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.

19 November, 2015

Working in a male dominated industry I come across very few women. But from time to time you run into some true trailblazers and today I’d like to talk about one of them. Dr. Marta Rencz.

We work in the same division but she is based out of our Budapest office so it took a couple of years before our paths actually crossed. I felt an immediate affinity for her – she is one of those folks who puts you at ease with their smile.  The more I learned about Marta, the more impressed I have become over the years. As the …

  • CEO and one of the founding members of the MicReD group she steered her organization to commercial success (MicReD was acquired by Flomerics Group plc in May 2005).
  • General Chair of THERMINIC she helped evolve it into Europe’s premier conference dedicated to thermal issues in electronics.
  • Author and co-author, she has published an amazing number of technical publications (curious as to how many? Check it out here).
  • Previous Head (for a decade) and now the Deputy Head of the Department of Electron Devices at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME) she has been involved in countless research projects.

So it is with the greatest pleasure that I’d like to share the news that Marta has just received the 2015 Allan Kraus Thermal Management Medal.

From right: ASME Member Dereje Agonafer, Dr. Marta Rencz and Abhijit Dasgupta, Chair of ASME Electronic and Photonic Packaging Division

Established in 2009, it “recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding achievements in thermal management of electronic systems and their commitment to the field of thermal science and engineering.”

On a side note, Marta was awarded an Honorary Doctorate degree from Tallinn University in Estonia just a couple of years ago. At the time, Professor Toomas Rang, Head of the Thomas Johann Seebeck Department of Electronics of Tallinn University of Technology, said “we are honoring Dr. Rencz because of her impressive body of work in the thermal test and analysis industry where she excels as a business executive, scientist, and professor. She is a prominent figure in thermal engineering and we are so proud to present this honorary doctorate to her, with gratitude for her commitment and contributions to the industry.”

I’m sure she has a few more accolades coming her way. In the meantime, please join me in celebrating Marta’s good news. Well done Marta!
Until next time,

20 October, 2015

October 21st 2015 is finally here. Yup, the day Marty McFly used a time machine to visit the future… a world full of cool tech. Someone with a lot more time than me recently put together a list of things that have come true – among them the hoverboard but the example the writer uses is not the coolest one out there (in my opinion). Check out this one by the good folks at Lexus. Ok I know it’s not a “true” hoverboard but it’s a giant step towards it. And being a sappy soul I just love this statement “the difficult takes time, the impossible just takes a little longer”.

It’s difficult to tell whether Hollywood takes inspiration from science or whether scientists are inspired by what they see on the big (and the little) screen. Maybe it’s a symbiotic relationship as in the case of The Martian – Ridley Scott consulted with NASA at great length while producing his latest blockbuster. Or maybe they all get inspiration by looking at the catalog of patents that are granted each year. Over the years inventors have imagined and patented a wide range of goodies. Some have been more successful. But some are wildly amusing. I recently watched a video about a “safety car”.  Judging by the spiffy outfits and the rad music I’d say it was from the late 60s. The chest cushion and the catcher bar were especially interesting and thankfully not very popular – I say thankfully because I walked away from a head-on car crash in the 90s where the airbag was deployed rather forcefully and I’m not sure how I would have fared had I been in the same accident with that cushion slamming into my chest*.

Unlike that chap’s outfit, imagining wild and crazy things hasn’t gone out of fashion. The British Rail patented a passenger craft of sorts for interplanetary travel in the 80’s. Although if I may be so bold as to advise the rail companies that we, the residents of this small island, would prefer that they focus their energies on delivering us to our destinations safely and on time on this planet before expanding their territories. If you haven’t been lucky enough to experience it first hand, rail travel here is more often than not delayed due to signal failures, leaves on tracks and freakish weather phenomena such as rain. So I can just imagine hearing this announcement in an overcrowded space port … the 17:05 to Jupiter stopping at the Moon, Mars and Titan has been cancelled due to cosmic dust… 😀

Joking aside, human imagination is only limited by what we allow ourselves to dream. Someone 30+ years ago dreamed of all those gadgets in the movie. Someone with a bit of money thought hey technology has come far let’s see if we can make the hoverboard happen. An engineer with a bit of imagination said I think I can figure out how…

My colleague Sergio Antioquia, who is one of our awesome support engineers, is a fellow sci-fi fan and a pretty dab hand at using FloEFD which is a CAD-embedded CFD software. Like any self-respecting sci-fi fan, he tends to use models from his favorite movies when he wants to test the limits of the software. And in honor of October 21st 2015 he chose the hoverboard:

A crash test dummy taking the hoverboard for a spin. Image courtesy of Sergio Antioquia. All rights reserved.

I must admit that it would be great to see an honest to goodness hoverboard in my lifetime. But judging from the look on the dummy’s face I think I might pass up on the opportunity to try it 😉

Until next time,

* In case you’re wondering what happened, having arrived in England a few hours earlier I was half-asleep in the front passenger seat. The driver, an American, made a u-turn in the middle of a country road and out of habit stayed on the right side. A few minutes later our VW Polo hit a BMW 5-series at such force that both cars were totaled. The two drivers and I walked away sore but without a scratch. In fact, we continued on (in a cab) to the restaurant and caught up with the rest of our colleagues 2 hours late but alive. Hooray for tech!


26 August, 2015

I remember the first time I saw it. It was summer of 1976. My family and I were on our way home from a nice long vacation. For once I was able to grab the window seat (much to the annoyance of my sisters). After an indeterminable amount of time sitting at the gate the plane pulled back and started taxiing down the runway. All of a sudden the plane came to a stop and the pilot came on the speaker system. He excitedly announced that those of us on the right side of the plane were about to see something rather spectacular.  A few people sitting on the left side unhooked their seat belts and craned over us lucky folks. Looking out the window I spied what he was talking about – a Concorde. We sat there for a couple of minutes while the pilot talked about the plane. I remember being suitably impressed albeit not really comprehending the magnificence of what I’d just seen. I also remember thinking that I want to fly on one of those when I grow up.

Image courtesy of Microsoft clip art. All rights reserved.

The Concorde. Image courtesy of Microsoft clip art. All rights reserved.

Years later I got to board one but at a museum. The Concorde sat proudly in a large hall among a bunch of fighter planes. She stood out like a queen. This time I knew exactly what I was looking at and I couldn’t help feeling sad because I never got a chance to experience “time travel” as a passenger…  What reminded me of this episode from my childhood?  A colleague who knows my affinity for beautifully designed machines sent this clip to me. Flushed with the memory of my first sighting of the plane as a child, I decided to watch the next suggested video to learn more about the Concorde.

After watching the second video I started thinking…

The first successful Concorde flight was in 1969 – the same year we landed on the moon. According to Wikipedia the origins of the Concorde go as far back as the 1950s. A quick search for images from the 50s gave me a feel for what mechanical and aeronautical engineering was like back in the day. No CAD to modify designs, no CFD software producing insightful plots of air flow or engine performance. Just plain old human ingenuity and perseverance.  Considering the tools at their disposal back then I can only conclude that the Concorde is one of the great feats of engineering.

Fast forward to 2015. You have such a vast array of engineering tools at your disposal so my future world is only limited by your imagination. What wonderful machines are you dreaming up now? If you need a bit of inspiration then have a look at how our solutions can help make your dreams a reality for the rest of us.
Until next time,

PS. CFD users don’t get a lot of recognition in the world – mainly because the average joe doesn’t really know what you do. Here at Mentor, we’re hoping to change that, at least a little bit. On September 1st we’re encouraging people to share how and why they use CFD (irrespective of the software) by using the hashtag #iusecfd. This is your chance to show the world that despite the stereotypical image of engineering what you do is way beyond cool. Join us by posting your own thoughts on Twitter and/or retweeting those of others.


10 August, 2015

There’s been a fair amount of chatter about “shift left” recently. If I understand it correctly, it refers to the practice of focusing on quality at the start of a project which would require you to identify and fix problems as they arise through the process.

A recent article I read made me think about this concept and how it may apply to the CAE market. In the article, one of the interviewees said “[shift left] says take the existing tools and try and make them work better together without changing the flow much. We need to rethink how we do design if we are going to help it get faster.”  I agree that trying to use a square peg in a round hole is not very efficient and may very well require use of brute force (which is not in the spirit of this discussion). But asking companies to examine and change their processes is something that is much easier said than done.  Not every company can or will change their processes without a good business reason. If the pain is not big enough what’s the motivating factor to change? So people, much like heat, go through the path of least resistance and reach for step changes which provide some relief and process improvement.

In the CAE market we’ve been talking about “shift left” for a few years – I remember talking about integrating structural analysis and CAD with SolidWorks’ John Hirschtick at a tradeshow in 1995 (or was it ’96?). Anyway, by moving simulation upfront you can identify problems earlier. And yeah you can use existing tools to achieve significant process improvement. But (and it’s a big but) it depends on the tool you’re using!

You can’t take software that was designed 30+ years ago for analysts, keep adding bells and whistles to it to ensure that it can simulate very complex physics and then ask the design engineer to use it. It’s not that design engineers aren’t capable of learning how to use the tool. It’s the complexity of the tool which hinders its adoption during the design process. You can’t spend a week on finding the right mesh when all you’re looking for during the early stages is trends … You want to get it going and get it going fast.

Our family of CFD solutions was built with the speed of the design process in mind. For example, FloTHERM XT is an award-winning CAD-centric electronics cooling simulation solution which can help remove the risks associated with the thermal aspects of the design as early as possible. And because it integrates easily into your existing process (and as a bonus even closes the gap with the EDA design flow), you don’t need a grand upheaval of your design process to benefit from analysis earlier. Let’s take a look at what I mean.

With FloTHERM XT the overall process from model building through to result analysis can be compressed by at least 50%. Image courtesy of Mentor Graphics. All rights reserved.

With FloTHERM XT the overall process from model building through to result analysis can be compressed by at least 50%. Image courtesy of Mentor Graphics. All rights reserved.

Compared with traditional tools, with FloTHERM XT the overall process from model building through to result analysis can be compressed by at least 50% (as shown in the figure). How? Well, FloTHERM XT eliminates the need to clean the CAD geometry or to simplify it in order to be able to generate the mesh. It also eliminates the time spent improving the mesh in order to reduce mesh distortion inherent in body-fitted meshes that impact convergence and result quality. I can talk about this stuff until the cows come home but for the sake of brevity I won’t. If you’re intrigued, then please follow this link and take a closer look at it.

FloTHERM XT … making”shift left” easy in the world of electronics cooling.

Until next time,

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9 July, 2015

In my lifetime I’ve seen some amazing things – the moon landing, the Concorde, the space shuttle, PCs, electric vehicles, smart phones, and tablets …  Some have brought tears to my eyes – first from joy when our school principal announced the successful take-off of the Columbia and then from sadness upon hearing about its fate in 2003.  For someone who loves technology this has been a great time to be alive.

What I adore about the world of technology is that it’s a world without territorial bickering and chest-pounding. When left to their own devices, engineers from different nations and backgrounds work together and give credit where credit is due. Forget about the cold war. Forget about lines drawn in the sand thousands of years ago. In the world of technology, there is no such thing as religion or skin color.

A few days ago one of my colleagues shared some interesting news with me about Professor B. Jayant Baliga, an Indian American scientist who recently won Russia’s top technology award. In today’s politically charged atmosphere Russians gave an Indian American their top tech award. How fantastic is that? And why was this award given to him?  Because Professor Baliga developed insulated-gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs) back in the 80s. While I knew they were important I had no idea that “the invention has possibly saved the world around $24 trillion by raising energy efficiency”. That’s a lot of moola no matter what you call it… sterling, dollars, euros, yen or rubles.

IGBTs are pretty much everywhere especially in power electronics applications such as electric and hybrid vehicles as well as alternative energy (ie wind and solar power). IGBTs are subject to large thermal loads and repeated heating/cooling cycles. And as we all know heat is not a great friend of electronics and affects reliability of components. Since people driving an electric or hybrid vehicle aren’t really interested in getting stranded by the side of a freeway/motorway taking care of thermal issues is a priority.

Forward voltage of IGBT at heating current level as function of applied power cycles as measured by the MicReD Power Tester. Image courtesy of Mentor Graphics. All rights reserved.

Forward voltage of IGBT at heating current level as function of applied power cycles as measured by the MicReD Power Tester. Image courtesy of Mentor Graphics. All rights reserved.

I can’t begin to even touch the subject effectively so if you’re interested in learning more about increasing reliability and or better understanding IGBT lifetime, then I suggest that you read this article by Dr. John Parry. The article titled Influence of Power Cycling Strategy on IGBT Lifetime – a Case Study   does a great job of explaining how the powering strategy you choose may ultimately affect the lifetime of your IGBTs. And considering their popularity having this knowledge is pretty gosh darned important if you’re vaguely interested in reliability of the product being designed.

So … Congratulations Professor Baliga and thank you engineers for teaching the rest of us that we can live in a world where race, religion, sex, politics or any number of “descriptors” doesn’t matter. One world. One race. No boundaries.
Until next time,

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11 June, 2015

This past week in England we got dangerously close to experiencing summer. The sun was out, the skies were blue and there were hardly any clouds. Despite the wind being a wee bit chilly, men started wearing shorts and women dusted off their colorful sun dresses. Those of us driving convertible cars drove with the tops down with abandon.  And more importantly the radiators at work were finally turned off.

Airflow simulation in an office. Image courtesy of Mentor Graphics. All rights reserved.

Airflow simulation in an office. Image courtesy of Mentor Graphics. All rights reserved.

And of course when the weather starts to turn we start facing the next big challenge – how to remain cool inside. The cooling challenges in our offices have been sufficiently documented by yours truly already here and here. Thankfully our office is scheduled to undergo a refurbishment and will get an AC system soon (I guess then we’ll start complaining that it’s too cold inside but then again that’s human nature for you).

With the arrival of summer I was reminded that my house gets uncomfortably hot. My 200+ year old brick cottage wasn’t built for energy efficiency.  The ground floor remains cool (regardless of whether it’s summer or winter) but the upstairs gets hot in the summer.  The bricks bake in the sun all day and release the heat at night. Last week I found myself huddled in the sitting room under a blanket after dinner but the bedroom which is directly above it was a whole other story. When I went upstairs to go to bed I couldn’t open windows to create a draft fast enough. In fact by the time I had opened 3 windows in a 10 foot radius I had started to sweat.

Last year I flirted with the idea of buying a window-mounted AC system but I couldn’t find anything that didn’t cost an arm and a leg – window-mounted systems are dime a dozen in the States… in England not so much. As a result, I had a few restless nights trying to get cool enough to sleep by using my trusty old fan. When the temperature got unbearable I even dragged my stuff downstairs and slept on the sofa. So when this little video crossed my social network feed I had to take a look. The basic premise of the video is that with $8 you can create a homemade AC system. The idea is simple enough… one Styrofoam cooler, two vents, one fan, a lot of ice and presto. Nice cold air. It’s not elegant nor will it win any design contests but even the DIY challenged folks like me can do it. I’m sure a few of you smart souls can even further improve the design but I’m seriously tempted to give this a try.

Yes … sometimes a solution doesn’t need to be an all dancing, all singing one. Sometimes it’s the simplest design that will do the job. Something to keep in mind the next time you’re dealing with a particularly difficult design problem. And if you’re looking for inspiration on how to solve some of those hairy flow or cooling problems, do take a look at our library of videos.
Until next time,

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20 May, 2015

The other day I saw a great sign in a novelty shop. It featured the tale of a glass of water –

Image courtesy of Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Image courtesy of Microsoft. All rights reserved.

The optimist says the glass is half full.
The pessimist says the glass is half empty.
The engineer says the glass is twice the size it needs to be.

The sign made me laugh out loud as whoever made it clearly knew engineers.

Perhaps this pragmatism comes from your no nonsense nature. When looking at a problem, you look at finding the optimal solution. And more often than not the perfectionist in you wants to work on it until it is perfect. To make something perfect means you need time. Lots of time to tinker…. a bit here, a nudge there.  If we had all the time in the world then tinkering is just fine. But in real life we have deadlines and market pressures which require us all to get on with it. So sometimes good enough is just that … it’s good enough.

And one of those times is during the early stages of the design process when you don’t need to have 100% accuracy in your simulation results… you need something that is good enough. We all know that design is iterative in nature. The faster you can iterate to a final design the better – especially when you have a boss breathing down your neck. So speed and time are of the essence.  What’s a pragmatic person to do? Find a trend in the right direction, explore and tweak the model further and when you’re happy with your design send it off for final verification. Job done!

That’s why our family of CFD simulation tools is designed to be inserted easily and effortlessly into your design process. You can pick up FloEFD, FloTHERM, FloTHERM XT or Flowmaster as soon as you have a basic concept. And because it’s easy to set up problems for analysis and fast to solve them you can quickly see trends emerging and get on with the business of developing a final design fit for purpose.  Don’t get me wrong. Just because you can use these solutions early it doesn’t mean that you can’t use them throughout the process and into final verification. Because you most certainly can and you don’t have to take my word for it – just take a look at our extensive range of customer success stories.  What I’m trying to say is that sometimes you can achieve more in the long run by using the “good enough” principle.
Until next time,

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1 April, 2015

THERMINIC is the major European workshop related to thermal issues in electronic components and systems. And the 21st workshop will be held in the heart of Paris – that’s Paris France … we don’t want anyone showing up in Paris Texas by mistake. Anyway, the good folks at THERMINIC always endeavor to offer an engaging technical program organized under three major themes: thermal phenomena, simulation and experiment; electronics cooling concepts; and, thermo-mechanical reliability.

The program consists of technical presentations and special sessions including presentations by prominent speakers.

To ensure an engaging and industry relevant program, the organizers are casting a wide net and inviting engineers, specialists and academics to submit an abstract describing recent work on relevant topics. The abstracts are due on April 14, 2015. Additional information about the workshop, abstracts and the submission process can be found on their website

I really hope that you consider presenting and or attending THERMINIC. It’s a great event and well worth the time.

Until next time,

19 March, 2015

It is with great pleasure that I’d like to announce that we won the first annual LEDs Magazine Sapphire Award in the category of SSL Tools and Test.

The unique combination of T3Ster, TeraLED and FloEFD win the first annual LEDs Magazine Sapphire Award in the category of SSL Tools and Test.

The unique combination of T3Ster, TeraLED and FloEFD wins the first annual LEDs Magazine Sapphire Award in the category of SSL Tools and Test.

Over 100 products were nominated across 13 categories. And “the best of the best” were announced at a gala evening in Las Vegas. Products were considered against a virtual perfect product in each category and they were rated on a scale of 0 to 5 Sapphires. Fractional scoring was allowed to help further differentiate products in each category. According to Maury Wright, Editor in Chief at LEDs Magazine, “for a score in excess of 3 Sapphires, the judges were asked to consider to what degree the entry could deliver outstanding performance.” The unique combination of T3Ster, TeraLED and FloEFD was given 4 Sapphires. One of the judges even noted that the suite comprises an “excellent complete temperature analysis and simulation system”.  And we couldn’t agree more!

Our combination of software simulation and testing products can be used by development teams in the lighting industry to provide superior performance within compressed development schedules. And who wouldn’t want to get a better product to market faster?  Please join me in celebrating the good news and if you’d like to read more about the award and the selection process please follow this link.

LEDs Magazine tweet features John Wilson, one of our awesome Technical Marketing Engineers supporting the products.

LEDs Magazine tweet features John Wilson, one of our awesome Technical Marketing Engineers supporting the solution suite.

Until next time.

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20 February, 2015

I don’t know about you but I used to break into a sweat when I’d meet someone new because invariably they’d ask the question.

What do you do?

Since I love what I do, I’d always go into a speech about computational fluid dynamics (CFD) until a chance occurrence at a party made me change my behavior a few years ago. At his birthday party, an English friend of mine introduced me to one of his friends who happened to be an American. After the initial pleasantries (you’re from California? I’m from Ohio!), she told me that she had just finished a stint as a project manager at Microsoft and asked me what I did for a living. When I told her that I was also in software and explained what I did she grabbed her husband who had caught some of our conversation and mockingly said “listen to this. C F something or another. I’m pretty sure she’s making this stuff up”. Upon seeing the shock on my face, her husband apologized profusely and ushered her away. After that night I stopped automatically telling people what I did. Whenever somebody would ask I’d say marketing for an engineering software company and leave it at that. When some people hear that magical combination of engineering and software they are happy to move on to a different subject. But sometimes they ask for more. Like last Friday.

Last November while on a business trip I got sick. Nine weeks, 7 doctors, one CAT scan and 4 ultrasounds later, I found myself checked into a hospital being prepped for surgery last Friday. The surgeon stopped by my room to discuss the procedure. When he was done answering my questions, he asked what I do for a living. So I gave him my stock answer, stopped and smiled. The surgeon, a rather kind-looking older gentleman, looked over his glasses (the way fathers do) and said “why do people always respond as if they’re talking to the secret services? What do you do and who do you work for?” He seemed genuinely interested so I let loose and since I like using examples that people can relate to I spoke about how our technology can help minimize infections in operating and hospital rooms. That piqued his interest so I pointed to his mobile and started talking about how manufacturers use our ears as glorified heatsinks. Twenty minutes later as he was leaving the room he had an amused look on his face – I had either fascinated him and he couldn’t wait to tell his financial adviser to add some Mentor stock to his portfolio or he thought I was a raving lunatic making it all up.

Funny enough I get that now. No, not the raving lunatic bit (ok, that too). It’s ok. I don’t mind anymore because despite this technology being around all these years most people whom I meet outside of work have never heard about CFD. But the cars they drive, the planes they ride, the mobiles they use … they’ve all been touched by CFD in one way, shape, form or manner. So I don’t mind describing what it’s all about. More often than not I leave people surprised that a lot of thought has gone into designing whatever product they’re using. And maybe, just maybe, they look up CFD and learn a bit more about the wonderful world of simulation.

CFD. The unknown engineering hero. My one woman crusade to educate the masses continues one person at a time.

Until next time,
PS. In case you’re wondering the procedure went without a hitch. I can hardly wait to get the clearance to start hiking again in a couple of weeks time :-)