Simulation vs. Reality: TEN TECH LLC Case Study

2 February, 2018

When it comes modern electronics, engineers today are being tasked with fitting increasingly powerful components into ever more compact spaces, without compromising on a product’s performance. But having so much hardware confined to such a small surface area, means a greater heat output, which can cause some electronics to overheat – an issue which impacts a device’s usability, reliability and longevity.

When conducting a thermal analysis of a potential product design, it’s essential that the simulation be quick, easy to set up and, most of all, that the output is as accurate as possible.  To ensure reliability, and for the simulation to provide an accurate analysis, the simulation needs to account not only for the flow of heat, but the interactions between heat flows and the device’s components. This can be difficult for engineers to achieve, given that such simulations are run on a hypothetical design, rather than a physical product and often require a number of assumptions.

In our State of Thermal report, conducted last year, we found that, of the 171 engineers surveyed, 110 used thermal simulation products – 71% of thermal engineers reported dissatisfaction with their simulation suites and 63% of thermal engineers would like to improve the accuracy of their simulations.

Last year, one of our clients TEN TECH LLC, an aerospace and defence contractor, conducted a thermal simulation of a product they were designing, using the 6SigmaET platform. Their model was large, detailed and considered many configurations. After the design had been constructed, the client company ran a series of comparative tests on the physical product. The finding of these tests was excellent agreement between the simulation data and the measurements from the end product.

William Villers, Director of Engineering, TEN TECH LLC, said: “The test data was within 3% of the fan operating point, only marginally underestimating the CFM. The software had pinpointed the maximum temperature to within 1C – the test data predicting 112C, with the physical product measuring 112C. This proved to be crucial, considering the product was set to be operating in a challenging thermal environment and gave us the confidence to make some much-needed design changes.”

This highlights the importance to manufacturers in having reliable and accurate simulation tools upon which to test their designs, prior to commissioning them to be built. Especially when building products that are going to be exposed to extreme environments, it’s essential to obtain accurate and dependable test data from simulations.

The impressive results of these tests also underscore the reliability of ET as a software simulation tool. During the initial design stage, engineers are most interested in testing the temperature of critical components and viability of their designs. If the test data reveals the potential for overheating, changes to the designs can then be made. The greater the accuracy in simulation results – when predicting how the product will perform in real-world conditions – the more confidence engineers have in both the suggested changes they should make to the thermal process and the outcome of the final design. 

By: Tom Gregory, Product Manager