26 May, 2020
When it comes to selecting the right thermal simulation package, reliability, accuracy and speed are all key. You need to be confident that the simulations you’re generating accurately reflect how an end product will operate, and that the heat flow is calculated accurately and in a timely fashion.
Beyond these key considerations however, there is one other factor that thermal engineers typically have to take into account — cost.
There’s no getting around the fact that today’s design engineers are under mounting pressure to keep project costs down. As such, nobody wants to spend more than necessary on a thermal simulation package.
But just what exactly is the standard rate for a simulation package, and how will the upfront cost compare to future savings?
The cost of CFD software depends on which platform and vendor you choose to use, and how many licenses your organisation will need. Typically, a simulation package could cost between $8,000-$18,000 (or £7,000-£15,000) a year. That however could vary depending on how you use it, and the features you will need.
While this cost could seem substantial when viewed in isolation, the value of simulation is in enabling engineers to test their devices much earlier in the design process. This significantly reduces (or even eliminates) the chance of product failures further down the line. As every engineering team knows, failures, particularly late in the design flow, mean going back to the drawing board – investing yet more time, and more money, in correcting the flaw.
In a previous blog post we’ve examined the exact costs of a thermal design failure in depth. But for now, here’s a quick overview of what you could typically be looking at in pure pounds and pence.
The main cost involved in a design failure is the extra hours your engineering team will need to put in to fix the problem. The average day rate for an electronics engineer will vary from $600-$1,200 (or £500-£1,000). As such, a two-week re-spin could cost approximately $6,000-$12,000 (or £5,000-£10,000), just in terms of engineering time – assuming it is a relatively simple failure that can be fixed by one person.
On top of the design costs there are also the costs associated with producing a new prototype. One such example would be PCB costs — typically $2,400-$3,600 (or £2,000 - £3,000) for a small run of 10 test modules. Creating a new enclosure for an updated prototype will also typically cost around $2,400-$3,600 (or £2,000 - £3,000). Additionally, assembly costs will also need to be taken into consideration. For small runs of prototypes you are probably looking at using a technician to assemble the devices by hand. This could take two to three days at a cost of $240 (or £200) a day.
Finally, there is the cost of repeating any environmental testing. Putting your prototype through its paces in a test chamber again will cost typically $1,200 (or £1,000) a day.
Even using the conservative ends of these estimates, you are looking at one failure costing at least $12,700 (or £10,500) to put right. With only a few extra complications it could easily double. That’s not just a waste of money – it’s also a waste of your engineering resources and a delay that impacts the next phase of developments, including marketing plans and sales revenues.
In short, when thinking about the "costs" involved in thermal simulation, it’s important to not just think in terms immediate monetary costs, but rather to think about the overall return on investment for your project in the medium and long-term.
To find out more about the cost of simulation, and how 6SigmaET can benefit your business, get in touch with our team. Short-term project licenses and Cloud solving options are now available.
Blog written by: Tom Gregory, Product Manager