primitive files (dynamic models) use a simple XML format and are relatively easy to create. Mason can automatically generate a new primitive file (dynamic model) based on a circuit composed of other primitive files (similar to a subcircuit but more efficient). Mason can output layout information that can be imported into Mentor's PADS Layout, such that microstrip circuits can be easily transitioned from design to production.

A schematic capture tool called TinyCAD has been modified to interface seamlessly with Mason. From TinyCAD, Mason can be run, the optimized values stored or discarded, the run process (and error messages) can be seen from a console, and a simple plotting tool can monitor the results.

An additional tool has been developed called PrimCalc, which uses the XML primitive file (dynamic model) and maps arguments (such as a microstrip's physical description) to calculated values (such as electrical properties). The tool can be used for both analysis and given desired electrical properties, generate the required physical arguments).

For help with errors and other common questions, see the FAQ.

Mason's simulation and layout features have been validated over the past several years both in comparison to similar codes and in actual model / measurement agreement... but occasionally I have found things that were broken. Mason uses an extensive set of validation and test cases to help prevent errors from cropping into the code. However, as free software there are no express or implied warranties; in no event can I help held liable for any damages (full license).


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