State of Simulation 2021: Survey of Thermal Engineers

12 July, 2021

In our latest research project, we polled 50 thermal engineers, including CFD users from other thermal simulation platforms, and 95 thermal engineers from our database. This blog discusses our survey findings.


Why are thermal engineers using CFD software?
Why do so many simulation platforms let engineers down?
Future Trends in Thermal Simulation
Why switch to 6SigmaET?



At 6SigmaET, we’re committed to providing the fastest, most accurate and most advanced thermal simulation software for electronics. That means not only understanding how thermal engineers use our platform, but also the other thermal tools, suites and CFD platforms available on the market today.

To achieve this level of insight, we’ve committed to running regular research into the thermal engineering and electronics industry. Whether it’s through our State of Thermal report, Heat is On research paper, or our LED, IT and automotive industry focus groups, our team is committed to understanding what it is that makes thermal engineers tick.

In this, our latest research project, we polled 50 thermal engineers, including CFD users from Ansys, FloTHERM, Solidworks and Simscale. In addition to these thermal engineers, 6SigmaET also conducted separate research using its own database of 95 thermal engineers.

Through these insights, we hope to help the electronics industry better understand the changes and challenges facing thermal engineers, as well as working to further develop our own 6SigmaET thermal simulation software.


This research incorporates data from 50 professional thermal engineers and CFD users working in the electronics industry. Additional data has been provided from a survey of 95 6SigmaET users, as well as supplementary data from Rohde and Schwarz research. Both surveys were conducted in May 2021.

Thermal Engineers by sector

Thermal engineers by sector

Why are thermal engineers using CFD software?

Traditionally, thermal simulation was used to improve product reliability — ensuring that devices didn’t overheat or cut out due to poor thermal management. Today, CFD software is being used for far more than just uncovering potential reliability issues.

Why use CFD

Why do thermal engineers use CFD?

Nearly three quarters of thermal engineers (71%) say that they now use simulation to not only simulate to ‘find and fix’ issues, but also to optimize their designs and push performance to its upper limits. At a time when devices are becoming smaller, more powerful, and more complex, this use of simulation for performance optimization is especially vital. 

Ensuring user safety is also a frequent use for thermal simulation software (38% use for this purpose), especially for those working in the aerospace and defense industries (62%) where product safety has to be a key concern.

Interestingly, one in five engineers (21%) are now using CFD software to help with compliance and certification.

Recently, certification body UL announced that it will be using simulation-based tools for the first time as a route to certification. This represents a major step forward for the role CFD will eventually play in the future of electronics certification. It’s interesting to see a handful of engineers already adopting CFD to aid in the certification of their designs. 

Did you know? UL worked directly with 6SigmaET on its new certification process. As such, 6SigmaET’s platform is perfectly placed to help electronics designers and engineers meet the strictest standards of thermal design.

Why do so many simulation platforms let engineers down?

Despite numerous advances in the world of thermal simulation, many engineers are still not satisfied with their CFD software.

54 Dissatified41 Hardware35 Accuracy

Inadequate access to thermal component models represents a key challenge, with 48% of thermal engineers complaining that they require more models than are currently offered by their thermal simulation suites. 

Solve speeds are also a key cause for concern, with more than half (54%) of thermal engineers saying that they are not satisfied with the speed of their current solver. A massive 94% of engineers have also had their projects delayed due to slow solve speeds, while 36% say they “frequently” have projects delayed due to a slow simulation solver.

These slow solve speeds aren’t helped by a lack of adequate hardware, making the entire simulation process more time consuming. Of those surveyed, 41% of thermal engineers said that they don’t feel they have the right hardware in place for thermal simulation. More than a quarter (26%) also say that they have been prevented from solving on more cores due to hardware issues and limitations.

In an effort to speed up solve times, some CFD platforms may look to compromise on the accuracy of their results. Unfortunately, this lack of accuracy is also letting simulation users down, with 35% saying that they are not currently satisfied with the accuracy of their simulation results. Instead of compromising, the best simulation platforms must find a careful balance between speed, accuracy and cost.

Did you know? 6SigmaET’s simulation platform was recognized by Rohde & Schwarz as the fastest on the market in a direct comparison against its industry competitors.

6SigmaET vs Alternative Software.jpg
Rohde & Schwarz independent analysis of 6SigmaET vs its competitors

Future Trends in Thermal Simulation

In addition to their current challenges and growing use cases for thermal simulation, our engineers also shared their thoughts on the tools and technologies that they are looking for as part of their thermal designs. 

One of the key use cases shared was the growing need to model multi-phase liquid cooling, with 45% of engineers saying that it will be a priority for them in the future. Currently however, only 1 in 5 engineers (20%) simulate for liquid cooling. In the IT industry, however, this rises to 43%.

Clearly, liquid cooling is fast becoming a key consideration in electronics design. As such, the ability to simulate heat flow through liquids is vital for today’s thermal simulation software. 

Another growing trend is the need for neutral file formats within thermal simulation. Traditionally, the inability to move models between different simulation platforms meant that thermal engineers were typically ‘locked in’ to a single provider. This made it extremely hard to switch if a faster, cheaper or more accurate simulation platform came along.

Today, engineers want the flexibility to jump between different platforms, or to switch platform providers when it suites their evolving needs. That’s why 6SigmaET has fought to introduce the ECXML model format. With ECXML, thermal engineers can switch platforms easily, transferring all of their models and simulation data between different CFD providers.

According to our survey, 1 in 5 engineers (20%) have now adopted the ECXML format, allowing them to easily switch simulation providers if they feel their needs aren’t being met. 

Why switch to 6SigmaET?

As this research shows, many of the world’s thermal engineers are not satisfied with their current simulation platforms. Despite this fact, few are aware of how easy it has become to switch providers.

At 6SigmaET, we are on the cutting edge of thermal simulation. Our latest release provides superfast solve speeds, advanced modeling and gridding, support for the ECXML file format, accurate simulation for safety and UL certification, as well as advanced 3D simulations for liquid cooling.

99 Satisfied

These advanced capabilities are well reflected in our survey data, with 99% of 6SigmaET users agreeing that they would recommend the platform to other thermal engineers.

88% of users also stated that they are satisfied with 6SigmaET’s gridding capabilities, compared to as little as 46% for competing software. Similarly, 88% also said that they are satisfied with the platform’s solving speeds, compared to as little as 20% for competing software. 

Want to know more about the benefits of 6SigmaET? Check out our Why Switch page for more details on switching to 6SigmaET.

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Blog written by: Tom Gregory, Product Manager

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