5-2-3: Constraint Propagation
|This is the constraint that all arcs must stay in their ports, even across hierarchical levels of design. When a node in a cell moves, and has an export on it, all the ports on instances of that cell also change. The constraint system therefore adjusts all arcs connected to those instances, and follows their constraints. If those constraints change nodes with exports in the higher-level cell, then the changes propagate up another level of hierarchy.
This bottom-up propagation of changes guarantees a correctly connected hierarchy, and allows top-down design. Users can create skeleton cells that are mostly empty and contain only exports on unconnected nodes. They can then do high-level design with these skeleton cell instances. Later, when circuitry is placed in the cells, or when layout views are substituted for the skeletons, the constraint system will maintain proper connectivity in all higher levels of hierarchy.
The hierarchical-propagation aspect of the constraint system leaves open the possibility of an overconstrained situation. For example, if two different cell instances are connected to each other with two rigid wires, and one connection point moves, then it is not possible to keep both wires rigid. Electric jogs an arc, converting it into three arcs that zigzag, to retain the connection. Although connectivity is retained, the geometry may be in the wrong place, causing unexpected changes to the circuit. Users are encouraged to examine the hierarchy to make sure that arbitrary hierarchical changes do not cause undetected damage to the layout. Electric will warn you of any changes which affect undisplayed cells farther up the hierarchy.
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