Improvements and Features of the Updated DeckBuild 2 GUI



In this article we will emphasize the new features and improvements of the DeckBuild 2 deck editing environment. We will start by illustrating the examples section, followed by the basic execution modes of DeckBuild and a description of how an Athena deck can be automatically converted to be run in Victory Process. The article will also demonstrate how the visualization tools TonyPlot and TonyPlot3D are integrated and available directly from the various parts of DeckBuild.



DeckBuild is an input deck file development environment within which all of Silvaco’s TCAD and several other EDA products can run. It offers various modes of how deck can be executed, debugged and how results can be obtained and visualized. DeckBuild contains an extensive library of hundreds of pre-run example decks which cover many technologies and materials.


Examples Database

DeckBuild is shipped with a comprehensive set of over 500 TCAD examples. Figure 1 displays how the examples dialog can be opened from the File menu of DeckBuild. The initial examples dialog gives a hierarchical view at the examples, similar from what is available in the previous version DeckBuild 1. You are presented with a tree-like view, which allows you to effectively browse through the different sections of the examples database. By clicking on a particular example, the lower part of the examples dialog is updated with the description of the selected example. The example description itself was extended by screen-shots and pictures to better illustrate the textual description of the example.


Figure 1. Examples menu and popup.

Once an example was selected you get the choice of either loading the deck only or to load the whole example inclusive of all available structure files or screen-shots. The idea is to allow you to quickly browse through a deck without the need to copy large structure files.

An interesting extension to the hierarchical view can be found at the very top of the examples dialog, which contains a search field. By entering text in the search field and hitting the enter button (or clicking on search) an index of the examples database is queried. Figure 2 displays the results when – for instance - you search for the term “stress”. The hierarchical view has changed to display a list of results. In this example a total of 27 hits is shown as is indicated in the top right of the examples dialog. Search strings are not limited to simple words but can be complex boolean expressions as illustrated in Figure 3. If we extend the search term from “stress” to “stress and title:substrate” then only results which additionally have the word substrate in the title are shown. The hits are now reduced to a total of five. This example also illustrates how a search string can be limited to be effective in a particular section only. Here the word “substrate” is only matched against the title section of an example, whereas the word “stress” is matched against any part of an example. The “home” button at the very left of the search field brings back the hierarchical view should it be desired.

Figure 2. Search results for search string “stress”.


Figure 3. Boolean search phrase.



Execution Modes

One fundamental concept of DeckBuild is to allow the user to execute a simulation deck in various ways. The following basic options are offered:

  • Run the whole deck without stopping
  • Run line-by-line, halting execution at every line
  • Run to a pre-defined Stop point and halt execution at the stop point.

The execution modes are made available via the “Run” menu as well as via the toolbar shown in Figure 4 and via configurable keyboard shortcuts.

Figure 4. Deck execution buttons on toolbar.

DeckBuild 2 allows you to define an arbitrary number of stop points in the deck. Figure 5 displays a portion of the deck which has three Stop Points defined. If you execute this deck by using the “Run->Run/Continue” menu entry or the corresponding button on the tool bar, execution will stop right at the first Stop Point. After that, when invoking “Run/Continue” again execution will continue and stop at the 2nd Stop Point and so forth.
Apart from executing deck by using Stop Points, you also have the choice of running a single command at a time only. This so-called single-stepping feature is available via the Run menu as well as via a button on the toolbar and via a keyboard shortcut. Finally, if you want to run through the whole deck without ever stopping, you can simply use the “Run” button. Execution will then Stop after the last line has been executed (provided that no Stop points have been defined in the deck).

Figure 5. Deck with Stop Points.


Tracking Variables and Results

DeckBuild allows you to keep track of all variables and files, which are created during a simulation run. Two separate panes can be opened, one to view all variables and extracts and a second one to view generated files.

Figure 6 displays the buttons on the toolbar, which are used to open or close respectively, the variables and outputs tracking windows of DeckBuild. Figure 7 displays a screen-shot of the two tracking windows. At the top right the pane titled “Variables history” shows a view at all extracted values. The line number in the deck where the corresponding extract (or set) statement appeared is given in parentheses.


Figure 6. Toolbar buttons for variable and output tracking.


Figure 7. Variables and Outputs tracking.



By clicking on the value of a variable, you can change its value. This can be useful if you are debugging a deck and want to temporarily assign a different value to a variable. The change is effective immediately and will effect any statement, which takes as input the variable value and is executed after the variable was changed.

At the bottom right the pane called “Outputs” shows all files that have been created in due course of the simulation. To limit the number or kind of displayed files, you can enter a filter string. Only files matching the filter are then displayed.

Files shown in the “Outputs” pane are visualized in the exact same way as files that are encountered in the deck or runtime output – by simply right-clicking on them. Figure 8 displays the context menu that opens upon right-clicking. The first option “Plot append” allows you to load a file into a previously started TonyPlot window. It is only displayed if you have started TonyPlot before. The 2nd option “Plot”, will load the file into a new TonyPlot window. Appending is helpful – for instance – if you want to create an overlay plot of several curves in TonyPlot.

Figure 8. Plotting structure and log files.



Victory Process Deck Conversion

As of version 4.2.0, DeckBuild comes with a built-in Athena to Victory Process converter. A loaded Athena deck can thereby be converted to execute in the Victory Process simulator.

Figure 9 displays the two toolbar buttons to use the Athena to Victory Process syntax converter. The converter is used by first loading an Athena deck and then hitting the left of the two buttons. This will then initiate the conversion and open the converted deck in a new window. The original Athena deck commands will still be visible in the new deck for your reference, but have been commented out as shown in Figure 10. The right button on the toolbar shown in Figure 9 can be used to strip the commented Athena commands and only keep the converted Victory Process commands.

Figure 9. Toolbar buttons for the Syntax converter.


Figure 10. Converted deck with Athena commands commented out.



In this article we gave an overview of the new features of the DeckBuild software. We presented the new look and functionality of the examples section and the various modes of execution. The new variables and outputs tracking facility was illustrated and the Athena to Victory Process converter was demonstrated.

Future work on DeckBuild will include features to navigate between the various components of DeckBuild (runtime output, deck, variables, outputs) at a simple mouse click, will offer improved editor capabilities, and will also allow to run DOE and optimization experiments known from VWF.