Cadence Design Offers Microchip Independence To Defense OEMs

If defense and aerospace OEMs design their own microelectronics, program delivery can be streamlined and sustainment improved dramatically, Cadence contends.
Credit: Cadence Design Systems

FARNBOROUGH—“This industry has woken up,” says Frank Schirrmeister. “It has come to realize it can actually win quite a bit by doing digitalization themselves.”

Schirrmeister is senior director for the solutions and ecosystem group at Cadence Design Systems, a California-based company taking steady but considered steps to promote itself to aerospace clients. The firm, which provides a wide range of digital design services, already counts a number of major aerospace and defense OEMs among its client base. But the benefits it offers do not readily lend themselves to eye-catching displays in air show halls. 

“We provide the software, hardware and intellectual property,” Schirrmeister says. “Think of it as the Lego blocks for chip design. We extend into computational fluid dynamics and digital twins.”

Cadence provides defense and aerospace OEMs with the opportunity to avoid reliance on third-party microelectronics suppliers by helping them design and build their own chips for bespoke applications. The benefits include greater agility during product development and increased responsiveness to changing customer requirements. And, by bringing chip-level design in-house, OEMs can streamline through-life support as well. 

Building a reputation has required patience, as the industry and its customers adapt their thinking—and as Cadence develops the trust necessary to supply technology at such an early stage of the development of complex and commercially (and politically) sensitive products. 

“It takes this industry time to transform. It also takes a company like us time to prepare,” Schirrmeister says. “Over the last couple of years we’ve done a lot of work toward becoming a trusted supplier to [the U.S.] Defense Department.”

James Chew, senior global director for aerospace and defense, describes Cadence Design as “the Home Depot of electronics development.” Just as do-it-yourself builders will get more out of a visit to the store if they are clear on what it is they want to make, so Cadence’s defense and aerospace client base is increasingly becoming a more intelligent and informed customer. 

“We happen to sell—I believe—the best design tools out there for electronic systems,” Chew says. “But the thing is, we have to train you. Home Depot’s slogan is, ‘You can do it—we can help.’ We don’t want to be a performer within the [Defense Department], but we’ll show you how to do it and then you do it yourself.”