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.

12 April, 2017

Every day we are told about what we can’t do. You can’t do an Ironman without training for it. You can’t eat your dessert first  because you won’t be able to finish your meal. You can’t take your geometry straight out of CAD for analysis – you need to simplify it first. Yup… our lives are full of things we can’t (or perhaps shouldn’t) do. I know that there is a good reason for a lot of them but sometimes we should all be reminded that’s not the case all the time.

That’s why I love this ad from Samsung. Do what you can’t. That is something we do every day.

Our old FloEFD cow traveled far and wide including a mention by Steve Martin in a tweet. This is the new improved one. It was created because we enjoy doing what “we can’t”. Image courtesy of Dr. Robin Bornoff. All rights reserved.

When we talked about opening the world of CFD to the design engineer, we were told you can’t do that – CFD was much too complex to be used by design engineers.

When we talked about our intelligent technology that makes it easy to mesh even very complex geometries, we were told you can’t do that.

When we talked about needing fewer mesh cells to solve a problem without sacrificing accuracy, we were told you can’t do that.

When we talked about reducing the overall simulation time by up to 65-75%, we were told you can’t do that.

Turns out our customers do it every day with FloEFD. But don’t take my word for it…. here are some of their stories.

So the next time someone says you can’t, what will you do?
Until next time,


3 April, 2017

Behind the scenes of our ever-growing information and entertainment consumption, huge datacenters are an essential part of today’s massive Internet connectivity. In addition to the general web-support services provided by the likes of Google, large companies also are running their own datacenters. With so many proliferating, the efficiency, reliability, and energy-use of these buildings that house racks upon racks of servers operating 24×7 is a concern.

The white paper “11 Top Tips for Energy-Efficient Data Center Design and Operation… A High-Level ‘How To’ Guide” describes how to use thermal simulation software to look at alternative design aspects for building more energy-efficient facilities. The authors recommend a holistic approach in which the cooling strategy is proven to work as desired from the outset by CFD simulation during datacenter design.

Datacenter design options can be considered quickly and effectively using CFD, as in this sample simulation of an overhead HVAC system with dedicated rack chimneys.

Conventional layout of perimeter, computer-room, air-conditioning units focuses on the room-level design, and the racks and the equipment are an afterthought. More recent design approaches, such as aisle containment and liquid-cooled racks, focus on cooling individual equipment, avoiding the need for full-room/cold-aisle air cooling. These approaches are based on an assumption that the airflow environment within the data hall will support the cooling method from commissioning through full operation.

As an alternative approach, CFD tools such as FloTHERM can be used for commissioning and operation to ensure that the cooling methods continue to work during changing business needs and increasing equipment power consumption.

Read the rest of this entry »

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31 March, 2017

I am truly and well privileged to be working with some very talented folks. You know the kind. The ones who don’t toot their own horn. They’re down to earth and come up with brilliant ideas. While we recognize their contributions internally within the company, they don’t always receive public recognition. But sometimes they do.

Last week the Harvey Rosten Award for Excellence was given to Dr. Robin Bornoff, Dr. John Parry and John Wilson for their work on thermal heatsink optimization methodology. Here they are looking rather dapper while accepting the award:

From left to right – Robin, John (P), and John (W).

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the award, here’s a brief summary. Harvey Rosten co-founded Flomerics and personally wrote the solver for the first version of FloTHERM – the de facto standard for electronics cooling simulation. He was also responsible for the development of PHOENICS, the world’s first commercial general purpose CFD software while working at CHAM.

The Harvey Rosten Award was established in his name by his family and friends to commemorate his achievements in the field of thermal analysis of electronics equipment and thermal modeling of electronics parts and packages. The award aims to encourage innovation and excellence in these fields. It is also a pretty big deal in the community… so much so that we did a press release about it and it was widely picked up by the industry press.

I have had the pleasure of working on various projects with all three of them so I know firsthand that these guys share at least two traits with the award namesake: they are all-around great guys and they are incredibly smart. And what’s even cooler is that none of them has let this great honor go to his head – not much of a surprise for those of us who know them.

Well done guys! We are all very proud of you.

Until next time,

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22 March, 2017

How well a heatsink performs depends on particular aspects of its design, such as the thermal conductivity of the material its made of, its overall dimensions, fin type used, airflow rate, and system. A theoretical model can be used to predict a heatsink’s performance, or it can be measured experimentally. But because of the complex 3D nature of today’s electronic systems, engineers often use the numerical method computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to determine the thermal performance of a heatsink before prototyping.

Why is a heatsink important? Well, for example, a computer’s CPU and GPU generates a lot of heat, as you have probably experienced when using a laptop on your lap or sitting in a small room with a desktop. Without a heatsink, they would get too hot to operate. If not managed, the heat they generate would also affect the other components’ ability to operate, and the whole computer insides would cease to function or simply melt together eventually. Heatsinks are not only important for CPUs and GPUs, but they are also necessary for the operation of high-power semiconductors such as power transistors and optoelectronics such as lasers and LEDs.

Read the rest of this entry »

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22 March, 2017

Aside from my day job, I’ve been working on a rather fun project – creating short videos from the 2016 FloEFD Simulation Conference. I’ve got hours of video footage to look through so I’ve been watching them during those awkward times … you know, when you have a few minutes before a meeting starts but that’s not enough time to start or finish any open tasks. So I tend to grab a cup of coffee and watch a few minutes of videos.

Watching the event through the eyes of the film crew has been an eye opener – it feels like I’m visually “eavesdropping” on the conference. Some clips don’t have sound but the general mood is coming through loud and clear. There was an amazing level of engagement – not just with the presenters but among the attendees during the breaks as well. And a whole lot of smiling…

Based on the results of a post-event survey, 87% of people said that the conference was effective at helping them become more confident in the use of FloEFD. And I’ve watched clip after clip of people actively taking notes and pictures of what was on the screen.

And while it will be easy to fill the agenda with nonstop presentations by our team, it was the presentations made by our customers that made the day. A majority of attendees told us that customer presentations were just as valuable as technology insight ones and since 79% of attendees from 2016 are likely or very likely to attend the event in 2017, we’d like to make sure that the agenda reflects that preference.

So by way of this post I would like to formally invite you to submit an abstract for a presentation on a topic of your choice (as long as it relates to FloEFD 🙂 ). All presentations are 25 minutes long and include 5 minutes of Q&A time. In case you’re wondering what kinds of topics would be of interest, the sky’s the limit but here are some suggestions:

  • How to use FloEFD: For example, one speaker last year talked about generating meaningful reports. Another example would be how to create animations with wow factor. Or top tips for presenting analysis results to management.
  • What’s the engineering process at your company: Feature what you design, how you design it and where FloEFD comes into play. Or how your design team works alongside your analysis team. Or tell us about how quickly you can get your projects off your desk. Think about what makes your company’s use of CFD unique and share it with us.
  • Working with complementary codes for co-simulation: Do you use any other tools in conjunction with FloEFD such as FEA or combine 1D and 3D simulation? Tell us about it!
  • Answering fun questions: Seriously! Have you ever used FloEFD for a bit of fun or to answer any unusual questions such as understanding flow of liquid in a straw to get the best mix of flavors or how a building can set a nearby car on fire? Or can a Lego helicopter fly? Think outside the box and then regale us with your creativity.

These are just some examples. I’m sure you can think of a lot more. Oh and before I forget, registration for the conference is open so you can sign-up here and if you  would like to send in an abstract or learn more about what we’re looking for please follow this link. If you have any questions about the conference please feel free to contact Boris Marovic at boris_marovic at  I’m also very happy to serve as a sounding board.

Come on, don’t be shy. If you had attended the event last year you’d know that the audience was very friendly and supportive so you don’t need to be nervous. We’re a very friendly bunch. I know November is 8 months away but quite frankly I can’t wait to see your presentations!

That’s right! Uncle Boris wants your abstracts. And Boris thank you for letting me have a bit of fun in creating this image for this blog post. All rights reserved.

Until next time,

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14 March, 2017

The white paper “10 Tips for Streamlining PCB Thermal Design… A High-Level ‘How To’ Guide” takes us through the important considerations for optimizing PCB thermal design using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). An important tip for making the design process as efficient as possible is paralleling the thermal design from a mechanical perspective with the thermal design from an electrical perspective. The two approaches complement one another and, when working together, can lead to the thermal design closing faster, more reliably, and with a better outcome than if thermal design is undertaken in only one flow.

FloTHERM and FloTHERM XT have comprehensive EDA interfacing capabilities that allow import from all the leading EDA systems: PADS, Board Station XE, Xpedition Enterprise, Cadence Allegro, and Zuken CR5000. Importing component placement data from the EDA system ensures that placement within the thermal tool is correct, and it should be re-imported whenever the layout is changed. The FloEDA Bridge module allows updates to the PCB design data to be re-imported with the touch of a button, retaining all existing settings about how this data has been filtered. The ultimate goal is thermal co-design with the EDA flow.

Comparison of CFD results (top) during design with actual PCB measured with an IR camera (bottom).

Comparison of CFD results (top) during design with actual PCB measured with an IR camera (bottom).

Many aspects of a PCB’s performance are determined during detailed design, for example, making a trace a specific length for timing reasons. Design considerations such as timing issues are affected by the temperature differences between components. However, thermal issues with the PCB design are largely locked in during the component selection and layout phases. After this point, only remedial actions are possible if components are running too hot. To understand the flow environment, which is critical for air-cooled electronics, start at the system or enclosure level. This is important because assumptions made about the uniformity of the airflow early in the design process that subsequently proves unachievable can be disastrous for the commercial viability of the product and meeting the market window.

At the PCB level, this means the mechanical engineer helping to select packages and determine the best positioning of components to use system airflow for cooling. Inevitably, both layout and package selection are driven primarily by a combination of electronic performance and cost, but the consequences of those choices on thermal performance should be made as clear as possible; because, conversely, temperature and cooling also affect performance and cost.

To find out more about how you can use FloTHERM tools to create better PCBs, visit

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14 March, 2017

I think my social media feed is pretty normal: happy shiny people doing things, inspirational quotes, a quiz or two testing my spelling or math skills, and lots of cat videos. Sometimes though you can find truly inspirational things among the chatter.

The latest thing that caught my attention was a blurb about a Kickstarter campaign. It was for a solar inflatable lantern and phone charger. The team behind the campaign already had a good track record. They were the folks behind LuminAID. LuminAID is an inflatable, waterproof and solar-powered LED light which was designed by two Columbia University graduate students. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta got an assignment at school to develop a product to help with disaster relief. Since access to light is a huge problem after any kind of disaster, the two focused their energies on developing what eventually became LuminAID. There are already several versions of LuminAID in the market but this campaign was for a lantern that also included a phone charger. Given our reliance on our phones at all times (let alone emergencies), the addition of a phone charger is a game changer.

I love the simple elegance of the product. After being charged in the sun, the LED based product provides hours of light without the burden of having to find a power source including batteries. One model provides 24 hours of light on a single charge and is plenty bright. Since designing the original, the team has distributed more than 25,000 lights to charities in more than 60 countries. And if you’re curious, the lights can be bought from Amazon or their site starting at $15 – a bargain if you ask me.

While originally created for emergency use, the hiking and camping communities have embraced the products as well. For example, I’m a perfect candidate for their new product. I’m not exactly the camping type but I routinely find myself lost on hikes through no fault of my own (well aside from blindly trusting my partner). You see, he loves to leave clearly marked paths to go down unmarked ones and we inevitably get lost – except we don’t use the “L” word… he calls it going on an adventure. So it would be good to have one of the new lanterns in the backpack for the times our “adventure” would require our walking back to home base in the dark. And if we’ve used our mobiles to figure out how to get back then the phone can be charged en route too. Actually this reminds me: it’s time to start carrying a pair of secateurs. It’s getting warmer so I can’t rely on my jacket to push away the stinging nettles but I digress …

The path is clearly marked but where do you think he went? Picture courtesy of yours truly. All rights reserved.

By now you’re probably wondering what this post has got to do with CFD. Well, nothing unless you want to design a cool LED light in which case I strongly recommend that you take a look at FloEFD. I am writing this post because we celebrated International Women’s Day a few days ago and it turns out last week was also Engineers Week. So I thought it would be fun to celebrate both at the same time. And I’m happy to add that I’m not the team’s only fan either as they raised all the funds they needed early to complete the project. Celebrations all around.

Oh and lest I be accused of celebrating accomplishments of women only, well I guess you’ll just have to wait until the week of November 19 to read about my celebrating International Men’s Day by highlighting the accomplishments of a male engineer or two. In the meantime, here’s to all the inventors and dreamers regardless of gender. Happy belated Engineers Week folks.

Until next time,


9 March, 2017

Fluid systems have been challenging engineers since the beginnings of civilization, from ancient public water systems to modern planes, trains, and automobiles. As civilizations have evolved, so has the complexity of technological systems. Today, many consumer products are complex systems-of-systems, a mix of fluid, mechanical, electrical, and control systems that have varying degrees of interactions with each other. For analyzing fluid flow, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) has now been around for more than 30 years, and commercial as well as in-house computer-aided engineering (CAE) simulation software tools are becoming ubiquitous in design and manufacturing companies. How do you decide, out of all these sophisticated choices, from 1D to 3D, which to use and how best to use it? The white paper “The 12 Pillars of 1D CFD—Enablers for Accurate Thermo-Fluid System Simulation” explains some of the principles that are important to know when choosing to use 1D CFD.

One of the most powerful aspects of a 1D simulation tool is its versatility and adaptability for use at any stage of the system design process to explore options for improving the final design and to reduce development cycle time. 1D CFD tools bridge the experience gap between traditional CFD analysts and design engineers. With a 1D CFD tool such as FloMASTER, fluid networks can be “locked down” by analysts and then passed to less specialized design engineers who have access to only certain parts of the design. Parametric and view-only capabilities allow non-analysts to examine “what-if” scenarios in a secure and controlled environment.

Frontloading CFD allows creation of earlier prototypes, and having more information sooner reduces risk.

Frontloading CFD allows creation of earlier prototypes, and having more information sooner reduces risk.

For example, let’s consider a marine, diesel engine, lubrication system. Design engineers need to understand the oil-pump capacity required to supply specific components under varying loads and temperatures as the viscosity of the oil changes. System simulation with the 1D CFD tool FloMASTER can establish critical information, such as what the performance would be like under known extremes of manufacturing tolerances or wear.

Read the rest of this entry »

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7 March, 2017

Today’s computational fluid dynamics (CFD)-based thermal design has broadened to include electrical engineers, general mechanical design engineers, industrial designers, and marketing engineers. To ensure that non-CFD specialists can use this technology to make better electronics, Mentor Graphics developed FloTHERM XT, optimized for electronics thermal applications, with industry-specific input and control.

The white paper “A Step-Change in Electronics Thermal Design: Incorporating EDA and MDA Design Flows” describes the benefits of collaboration between mechanical and electrical engineers using electronic design automation (EDA) and mechanical design automation (MDA) tools.

FloTHERM XT interfaces easily with EDA tools so that it’s easy to use through the design flow.

FloTHERM XT interfaces with EDA tools so that it’s easy to use through the design flow.

Electronics equipment are a complex assembly of many solid objects, including PCBs, electronics packages and devices, cabling, fans, and heatsinks. Airflow is confined in narrow regions between these solid objects. As well as convective transport within the air, conduction within the solid objects, which can have extremely complex internal structures, is critical. Analyses involve large numbers of such objects, sometimes thousands, as well as extreme disparities in scale, from meters to microns. Read the rest of this entry »

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7 March, 2017

That’s not a typo. I really do mean light as opposed to life. Hear me out… After finishing my undergraduate studies, I didn’t want to immediately go to grad school. I wanted to get some real life experience before diving in again.

When I was ready to go back to school I had lots of choices in Southern California. The one I ultimately chose had something that I valued greatly – professors who worked in their fields of expertise as opposed to those who only taught (and did research). My two years of corporate life taught me that there is a massive difference between those who have a lot of school learning and those who cut their teeth in the business world. In the eyes of a newbie, the latter group made better leaders because they understood the realities of life and they taught me a few lessons that I would have never learned in school.

That’s why programs such as the master’s level Embedded Lighting Systems (ELS) are so important. They offer the best of both worlds. If you haven’t heard about the ELS, here’s the crib sheet: three French universities (the Institut d’Optique Graduate School, ESTACA and Strate Ecole de design) in partnership with several automotive industry giants including Renault, Peugeot-Citroen, Valeo and Automotive Lighting, developed the program.

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The master’s degree program consists of 14 modules offered in a six-month period, followed by an internship and thesis. Taught in English, the program covers design to production, focusing on technologies and methodologies used for embedded lighting. The topics covered are optics and photonics, systems, simulation, mechatronics and design. And I’m proud to say that FloEFD is used in the simulation track. As an award-winning solution for lighting applications, FloEFD enables students to evaluate and optimize thermal performance of their designs immediately inside the CAD environment. Therefore, analysis becomes an extension of design as opposed to a separate and painful step in the process. By the way, as vendors we see this evolution on a daily basis so it’s not surprising to see it implemented in a training program.

Personally I love the holistic approach offered by the ELS.  By the time they graduate, these students will have used the world’s premiere design and simulation tools and obtained real life working experience. And the icing on the cake? The automotive industry gets a steady supply of highly qualified and trained workers who can hit the ground running. What a fantastic competitive advantage in this highly competitive field! If you’re curious to learn more about the ELS please follow this link  and to learn more about lighting design with FloEFD please follow this one.

Looking back at my life, if I could do it again, would I choose the same path? On the whole yes, I would. After all, it brought me to here and now.
Until next time,

Mentor CFD

Mentor CFD delivers fluid flow and heat transfer simulation solutions that are used to optimize a design created with CAD.

Mentor’s extensive portfolio of CFD software delivers fast, accurate and design centric simulation to global players in many industries, including automotive, electronics, power, process and manufacturing.

Learn more about Mentor's CFD Solutions