CFD doesn’t mean Color For Directors

Technology for technology sake doesn’t make sense in this economy. So to help you gather ROI information for your management team, my blog will focus on the business side of simulation. I’ll share how design engineers using CFD have improved product functionality across a wide range of industries and applications while shortening their time to market cost-effectively. And to add a bit of spice, I’ll feature “state of the union” interviews with industry pundits on a regular basis.

15 April, 2014

One of my recent social media feeds hit me like a ton of bricks over the weekend. “Yesterday belongs to the past. Tomorrow is the future. Today is a gift – that’s why it’s called the present” (Bill Keane). I sat there blinking at it for a while letting the thought sink in. You see I recently had discovered that while out walking some 600+ miles around the English countryside over the past couple of years I would stop just long enough to take a picture or two which I’d take home and post online – trying to share my life with my friends and family dotted across the globe. But recently while uploading a video I realized that I wasn’t living in the present – I wasn’t enjoying the moment as it was happening. I was saving the moment and then looking at it after the fact. Being a bit of a dreamer I believed that my head was always in the future… it never occurred to me how much time I spent looking back…

I guess we all do that to some extent … looking back and then thinking about the future.

Fifty years ago, during the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the movers and the shakers predicted what the future held for us:

•    Human habitats on the moon and under water
•    A picture phone where you’d see the person you were calling
•    Computers that did more than crunch numbers and offered recipes or answered questions
•    Robots that talked and moved
•    Jetpacks that allowed us to move around freely

Well some of these have come to pass – Robots that talk and move are now more than just something from SciFi movies but I must admit that while Asimo is cute I still find the more realistic looking ones a bit unnerving (just watch these two and you catch my drift). On a more down to earth level, I have spent countless hours on my mobile laughing with and looking at my loved ones. I’ve also been known to use my tablet and mobile to answer all kinds of questions. Come to think of it can you believe how much processing power now fits in the palm of our hands? Still blows my mind when I think about it because I cut my teeth on the DEC PDP-11 as a young whipper snapper. Yeah… that was the height of technology back in the day :-)

None of these beautiful gadgets would have been possible without advances in technology and most probably thermal simulation and testing – as electronic devices got smaller and smaller, more and more components were packed into a smaller space creating all sorts of thermal challenges for engineers. And without solutions such as FloTHERM, FloTHERM XT, FloEFD and T3Ster we’d have a lot more problems due to heat.

Will we ever have human colonies on the moon or under water and will I ever trade-in my beloved Mini for a jetpack? Who knows! I’ve decided to break the cycle and not constantly look back or look to the future. I live in the now. With all this beautiful technology around us, it’s a good time to be alive, don’t you think?
Until next time,
Nazita

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27 March, 2014

I knew something was up when I was driving home last night. It took me 60 minutes to go 3 miles. In other words, traffic was flowing way slower than normal. I got to the Teddington/Kingston roundabout and noticed that the road going to Teddington had been shut due to emergency roadworks. So most of the traffic that went through Kingston and headed to points north needed to be diverted. In other words: Mayhem! Chaos! Traffic jam!

I doubt you’ve ever been to Kingston so let me describe it for you. Kingston (in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames) is an ancient market town where Saxon kings were crowned and is one of the major metropolitan centers in greater London. Some genius a few years ago decided to turn its main roads into a one-way system. This one-way system is at the heart of the city and you go round and round until you branch off at each major artery to go to points north, south, west and east. And to make matters worse the city is right next to the Thames River and has a pedestrianized zone; hence, you need to use a bridge or a select few roads to get around. In short, the city is a massive network or system consisting of a series of one-way roads connected by roundabouts. Easy enough when there are no accidents or roadworks. But a nightmare if there is ever an accident or more often than not roadworks. So last night, traffic quickly jammed across all branches because of a blockage at one point. This morning traffic was just as bad due to the same problem. If you follow this link  you’ll find a map of the area and a huge yellow arrow where the road is currently closed.

According to Russell, Rys and Mandavilli, roundabouts are the “most effective type of intersection traffic control available today”. That may be true but according to yours truly when you build multiple ones on the back of each other then you run the risk of choking instead of moving traffic. Quite simply, the system grinds to a halt. Not good if you live in Kingston or have the misfortune of going thru Kingston to get to Richmond, Surbiton, Twickenham, Hampton Court, M3 … yeah you get the picture.

While I was sitting in traffic this morning I started thinking about this problem and what systems engineers deal with on a regular basis. If you look at roads as a system or a network, the result of a blockage is an annoyance. My 3-mile, 20 minute commute becomes a 3-mile 1 hour commute. So I listen to the news/music and look into my fellow commuters’ cars (and more often than not wish I hadn’t). In some systems, such as those on airplanes, a blockage in the fuel or hydraulics system can become catastrophic.

1D Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software such as Flowmaster can help systems engineers model and analyze fluid mechanics in complex systems and is used by companies across a wide range of industries to reduce development time and costs of their thermo-fluid systems. If you are interested in learning more about Flowmaster then please feel free to read any of the free whitepapers or watch the on-demand webinars in our library here.  I hope you find them helpful in picking up pointers in designing your systems. As for me, I could cycle to work but today’s forecast is spring showers which in BBC weather-speak means rain so cold and solid (!) that it’ll remove a couple of layers of skin so I think I’ll stay put for the day.

Until next time.
Nazita

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11 March, 2014

I’d like to think of myself as a pretty competent person – throw a problem at me, I’ll find a solution for it. Case in point. Last week I noticed some cracks suddenly appearing in the kitchen walls and ceiling. The kitchen sits directly underneath the bathroom. The cracks looked like they were appearing where the bathtub was located and they felt damp. Doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce this one… the sealant around the bathtub in the shower was failing.

I don’t know about your patch of the woods but finding anyone to fix anything in Surrey is pretty much impossible. All the construction folks are busy fixing the damage wreaked by the recent floods. I could ask a friend but felt rather embarrassed to admit that I had never done this – there was always a guy in my life who attended to such matters … my father, a landlord, or ex-husband. Being an emancipated woman I decided to face this challenge head on. After all, I have mastered the art of dispatching spiders without screaming (well, it’s now more of a whimper but at least my neighbors don’t call to make sure I’m ok), topping the pressure in my tires and even assembling lots and lots of flat-packed furniture on my own without killing myself in the process. Yes, I can… that’s my motto. So like any self-respecting newbie I started my research. After watching a few videos on youtube I headed out to my local DIY store. I hunted the various bits and bobs and reserved last Saturday for my latest adventure.

After breakfast on Saturday morning I put on my “working” clothes and tucked straight in. After a bit of to’ing and fro’ing and a whole lot of chin scratching I managed to seal around the bathtub.  It doesn’t look perfect and I’m sure the next time I’ll do a much better job of it but in the process of doing the task I realized that I needed a master list of things to do when sealing a bathtub … a how to guide. For example, the back of a wet soapy teaspoon is much more effective for smoothing out the sealant than the gadget I bought for £3 ($5). Or fill the bathtub with water and then seal around it. This way the sealant will be at its most expanded state but do not, and I repeat, do not sit down to get a better angle on smoothing out the sealant while standing in the bath tub because you’ll get wet. Yup rookie error but you betcha I won’t make that mistake again.

Now wouldn’t it be nice if someone were to create a series of practical “how to guides” for engineers? Well, search no more because (drum roll), our panel of experts have just published a series of whitepapers to help guide engineers new to the world of thermal simulation (or even not so new but needing a refresher). Please feel free to download and read any of these free whitepapers:

11 Top Tips for Energy-Efficient Data Center Design and Operation… A High-Level ‘How To’ Guide
12 Key Considerations in Enclosure Thermal Design – a High-Level “How to” Guide
10 Tips for Streamlining PCB Thermal Design – a High-Level “How to Guide”
10 Tips for Predicting Component Temperatures – a High-Level “How to Guide” 

Mentor Mechanical solutions apply at every stage. Image courtesy of Mentor Graphics. All rights reserved.

Mentor Mechanical solutions apply at every stage. Image courtesy of Mentor Graphics. All rights reserved.

The titles are all pretty self-explanatory and yes I could have listed them in numerical order but at Mentor Mechanical we advocate an enclosure down to the component-level simulation philosophy and if you really think about it a data center is just a massive enclosure hence the topsy turvy listing. So you see, there is method to my madness … not all the time but most of the time :-)

I really hope you enjoy reading these papers and I’d like to thank our panel of experts who wrote and contributed to these whitepapers – Drs Parry, Bornoff, Clark and Manning as well as Mr Blackmore. Talk about a thermal simulation dream team!
Until next time,

Nazita

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3 January, 2014

Sharon, one of my friends, jokingly (but with a sinister tone in her voice) calls me the List Maker. And it’s true. Somehow making lists and crossing out items makes me feel a bit more in control of my life where the only theme is constant change. On the first day of my Christmas vacation I made a list of everything that I needed to do around the house… stuff that is time-consuming and requires more than one rainy weekend to do (because we all know good weather weekends are for hiking). One of those items was painting the bathroom. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever attempted to do any painting on your own (or decorating as it’s referred to here) but there’s a lot of prep work that needs to be done such as filling in cracks and masking the woodwork. Doing prep work doesn’t require a lot of brain power so my brain was left to wander about the year that was and the year that was coming.

Learning from the school of life. Image courtesy of Microsoft Clipart. All rights reserved.

2013 was a year of learning for me. Some of the lessons helped me grow as a professional, some as an individual but most of them made me realize that even at my age I’m still work in progress.

My top 5 lessons learned:

Flying is magic which is why it’s safe to keep your electronics on when landing in the States but not so safe when landing in Europe
A couple of years ago I wrote a post about how electronic gadgets were the nemesis of avionics. We have all asked the same question. Why do we need to turn off our gadgets during take-off and landing but it’s ok to keep them on while we are flying? No one has really offered a plausible explanation unless you count the one offered by the poor flight attendant on a video clip titled “why can’t you use phones on planes”. The basic premise of the video is that the flight attendant asks people on the plane to put their stuff away in preparation for take-off. A passenger asks why and that starts a flood of questions by other passengers. The questions continue to poke more holes in the flight attendant’s answers until the she loses it and says that no one knows why and that flying is magic. Well, that explains it! I’ve always liked the magic theory but flying back to the UK in mid-December I learned that –

  • It’s safe to keep your electronic devices on at all times while flying and landing in the US; but
  • It’s not safe to keep your electronic devices on when landing in the UK.

Lesson learned – I’m pretty sure that Europe doesn’t subscribe to the “magic” theory … it’s just that their aviation rules haven’t quite synchronized with their American counterparts yet. But sometimes it takes far too long for rules and regulations to catch up with science.

Simple doesn’t mean dumb
No siree… in fact, sometimes, it’s even more elegant than the most complicated ideas. I’m referring to the Moser lamp which is a mini skylight conceived from a plastic bottle, bleach, water, resin and a lot of sunshine.  The Moser lamp has brought light into many homes for little or no cost. Lesson learned – not all good ideas need to be complicated – sometimes all you need is a bit of engineering know-how which is why when the zombie apocalypse happens, I want to hang out with the engineers :-)

CFD can prove or disprove urban myths
There are a lot of viral videos making the rounds… some silly and some that make you go hmm. When it started getting cold here a rather interesting video went viral. The video proclaimed that you can heat a room with 4 tea-lights and two ordinary flower pots. Thanks to the ever increasing cost of heating a home in England, who wouldn’t want to know whether that’s true? After all, you can buy a handful of tea-lights for only a couple of pounds and everyone has got flower pots lurking in the shed. Thankfully one of my colleagues, Robin Bornoff, decided to look at this video with an engineer’s eye. And he wrote a series of great blog posts about heating your room for 8 pence a day (or 13 cents depending on the exchange rate). Considering that I live in a drafty old Victorian I was more than curious to see whether it was possible to do this. If you have come across the video too, then you should read Robin’s series by following this link.  Lesson learned – CFD isn’t just for testing super complicated products. It can even be used to check out urban myths!

CFD can help you with your cooking
Yup. Cooking. It’s been a few years since I’ve had to cook a whole turkey but I couldn’t avoid it this year. On Boxing Day (December 26th) a couple of my American friends who are also here without family came over so we could celebrate Christmas together (we couldn’t actually celebrate on Christmas because trains and buses weren’t running). Anyway, it’s a good thing that I had read Travis Mikjaniec’s blog on how to cook the best turkey well before putting the “beast” in the oven. The two major sins of cooking turkey are: not cooking the bird enough which could make you seriously sick or overcooking it which would mean that your guests would politely have to drown their turkey in copious amounts of gravy to make it semi-edible. Lesson learned – Based on Travis’ findings, I made sure to turn the turkey around a couple of times to allow for the uneven air flow in the oven. I ended up with a very tasty dinner (they even had seconds) and I didn’t even have to drive my friends to the emergency room. Unfortunately I still need to work on the “quantity” portion of the puzzle as I still have so much turkey left over that I’ll be eating turkey well into January and perhaps even February.

I’m not as tall as I think I am
I know, hard to believe. On a good day and when my hair behaves I’m just a nudge under 5’6 (when my hair doesn’t behave I clear 5’8 easy ;-)). On this cold December day when I started to paint the bathroom I realized that my 5’6 frame on a regular-sized ladder is just not tall enough to paint the edges where the ceiling meets the walls. I tried a few tricks but short of buying a very tall ladder and risking an injury I’m not well suited to the task. The realization that I’m too short was a bitter pill to swallow because I’ve painted so many rooms in my day. It seems that even though my previous houses had high ceilings, the ceilings in this house are freakishly high. Once reality set in, I continued to paint the areas that I could and decided to leave the rest to the professionals.  Lesson learned –I need to focus on what I do best and rely on others to deliver the rest. This is especially funny because it’s what I do at work every day so why am I not doing it in my personal life? (facepalm).

I learned a lot of other lessons but I think I’ll stop here because there’s a lot more to learn. I have the privilege of working with some very talented folks both inside and outside Mentor and I truly enjoy learning new things from them. So I wish you all a fantastic 2014 – another year to learn more from one another and to practice what we learned in the years past.

Until next time,
Nazita


13 November, 2013

In this day and age where products come and go in a flash it is a great honor to be involved with something that has successfully passed several major milestones.
Twenty-five years ago, Flomerics opened its doors and FloTHERM moved from being a glimmer in the minds of Drs. Rosten and Thatchell to something real. The team of idealists had very definite thoughts when they sat down to create FloTHERM. They wanted to create something special. And that they did.

Almost a year after setting up the company, the team shipped FloTHERM to its customers. True to the founding fathers’ design, FloTHERM was the first in many areas:

•    the first CFD solution developed specifically for electronics thermal design
•    the first CFD solution that used non-CFD terms such as vents
•    the first CFD solution that could be used by thermal design engineers as opposed to expert analysts

And 24 years on, FloTHERM is still the de facto standard in the industry for electronics cooling simulation.

We started celebrating all things FloTHERM with a team lunch a couple of months ago. During our get-together we heard some great stories about the early days and our product managers shared some tidbits of information about the future. I don’t want to spill any beans but it is safe to say that while many folks would be happy to rest on their laurels, this team is not. Far from it. And I’m really proud to call these guys my colleagues (even though they can be very mischievous and pull my leg from time to time but I’m getting wise to their ways :-)).

The original gang reunited (image courtesy of Mentor Graphics).

After lunch our attention turned to a gorgeous cake (see below) which was baked and decorated by yet another colleague – Natasha. She had spent hours looking at pictures of PCB boards in order to create realistic decorations.  It contained 3 kilos (about 6 pounds) of chocolate and I won’t lie. Each slice was a divine piece of chocolaty goodness. As with all things “technical” the guys at my table started discussing the design of the cake. The discussion moved to Facebook later that day and ended when one person asked about the thermal impedance of the cake. After exchanging a few thoughts another person decided to look into it. I only hope that he is working on answering that question as we live and breathe because it would make for a brilliant blog post.

Now that's a PCB design I can sink my teeth into (image courtesy of Mentor Graphics)

The celebrations kicked off a whole slew of FloTHERM related activities – everything from user meetings around the world to flotherm25.com a site dedicated to celebrating the world of electronics, electronics cooling and of course FloTHERM. The site is full of goodies including videos and blog posts. There is something for everyone… whether you’ve been using FloTHERM from day 1 or you’re a newbie to the world of electronics cooling.  Personally I really enjoyed the snazzy pictures of the founders and the original development team – I tell ya, these guys haven’t aged a day but thankfully they have updated their style … well somewhat updated ;-).

And last but not least, the latest issue of the Engineering Edge includes an electronics related supplement named Electronics Thermal Simulation and Test: Past, Present and Future It really is a fascinating read.

I hope you enjoy visiting the site and reading the supplement as much as I did.

Until next time.
Nazita

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25 October, 2013

You all know how gadget-mad I am, right? Well guess what’s got my senses buzzing today?

A mobile phone that you can build yourself from various components … something akin to a Lego phone and it’s called the Phoneblok.

A Dutch designer, Dave Hakkens, came up with the idea after he wanted to replace a single broken component in his mobile phone. When he was told that he couldn’t just replace the broken bit but had to replace a whole module he thought why? And that simple question quickly led him to think of the concept of a modular phone – a phone where you select the processing power, the size of the camera, the display…

How cool is that?

But (and there is always a big but) there may be a glitch. A lot of issues would have to be dealt with such as cost of manufacturing, the size of the enclosure, the weight of the phone and of course cooling! After all, how would Joe Average know where to put everything? I guess one way of making sure all goes to plan is that the assembly instructions would look something like an IKEA manual and they would include advice for best layout to optimize cooling (because as we all know heat is the nemesis of electronics). This blueprint would ideally be created after a few rounds of CFD simulations to account for the various design permutations. Mind you, this is probably not that big a deal for you folks but the rest of us mortals will definitely need advice if this thing is to go mainstream.

Anyway, if you’d like to read more about Phonebloks then please follow this link.  And Mr. Hakkens if you’re reading my blog post, then feel free to check our library of reference material for optimizing electronics cooling here – I am sure you’ll find lots of helpful material. In the meantime, I’m dreaming of what my future phone might look like.
Until next time,
Nazita

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3 October, 2013

I recently read an article about the Soviet space shuttle program which I found absolutely fascinating. We all know about the rivalry between the Americans and the Russians during the cold war so nothing new there. But what I found fascinating was how the Russians made a series of assumptions about the American space shuttle program based on information gleamed from various sources. And unfortunately, they made a couple of wrong assumptions that ultimately led to the demise of their program. It is a gripping story of engineering, technology and politics in action and if you’d like to read it in its entirety please follow this link.

After I finished reading the article, I found myself deep in thought over what I had just read. How many times do I make assumptions about my projects? This must be what you guys go through on a daily basis. While I don’t have a crystal ball for communications, you have plenty of tools that can help you fill in the proverbial design holes. From CAD to FEA and CFD you have a veritable cornucopia of tools to help you minimize chances of making the wrong design assumptions.  And from the looks of it a large cross section of you use this technology religiously.

Which leads me to this – LifeCycle Insights and Engineering.com are conducting a survey and I would like to invite you to take part in it. The survey aims to understand the frequency and type of simulation used during concept design, detailed design and testing. It takes less than 15 minutes to complete. So would you be kind enough to grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and take part in the survey by clicking here? Ooh and it looks like you’ll get a free copy of the Engineering Manager’s Survival Guide eBook as a thank you for participating! I wonder if it applies to the world of marketing too :-)

Until next time,
Nazita

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13 August, 2013

My last blog post about trash cans on London streets turned out to be quite controversial.

It wasn’t my blog post that caused a furor but I guess a few other folks in London were on the same wavelength as me when they came across these bins. In case you missed my last post, here’s a quick summary. A company in England has tricked out a whole network of trash cans in London with LED displays that serve advertising. But these bins were also collecting and tracking information on folks who were walking by. This market demographic could then be used to sell more advertising to companies trying to reach their perfect consumer.

Anyway, yesterday the City of London, which is a corporation by the way (that was a new one to me), asked the company behind these trash cans to stop tracking people. The BBC has done a wonderful job of covering the news so if you’d like to read the story firsthand here’s a link.  I guess we’re not quite ready for a brave new world after all.

While I was wondering whether I should update my previous blog post or not, I came across another story that also dealt with lighting but from a completely different angle.  So I thought a lighting inspired post would be very appropriate indeed.

Image courtesy of Microsoft clipart. All rights reserved.

And that brings me to Mr. Alfredo Moser, a Brazilian mechanic. Mr. Moser has come up with a low tech method of lighting his house during the day due to chronic power outages in his neighborhood. The “Moser lamp” is a mini skylight and consists of a plastic bottle, some bleach, water, a bit of polyester resin and a lot of sunlight. The solution is so elegant in its simplicity that one has no option but to sit back and marvel. And the beautiful thing is that Mr. Moser has shared his technique with everyone for … free. Apparently 140,000 homes in the Philippines are using the Moser lamp and 15 countries have adopted it as well. And it certainly looks like this is just the beginning. If you haven’t come across the Moser lamp, then you really need to read this article.

When I finished reading the article I sat there with a smile. Now that is not only a green idea but it packs in quite a good return on investment (ROI) too! It goes to show you that often the best ideas are the simplest ones. All you need is inspiration.

If only all ideas were this simple. But for the ones that are not it’s a good thing that we’ve got tools such as CFD to help engineers dream up some wonderfully complicated products.

Here’s to all the dreamers and engineers of the world lighting our way to brighter futures.
Until next time,
Nazita

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17 July, 2013

I live and work in the burbs but I go into London every week. I usually hang out where my friends live. But from time to time work takes me to the square mile. The square mile is where most of the financial services industry is based in London. On days where I find myself in that neighborhood I feel like a country bumpkin. You see I tend to walk just a nudge slower than the masses – I’m used to London style speed walking but during these visits I walk a beat slower because I find myself distracted … drinking in the sights and sounds of the big smoke.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a meeting in the city. As I got out of the St Pauls tube station my eyes spied something shiny – a recycling bin with a large LED display flashing advertising. It stopped me in my tracks and I stood there gawping for a few seconds. Before I knew it I was washed away in the tidal wave of people trying to get to work.  I really wanted to go back and take a picture but it felt a bit like salmon swimming upstream so I made a mental note to take a picture on my way home. And in case you’re wondering I never did take that picture. I literally had 10 minutes to make the last direct train back to Hampton Court and about 15 minutes of walking. I did make the train but had to jog most of the way… in high heels dodging around pedestrians … and for the record I don’t recommend jogging in heels.

My curiosity was really piqued by these bins. A quick Google search turned up lots of information about these recycling bins and the company behind them. What initially caught my eyes was the vibrant colors from the LED screens. LEDs are fairly eco-friendly and are replacing various forms of lighting. We’ve talked about the thermal challenges faced by LED designers many times and in case you’d like a refresher on all things thermal as it relates to LEDs please follow this link. So it was really cool to see an unexpected application for the technology.

Anyway, these guys seem to offer more than just an electronic billboard. Recently they did a research project where they tracked the demographics of pedestrians walking by (phone manufacturer, time of day, route taken, etc). Learning that their equipment is capable of more than just serving ads put my imagination in overdrive…

I don’t know if you saw Antitrust, the Tim Robbins movie from 2001. In the movie Tim Robbins’ character was an uber rich guy who had digital picture displays dotted around his house.  These displays were programmed to show artwork preferred by visitors entering the house … a dynamic museum tuned to the preferences of the guests. I know this technology exists because I remember reading that Bill Gates had implemented it in one of his houses a few years ago.

So if you put the two together, you end up with a rather interesting idea. Is it too far-fetched to think that in the not too distant future the likes of this company can use their tech to serve ads that are specific to the person walking by? Let’s say the bin “sniffs” that I have a brand x phone. A smartphone manufacturer has a campaign to replace competitive handsets. So as I walk by I get served an ad that says “Switch your x-phone to the iFab3000 and get £100 cash back”.

As a marketing person this is nirvana to me – I can tailor my ads to people walking by!

As a skittish consumer it can be a bit disturbing because I may be a Sci Fi fan with a penchant for all things Star Trek. After the equipment “sniffs” my browsing history, I get served an ad that says “Star Fleet Uniforms now on Sale”. Due to the population density of London chances are I wouldn’t be the only one seeing the ad. So the mental game begins as everyone walking by tries to figure out who is the closet Trekkie among them – not that there’s anything wrong with it. Just saying…

I mentioned this week’s blog posting to my friends and was rewarded with a few rather loud eye-rolls in response. Not being one to shy away from a controversial topic I decided to go public with it. After all, we have a lot of rather neat technology out there created by some very smart engineers so can this really be that far-fetched in our brave new world? What do you think?
Until next time,
Nazita


20 June, 2013

I got my love of cars from my dad. He’d get bored with his car so every year he’d bring home a new one.  It would be done without fuss or ceremony. One night he’d simply return home from the office in a new car. To humor my dad, my mom would usher the kids out to the car so we could ooh and aah for a few minutes and then we’d be herded back inside.

Being the cheeky baby, I’d always sneak out later in the evening, sit on the driver’s side, take in the sights and inhale the new car smell. And of course I’d maniacally play with the gadgets and twist the knobs in the car – come to think of it I wonder if my dad ever figured out why the radio always played static as opposed to the station that he had left it on. I know, as mischief goes, this isn’t all that bad but those were simpler times…

My love affair with cars has outlasted many of my other relationships such as my love of shoulder pads in the 80s (and we can all safely say thank goodness for that).  I still remember the joy I experienced when driving my first car – a little banger my parents gave me to shuttle myself back/forth from school and which I took to Disneyland with my high school friends despite being forbidden to drive on the freeway. Oops… sorry mom. The first new car I bought with my own money, my first 4-wheel drive mischief maker, my first rag top…  These cars were moveable sensory feasts laden with gadgets.

Of course in terms of gadgetry if you compare my Mini Cooper with my first car, a Toyota Celica, the Mini is from a different planet. The Celica had an AM radio, no power steering and well not much of anything but 4 wheels. In contrast, the Mini has satellite radio, USB ports, sat nav, a CD player (I know so very last century), Bluetooth and an onboard computer telling me all sorts of stuff I never thought I’d need to know. It has so many lights flashing data at me that sometimes when the bell goes off I have to look around the dashboard like a mad woman to see if this is something that I should worry about (running low on gas/petrol) or something that is purely informational (the temperature has dipped below 35 degrees, urm, thanks for telling me it’s cold outside because the icicles outside were not sufficient enough to tell me that).

Gadgets in cars are the chocolate sprinkles on top of ice cream – you can still eat ice cream without the sprinkles but it is soooo much better with it. So when I came across an article where the writer had interviewed 6 industry experts about the next big feature or trend in automotive infotainment my pulse started racing. Who wouldn’t want to know what new gadgetry the next generation cars would have?

While nothing they said was earth shattering (connectivity seems to be the hands down winner which would of course make it easy for Google or Facebook to serve ads to us in our cars in the not too distant future  – the last bastion of advertising-free space) it was reassuring to see that we’ll have a lot of toys to entertain ourselves with as we sit in stop-and-go traffic. By the way if you’re curious to see what the experts envision, here’s the link to the article .

Continental subjects their automotive system designs to rigorous simulation.

Of course none of this technology just appears out of the blue. Usually a bright engineer working in the automotive industry gets inspired to create or improve an existing gadget in our cars. And after a few years of sweat and hard work, they give us new toys which we can not live without.

Because of my job I meet many such bright individuals including Dr. Uwe Lautenschlager. Dr. Lautenschlager is the Senior Specialist Simulation at Continental Automotive GmbH.  Continental is among the leading automotive suppliers in the world. They supply brake systems, systems and components for powertrains and chassis, instrumentation, vehicle electronics and infotainment solutions among many other products.

Thermal simulation is pretty important at Continental – they only ship car systems after subjecting their designs to thermal simulation. The process is actually quite fascinating and Dr. Lautenschlager shed some light on the process of thermal simulation within Continental during a recent presentation.  If you’d like to watch the presentation please follow this link.

I don’t know about you but often after hearing someone talk about their processes or projects I get a flash of inspiration to solve one of my own problems. So if you are designing electronics components or gadgetry I would strongly recommend that you watch this presentation. Considering that now 50% of a car’s bill of goods is electronics related, then chances are that you are already dealing with a tricky thermal problem so who knows… you might even be inspired to find a solution to one of your problems.
Until next time,
Nazita

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