Thermal Simulation: Is it Time to Switch Tools?

19 July, 2017

Back in 1989, when Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) was first introduced to the electronics industry, an electronics thermal engineer had the choice to simulate or not to simulate and continue to rely on rules of thumb and a suitable ‘engineering margin’. That was their choice. Today the decision is different. Simulation is no longer an option, it is an engineering must.

Take the example of hand-held mobile devices today. These are becoming increasingly complex and designers need to pay careful attention to their powerful microprocessors. These components can heat up by more than 30°C in a matter of seconds when dealing with computationally intense workloads before quickly cooling down again as parts of the processor are allowed to go to sleep. This intense fluctuation of temperature, if not properly managed, can result in the lifecycle of the device being drastically reduced, or even potentially device failures.

Cell phone simulation

The pressure to pack more and more functionality into tighter and tighter spaces means that heat removal and thermal management in devices continues to get more challenging for designers. These difficulties are compounded by the fact that as modern technology evolves along increasingly marketing-led lines, design engineers are under pressure to turn around complex designs in a competitive timeframe.

This is why, if designers are to meet the technical, budgetary and timing constraints facing them, thermal simulation is absolutely essential.

Of course the computational demands of simulation are very high, so choosing a tool that makes the most of the available hardware is absolutely essential. Although solving times have continued to shrink over time, the key phases of geometry building and gridding have largely remained unchanged for the past decade.

So if designers are to continue to realise efficiencies in their process they must ask themselves if they want to continue modeling as they have for the past 10 years or so, or if they want to move forward with the latest in thermal simulation and design integration.

If your simulation software can’t handle complex CAD geometry or provide efficient gridding techniques, leaving you with the burden of having to manually optimise grids, then it might be time to switch tools.

Our own tool is at the forefront of new simulation techniques, giving engineers ground-breaking simulation performance. 6SigmaET completely automates the grid generation phase. Using grid rules designed by engineers with decades of experience, a complex multi-layer unstructured grid is created. Each intelligent object ‘knows’ how much grid is required ensuring the grid is fine enough where required but also coarse in the areas where this isn’t necessary. This provides both enhanced performance and high degrees of accuracy where it is needed.

As devices shrink in size but increase in complexity, and engineers look for creative ways to resolve the issues of thermal management, innovative simulation solutions such as advanced automated gridding are going to grow increasingly vital within electronics design. At the same time, they will also help to encourage a wider trend in design and manufacturing, helping designers to realise the importance of thermal management in maximising the effectiveness of their designs.

By: Chris Aldham, Product Manager