Spice simulation program with integrated circuit emphasis
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Spice simulation program with integrated circuit emphasis

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SPICE Simulation Software

SPICE Simulation Software

Exploring the World of SPICE Simulation Software: A Comprehensive Overview

In the field of electronics design and analysis, SPICE (Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis) software plays a crucial role in predicting circuit behavior, optimizing designs, and identifying potential issues before costly prototyping or production. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of various SPICE simulation software, encompassing both free and commercial options, along with their distinctive features and capabilities.

LTspice: Engineered by Linear Technology (now Analog Devices), LTspice stands as a widely acclaimed and potent free SPICE simulator. It delivers an intuitive interface, rendering it apt for novices and experienced professionals alike. Its extensive component repository, encompassing numerous Analog Devices components, guarantees precision in simulations. Moreover, LTspice permits users to craft bespoke models, conferring a high degree of versatility across a myriad of electronic circuits.

KiCad: KiCad, an open-source electronics design automation suite, houses an inherent SPICE simulator named NgSpice. This complimentary tool proves particularly valuable for seamless integration with KiCad’s schematic capture and PCB layout attributes. KiCad’s NgSpice bestows a comprehensive array of simulation choices, spanning AC, DC, transient, and more intricate analyses. It finds favor among hobbyists, students, and small-scale ventures.

TINA-TI: Forged by Texas Instruments, TINA-TI is a user-friendly and robust commercial SPICE simulator. While a free version (TINA-TI Webench) exists, the complete iteration features advanced functionalities, aligning with professional engineers and expansive projects. TINA-TI flaunts an expansive component repository, encompassing diverse Texas Instruments devices, ensuring accurate circuit modeling and analysis.

PSpice: Hailing from Cadence Design Systems, PSpice is a versatile and widely employed commercial SPICE simulator. It caters to both analog and mixed-signal simulations, rendering it suitable for intricate circuits. PSpice’s distinctive Sensitivity and Monte Carlo analyses aid in gauging circuit performance across diverse scenarios. Its extensive library of manufacturer-specific models guarantees seamless correspondence with real-world components.

SIMetrix/SIMPLIS: SIMetrix, a commercial SPICE simulator, prioritizes swift and precise simulations, catering to both analog and mixed-signal circuits. Its user-friendliness and compatibility with standard SPICE models render it a favored choice among design engineers. Meanwhile, SIMPLIS, nestled within SIMetrix, excels in switch-mode power supply (SMPS) and control loop simulations, presenting efficient designs for power electronics applications.

Altium Designer: Altium Designer stands as a holistic PCB design software, boasting an inherent SPICE simulator. It presents a seamless design flow, intertwining schematic capture, PCB layout, and simulation. The interface’s intuitiveness, coupled with advanced simulation capabilities, positions Altium Designer as a preferred solution among professional electronic designers.

ICAP/4: Intusoft’s ICAP/4 is a robust SPICE simulator renowned for its precision and accuracy. It spans an extensive spectrum of circuit types, encompassing analog, digital, and mixed-signal designs. ICAP/4’s comprehensive device model repository ensures faithful representation of various components in simulations.

5Spice: As a user-friendly and economical SPICE simulator, 5Spice finds suitability in educational endeavors and compact projects. Despite its cost-effectiveness, 5Spice endows a comprehensive array of simulation features, endowing it with immense value for electronics enthusiasts and students.

Proteus: Heralding from Labcenter Electronics, Proteus stands as a professional electronics design software, harboring a formidable SPICE simulator. It furnishes an amalgamated milieu for schematic capture, PCB layout, and simulation. The advanced simulation choices within Proteus cater to both analog and digital circuits, rendering it a staple among engineers and researchers.

NI Multisim: The brainchild of National Instruments, NI Multisim emerges as a user-friendly and feature-rich SPICE simulator. It unveils an expansive component repository and seamless compatibility with other NI products, affording an extensive domain for electronic design analysis and validation.

TopSpice: Emerging as a versatile commercial SPICE simulator with advanced modeling capabilities, TopSpice thrives in complex electronic systems. Its manifold simulation options facilitate meticulous analysis of circuits under diverse operational contexts.

Micro-Cap: As a comprehensive SPICE simulator prioritizing analog and mixed-signal simulations, Micro-Cap’s user-friendliness and robust simulation engine earn it acclaim among design engineers and researchers.

Spice Opus: Spice Opus assumes the form of an open-source SPICE simulator, tailored for efficient and precise circuit simulations. Its adaptability and alignment with standard SPICE models mark it as a coveted resource for electronics aficionados and researchers.

ViaDesigner Suite: Encompassing an integrated electronics design software boasting a SPICE simulator, ViaDesigner Suite weaves a complete solution for circuit design, simulation, and PCB layout. This comprehensive approach positions it as the preferred choice for seasoned designers.

EDWinXP: EDWinXP stands as an all-encompassing electronics design suite, coupling with a SPICE simulator. It caters to a diverse landscape of electronic designs, unveiling seamless amalgamation and efficient simulation capabilities.

The choice of SPICE simulation software hinges upon specific project requisites, budget considerations, and circuit intricacies. Whether one’s preference gravitates toward gratis tools like LTspice and KiCad’s NgSpice, or commercial titans such as TINA-TI, PSpice, SIMetrix/SIMPLIS, Altium Designer, or any of the other aforementioned software, these instruments empower designers to dissect and optimize electronic circuits, ultimately propelling innovation and dependability within the electronics sphere.

Company SPICE software Image software license
Altium Altium Designer altiumdesigner Commercial
KiCad KiCad KiCad Free
Cadence OrCAD Solutions OrCADSoftware Commercial
TINA Design Suite TINAcalculator Commercial
5Spice 5Spice 5SpicePro Commercial
ICAP/4 icapsoftware Commercial
Proteus proteussoftware Commercial
lineartechnology LTSpice IV ltspicesoftware Free
nationalinstruments NI Multisim Multisim Commercial
TopSpice topspice Commercial
Micro-Cap Micro-Cap Free
Spice Opus spiceopus Free
ViaDesigner Suite ViaDesigner Free
visionics EDWinXP edwinxp Commercial

On this page, you will find links to the SPICE model libraries of various electronic components from major manufacturers.

SPICE (Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis)

Description: Integrated circuits, unlike board-level designs composed of discrete parts, are impossible to breadboard before manufacture. Further, the high costs of photolithographic masks and other manufacturing prerequisites make it essential to design the circuit to be as close to perfect as possible before the integrated circuit is first built. Simulating the circuit with SPICE is the industry-standard way to verify circuit operation at the transistor level before committing to manufacturing an integrated circuit. For example, it will draw out circuits and simulate what happens when the circuits are powered up/ and behave under different emergency conditions.

Units: Circuit Behavioral information such as Voltage and current waveforms showing things such as timing and loading behavior.

Advantages: Is relatively cheap, is generally regarded as an industry standard which is taught in most Electrical/Electronic university courses.

Limitations: Dependent on complexity, the simulation parameters and circuit arrangement, can be very complicated and require a lot of time to implement.

Regulations: IEEE Standards Association. (2012). 1516-2010 — IEEE Standard for Modeling and Simulation (M&S) High Level Architecture (HLA) — Framework and Rules. Retrieved from http://standards.ieee.org/findstds/standard/1516-2010.html

Target Audience: Engineering

Relevant to Universal Design: No

Stages and Steps: 3.5, 5, 6

What is a SPICE Simulation in Electronics Design?

SPICE (Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis) is a general-purpose analog circuit simulator that is ubiquitous in integrated circuit and board-level design workflows. SPICE software allows you to accurately model and test circuit behavior before ever building real prototypes during the electronics design process. Read on for an in-depth primer on SPICE simulation concepts, applications, popular tools, and usage in PCB development.

Introduction to SPICE

SPICE refers to a whole class of circuit simulation programs that use nodal analysis and matrix solutions techniques to numerically compute analog circuit parameters. Simulating with SPICE provides key benefits like:

  • Test and optimize circuits without costly prototyping
  • Visualize voltages and currents difficult to probe physically
  • Verify integrity of designs before manufacturing
  • Explore what-if scenarios with component values and conditions
  • Model real device characteristics and constraints

SPICE simulators contain robust mathematical models for semiconductor devices along with a comprehensive model library for diverse electronic components. Combined with powerful convergence algorithms, this lets you simulate analog and digital circuits with close correlation to hardware experiments.

Modern SPICE tools feature integrated wave-form viewers, post-processing options, and co-simulation capabilities for a complete virtual test bench. Let’s cover some background on SPICE first.

History of SPICE Circuit Simulation

The original SPICE (Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis) was developed at UC Berkeley in the 1970s as a teaching tool for integrated circuit design. This public domain program formed the basis of commercially enhanced SPICE platforms from multiple Electronic Design Automation (EDA) vendors.

Over decades, SPICE evolved to add more device models, speed/capacity improvements, and better convergence for increased simulation accuracy. Standardization efforts like the SPICE netlist format further popularized circuit simulation using SPICE derivatives.

Today, SPICE and SPICE-like simulators are indispensable for board and VLSI design, providing accurate verification of functionality, AC analysis, transient responses, and analog fault testing before committing designs to expensive fabrication.

Both open-source and commercial SPICE tools see wide use. Let’s cover some popular SPICE options.

Notable SPICE Simulation Programs

Many SPICE programs exist, both free and paid versions. Some notable options include:


The original open source SPICE3 simulator from UC Berkeley enhanced by the ngSPICE project for improved convergence and additional device modeling.

LTspice / SwitcherCAD III

SPICE platform from Analog Devices focused on switch mode power supply and analog circuit design with a full model library. Free for personal use.


Texas Instrument’s SPICE environment tailored specifically for simulating op-amps, power regulators, sensors and other TI IC portfolios with custom models. Available gratis.

OrCAD PSpice

One of the most advanced commercial SPICE tools from Cadence Design Systems, tightly integrated into their PCB design flow.


Includes extensions to standard SPICE handling code modeling, new algorithms, and GPU acceleration for large simulations. Available in multiple SPICE programs.


Full featured mixed analog/digital/RF circuit simulator from SIMetrix Technologies supporting Verilog, VHDL, IBIS models, EM cosimulation and FDTD methods.

Tanner Spice / S-Edit

Mature surface mount, EMI/EMC and analog simulation solution from Tanner EDA including the S-Edit schematic capture. Integrates with Tanner PCB tools.


Flagship IC/PCB design virtual prototyping platform from Synopsys, with SystemVerilog/Verilog-AMS HDL support and links to major EDA toolchains.

The list goes on covering general purpose and application tuned SPICE environments fitting different simulation use cases. Most also offer custom modeling assistance.

Understanding SPICE Software Capabilities

Modern SPICE simulators share core functionality but can significantly differ in analysis depths, simulation speeds, tool integrations and model availabilities.

General SPICE Features

At their foundation, all SPICE programs provide:

  • Circuit schematic capture — Draw circuit diagrams using component symbols
  • Netlist generation — Text-based circuit description with nodes and elements
  • Analog simulations — DC bias, AC frequency, Transient time-domain analysis
  • Results waveforms — Voltages, currents and device power traces over time
  • Model libraries — Premade models for common components
  • Post processing — Measurement tables, mathematical manipulation

This supports basic component stress testing, frequency responses and operational validation of circuits under different static and dynamic inputs.

Advanced Analyses

More advanced analyses add sophisticated verification:

  • Monte Carlo Analysis — Component value statistical distributions
  • Sensitivity Analysis — Identify critical design parameters
  • Smoke Analysis — Stress component limits to force failures
  • Fourier Analysis — Frequency spectrum decomposition
  • Noise Analysis — Stochastic signal and phase noise modeling
  • EMI Simulation — Board-level emissions prediction
  • IBIS Models — Behavioral modeling of digital ICs

Such analysis empowers in-depth design margins testing, analog optimizations, and electrical compliance verification through simulations.

Co-Simulation Types

Connecting with other model formats expands simulation bandwidth:

  • Verilog / VHDL — Event/time driven digital logic
  • SystemC — System level modeling and architectural exploration
  • MATLAB — Import measurement data for comparisons
  • Electromagnetic Solvers — Model RF, high speed effects
  • Thermal Solvers — Heat transfer response prediction
  • Mechanical FEA — Vibration/shock modeling

Co-simulation enables system level interconnected simulations critical for complex multi-physics products.

With the right SPICE platform, engineers get access to a wealth of simulation capabilities vital for robust electronics product development.

electronics design automation flow

SPICE circuit simulation is a key analysis step within automated electronics design flows spanning schematic design, PCB layout, and manufacturing generation.

In particular, simulations help designers:

  • Verify schematic circuit integrity — Simulate to validate functionality before PCB layout workflows for confidence. Saves respins.
  • Generate functional component models — Create simulation models of ICs and other elements not in standard model libraries.
  • ** Inform board layout constraints** — Let simulation thermal results guide board layout cooling needs proactively.
  • Analyze signal integrity issues — Identify detrimental noise or ringing through simulations first.
  • Guide PCB stackup selections — Pick dielectric materials and layer counts best suited per analysis.
  • Confirm overall design margins — Test complete board limits through corner analysis for quality.
  • Derisk manufacturing processes — Model reliability over temperature and statistical process spreads through Monte Carlo runs.

Simulations provide critical sign-off verification at multiple stages, reducing reliance on costly build-test prototype iterations.

SPICE Modeling Fundamentals

To leverage SPICE software, engineers need strong grasp of modeling approaches for various electronic components to ensure simulation accuracy.

Passive Component Models

Passive building blocks like R, L, C elements have straightforward models with mainly parasitic considerations:

Resistor — Resistance value. Add parasitic inductance and capacitance for high frequency. Noise models.
Capacitor — Capacitance, ESR, ESL. Leakage I-V curves, voltage coefficients.
Inductor — Inductance value. Saturation curves, skin/proximity effects. Stray capacitance. Transformer — Ideal transformer turns ratio. Or mutual inductance with cores.

Semiconductor Device Models

Discrete active devices have specialized models handling complex non-linear I-V characteristics:

Diodes — Shockley diode equation. Breakdown knee. Temperature based model parameters.
BJT — Ebers-Moll formulation. Gummel Poon for charge storage. Temperature dependent.
MOSFET — Level 1–3 model sophistications. BSIM industry standard models.
IGBT — Unipolar MOSFET equivalents with tailored transfer curves per device physics.

Modern models capture nuanced large and small signal SEMI behaviors critical for precision.

Behavioral and Macromodels

For complex ICs lacking internal design visibility, behavioral models are created through input-output measurements:

Verilog-A — Behavioral analog modeling language for capturing functional relationships.
IBIS — Standard for modeling digital I/O buffers slew rates, timing, noise margins.
SystemVerilog — Enhanced Verilog supporting analog/mixed-signal descriptions. VHDL-AMS — Model both structural compositions and mathematical functions.

Behavioral constructs enable representing black box chips and abstracting large system complexity.

Overall, matching models to the actual physical electronics characteristics ensures accurate simulations versus hardware. Model validation requires care.

SPICE Simulation Overview

The National Instruments SPICE Simulation Fundamentals series is your free resource on the internet for learning about circuit simulation. The series is a set of tutorials and information on SPICE simulation, OrCAD pSPICE compatibility, SPICE modeling, and other concepts in circuit simulation.

For more information, see the SPICE Simulation Fundamentals main page.

The series is divided among a number of in-depth detailed articles that will give you HOW TO information on the important concepts and details of SPICE simulation.

Circuit simulation is an important part of any design process. By simulating your circuits, you can detect errors early in the process, and avoid costly and time consuming prototype reworking. You can also easily swap components to evaluate designs with varying bills of materials (BOMs).

SPICE Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis (SPICE)

SPICE is a computer simulation and modeling program used by engineers to mathematically predict the behavior of electronics circuits. Developed at the University of California at Berkeley, SPICE can be used to simulate circuits of almost all complexities. However, SPICE is generally used to predict the behavior of low to mid frequency (DC to around 100MHz) circuits.

SPICE Simulation Models and Netlists

SPICE has the ability to simulate components ranging from the most basic passive elements such as resistors and capacitors to sophisticated semiconductor devices such as MESFETs and MOSFETs. Using these intrinsic components as the basic building blocks for larger models, designers and chip manufacturers have been able to define a truly vast and diverse number of SPICE models. Most commercially available simulators include more than 15,000 different components.

The quality of SPICE models can vary, and not all SPICE models are applicable to every application. It is important to consider this when using the models supplied with a SPICE simulation package. Using a SPICE model inappropriately can lead to inaccurate results, or even generate an error in some circumstances. One of the most common errors made by even seasoned engineers is confusing a SPICE model with a PSPICE model. PSPICE is a commercially available program that uses proprietary languages to define components and models.

A circuit must be presented to SPICE in the form of a netlist. The netlist is a text description of all circuit elements such as transistors and capacitors, and their corresponding connections. Modern schematic capture and simulation tools such as Multisim allow users to draw circuit schematics in a user-friendly environment, and automatically translate the circuit diagrams into netlists. Consider as an example the simple voltage divider circuit below. We include both netlist and corresponding circuit schematic.

Voltage Divider Netlist

* Any text after the asterisk ‘*’ is ignored by SPICE
* Voltage Divider
vV1 1 0 12
rR1 1 2 1000
rR2 2 0 2000

.OP * perform a DC operating point analysis

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