Posts Tagged ‘electronics cooling’

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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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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2 March, 2017

Avionics systems today are complex electronics comprised of advanced semiconductor chips and printed circuit boards (PCBs), and the extreme environments they operate in present a major challenge for engineers to develop reliable temperature-control mechanisms. Chip or board failures from too much heat or cold can disable an entire system.

Safety and reliability are mandatory, and so engineers in the avionics industry use computational fluid dynamics (CFD) thermal simulation and analysis when designing and building their systems. In the past, development cycles were extremely long to ensure product safety and reliable performance. But today, with advanced CFD software such as FloTHERM XT, simulation can be frontloaded to develop accurate 3D simulation models for analyzing heating and cooling performance much earlier, speeding up the design cycle.

In avionics equipment, high performance and heat-dissipating components are often squeezed into relatively small form factors.

In avionics equipment, high performance and heat-dissipating components are often squeezed into relatively small form factors.

The white paper “Reliability in Avionics Systems–Managing Excessive Heat” describes how to use FloTHERM XT when designing avionics equipment. However, this white paper is also applicable to any electronics product, useful for both mechanical and electrical design engineers. It walks us through an example of a concept-to-prototype design for an electronic component that would be placed onto a circuit board that dissipates 30% more power than earlier designs.

FloTHERM XT provides a solid modeling engine that bridges mechanical engineering software (MCAD) with electronic design automation (EDA) tools such as Expedition Enterprise, saving valuable time, reducing cost, mitigating risks, and improving overall product quality. FloTHERM XT enables both thermal experts and design engineers to automatically create models and simulate complex designs easily and accurately. To find out more about using CFD for challenging design situations, such as those posed in avionics, visit

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27 February, 2017

The white paper “The Third Wave of CFD” walks us through the history of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) by two long-time experts, Drs. Ivo Weinhold and John Parry. They analyze the three phases of the development of commercial CFD software for product development in a historical context and discuss the challenges and opportunities for further development.

The first commercial codes were developed during the 1960s and through the 1980s, followed by unstructured grid-based methods developed from the 1990s until the mid-2000s, which was characterized by the introduction of CFD into the R&D departments of large companies. Using technology typical of the first phase, Flomerics Ltd., founded in 1988 by David Tatchell and Harvey Rosten in Kingston-upon-Thames in the United Kingdom, played a pioneering role in marketing CFD software developed exclusively for industrial applications with its software package FloTHERM, first released in 1989 and now a part of Mentor’s CFD solutions.

CFD is available now for engineers to use upfront in their design process, frontloading thermal analysis as an integral part of their CAD program, such as this example of FloEFD with CREO.

CFD is available now for engineers to use upfront in their design process, frontloading thermal analysis as an integral part of their CAD program, such as this example of FloEFD with CREO.

Today’s phase of development is characterized by a new paradigm shift in the use of CFD simulations in industrial product development. Companies are changing their development processes towards simulation-driven design, which has resulted in a sharp increase in the responsibility placed on simulation engineers. In turn, this is translating into pressure on the manufacturers of CFD simulation software. Beyond the traditional focus on improvements in physical models and solver performance, software developers must respond to the changing demands of industry with new concepts for integrating CFD simulations into the product development process, new business models for licensing and use, and innovative usability concepts.

This new “third wave” in the development of commercial CFD software is fueled by the continuing dramatic improvements in the performance of computing and graphics hardware that continue to produce equally dramatic improvements in the price-performance ratio for appropriate hardware configurations.

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

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9 February, 2017

More accurate thermal models of dies or integrated circuits (ICs) that take into account the metallization, such as interconnects and TSV in the dies, can be created and used in thermal simulation with computational fluid dynamics (CFD). A thermal model of the 3DIC package can be imported into a larger system for further thermal simulation at the system level.

Die temperature distribution due to detailed non-uniform power map

Die temperature distribution due to detailed non-uniform power map.

The 3D CFD FloTHERM software is embedded into Mentor’s Calibre electronic design automation (EDA) solution. Mentor Graphics and TSMC created a thermal-analysis flow based on FloTHERM and Calibre DESIGNrev, as well as Calibre RVE for viewing physical-verification results. This flow provides an easy-to-use, fast, and accurate way to do thermal simulation on dies and interposers of 3DIC, enabled by automatic gridding that uses a localized grid in critical model areas.

Thermal Colormap in Calibre DESIGNrev

Thermal colormap in Calibre DESIGNrev.

The white paper “7 Key Considerations For Effective Chip-Package Thermal Co-Design” covers essentials to get the most out of this flow. For example, this solution takes die power-map files that can be generated by power analysis tools and creates thermal maps that can be used for thermal design and for checking against thermal constraints. The thermal results can also be displayed as a histogram in Calibre RVE, and the thermal hotspots can be highlighted in the design using Calibre DESIGNrev. In transient analysis, temperature versus time graphs can be displayed using Mentor Graphics EZwave, a high-capacity, high-performance graphical waveform environment.

Read the rest of this entry »

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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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20 November, 2014

Drones have been around for quite some time now. More often than not, they are used for surveillance.  One major retailer has also toyed with the idea of delivering goods door to door with drones. With each announcement I can’t help but see in my mind’s eye the overcrowded skies as depicted in the Fifth Element. But I recently read a piece about drones that absolutely fascinated me.

Drones for medical applications.

I live in an area referred to as greater London. Our roads are often bound by not only nature (there’s a massive river called the Thames that crisscrosses the area) but also history; therefore, you can’t widen the roads. Well you can but you end up stripping the land of its heritage. While the roads are not as bad as those you’d find in Rome, some roads are barely wide enough to get two way traffic (and don’t even get me started on people who feel the need to drive massive 4-wheel drive cars while the rest of us seem to be able to trek the treacherous and not so mountainous roads of greater London in our normal sized cars).

As you can guess, our roads get congested during rush hour. Big time. On Saturday it took me 1.45 minutes to drive 40 miles at noon – with about 45 min of it covering the first 10 miles. To give you an idea of why that is soul crushing, the journey home took only 45 minutes at 9 pm the same day. Anyway, while sitting in stop-and-go traffic I spied an ambulance several cars behind me. Drivers on both sides of the road had to move over as close to the sidewalk as possible to open a path wide enough for the ambulance to drive down the center of the street – the larger cars had to mount the sidewalk. The ambulance driver was able to get through but the few seconds waiting for cars to move out of the way were precious time that hopefully someone in the ambulance didn’t need in order to survive. And of course that scene took place the entire way to and from the hospital… not just on that stretch of the road.

So when I read about a drone which delivers life-saving help I was very pleasantly surprised. Alex Momont, a Dutch engineering student, has created a prototype flying defibrillator that can deliver help well before an ambulance can get to the victim. According to the article “around 800,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest in the European Union every year and only 8% survive. The main reason for this is the relatively long response time of emergency services of around 10 minutes, while brain death and fatalities occur within four to six minutes. The ambulance drone can get a defibrillator to a patient within a 12 square kilometer zone within a minute, increasing the chance of survival from 8 percent to 80 percent.”

It is an astonishing piece of kit if I may say so myself and one long overdue. One of its most brilliant features is that it can locate the patient by finding the mobile used to make the emergency call through standard GPS protocols. It also has a communication system so hospital staff can instruct the person aiding the victim on how to use the equipment. To hear its creator and to see this drone in action please follow this link. Although the “happy ending” featured in the video is a tad bit Hollywood, I’ve seen and heard enough to be in favor of such an initiative.

Understanding the challenges of avionics cooling. Image courtesy of Mentor Graphics. All rights reserved.

Understanding the challenges of avionics cooling. Image courtesy of Mentor Graphics. All rights reserved.

I know his invention is still very much in its infancy stage but I can’t help to think that he’s still got a fair bit of work ahead of him. Unleashing drones on the unsuspecting public may incur safety related issues – effectively they will be buzzing about our heads. To further complicate matters, these drones would require a fair bit of electronics crammed in a rather compact enclosure. So aside from regulations, there are a lot of electronics cooling challenges which he’ll need to overcome. To see what some of those challenges might be take a look here. But as someone who’s watched a loved one have a heart attack and wait for the paramedics to arrive I can definitely give this brilliant engineer two very enthusiastic thumbs up. Good luck Alex!
Until next time,


16 September, 2014

In my job I need to exercise a fair bit of creativity. Sometimes my ideas are readily picked up. Some require a lot of massaging and some never see the light of day… I used to take criticism of my ideas personally but not since hanging out with engineers. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from you guys is that there’s no such thing as failure – only outcomes. As Thomas Edison famously said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If a design fails to meet specifications it isn’t a failure. It’s an iteration and provides you with useful information.

Keeping this statement in mind is particularly helpful when you’re setting up models for analysis. One of the most complicated tasks related to CFD is meshing. Some consider it a black art that takes years to master. A mesh needs to be fine enough to provide you with an accurate result but the finer the mesh the longer the solution might take. So experience definitely counts because you’ll need to play with the mesh until you’ve achieved the right balance … a mesh nirvana of sorts. I remember back in the early 00’s meeting an analyst who would spend a couple of months refining the mesh on jet engines he was testing. Iteration after iteration … refining the mesh. And the more time you spend on meshing the longer you spend on analyzing the design (something that would slow down the entire This is a cost you pay for using traditional CFD software. No wonder some design engineers shy away from using CFD but I’ve got news for you.  The new generation of CFD solutions such as FloEFD, feature the latest in technology so you can reach mesh nirvana quickly 🙂

Let me introduce you to the Visual Instruments Operations Division at Seiko Epson Corporation in Toyoshina Japan. The group is involved in designing projectors. Projectors are a necessary bit of kit for every conference room. If you’re like me you don’t really notice them until you realize that you have to make a presentation and the projector is missing, it’s not working or the fan inside it whines so loudly that as a presenter you start yelling at the top of your lungs. Not a fun experience for either party in the room!

Cooling airflow verification inside of the whole enclosure. Image courtesy of Seiko Epson Corporation. All rights reserved.

Cooling airflow verification inside of the whole enclosure. Image courtesy of Seiko Epson Corporation. All rights reserved.

Their analyst team started using thermal simulation back in the 90s. And in 2009, the organization adopted FloEFD to help enable design engineers analyze their own designs (as opposed to wait for the analysts) and speed up productivity. I found it interesting to read about their adoption of CFD during the early stages of the design process and how they optimized the design of their projectors while accounting for factors such as heat sources, noise and even humidity. It was fascinating to read that among their requirements for selecting CFD software for use by design engineers was that all members of the team had to be able to use it with ease of meshing being a top criteria. So by using FloEFD, their design engineers can now modify designs as they are developed. Fantastic! To read about Seiko Epson and their experience with upfront CFD please follow this link.

Pretty cool, no?

And as projectors go, the one in our conference room drives me batty. If only someone could figure out how to make all of our laptops work with it without having to revert to black magic and incantations, our meetings would actually start on time 🙂 Or maybe I’ll go have a chat with the IT group and see if we can get one of these beautiful Seiko Epson projectors… hmmm I feel a plan hatching!

Until next time,

PS. Thought I’d tell you guys about this brilliant initiative by Google and IEEE – The Little Box Challenge and its $1M prize! All you have to do is design a smaller power inverter (they’re looking for a reduction in size of 10x or greater). If anyone can do this, it’s you guys! And if you need a bit of help on the testing side get in touch with us. You’ve got until the end of Sept 2014 to register and it and runs through 2015. I look forward to reading about your efforts and drop me a line if you enter the contest!!! I’ll be cheering for you from the sidelines 😀

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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,

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6 April, 2011

What a wonderful expression this is … putting feathers in our caps. I looked up the origins of this phrase and found that in the days gone by people used to put a new feather in the headgear of warriors for every enemy they defeated in battle. And the more feathers in the headdress, the more victories and the better the warrior.feather

Our CFD battlefield is symbolic in nature but it exists nonetheless. And I’m proud to say that our headdress has gotten a few new feathers! The feathers I’m talking about are the awards bestowed by fellow engineers and members of the media to a software program. These awards are more than just pretty plumage … they recognize the hard work that goes into developing an idea into a practical tool.

So it is with pleasure that I’d like to announce that FloTHERM, the industry’s top electronics cooling solution has won three awards in almost as many months:

  • The Design News Golden Mousetrap Award for Best Design Tools Product (US)– The editors at Design News evaluated hundreds of products in order to choose the top products within 4 categories: Electronics & Test, Automation & Control, Design Tools: Hardware & Software, and Materials & Assembly.  This is the second year we’ve won the award (although last year it was awarded to FloEFD). As a result, we now have two gleaming awards hanging side-by-side in our lobby in Hampton Court.
  • The EDN Hot 100 (US): EDN publishes a yearly list of 100 products and technologies that grabbed the attention of their editors and readers during the year. Again, this is the second year one of our products was selected for inclusion in the list — quite an honor.
  • Elektronik Magazine’s Engineering Tools of the Year (Germany): the editors at Elektronik Magazine selected 111 products in 10 categories. Then the readers of the magazine selected the final winners from this list. The top award in the category was given to National Instruments for Labview, the second place went to Microsoft for Windows Embedded Standard 7 and the third place went to Mentor Graphics for FloTHERM. Considering that thermal simulation is usually considered as an exotic/specialist tool, winning alongside such generalist tools was truly an honor. To read more please follow this link (this link takes you to a German page so you may want to use Google translate if you’re not fully conversant in German).

Why all the excitement over FloTHERM? Because the latest version includes unique patent-pending technology: the Bottleneck and the Shortcut fields. The Bottleneck field shows areas in a design where a heat path is being congested as it attempts to flow from high junction temperature points to ambient. Design changes to these bottlenecks can help solve the heat flow problem. The Shortcut field highlights areas where the addition of a simple element to the design will provide a new effective heat flow path to ambient temperature. As a result, instead of experimenting with trial and error solutions, engineers can achieve a better solution significantly faster.  If you still haven’t seen the Bottleneck or Shortcut fields in action, please feel free to watch this on-demand presentation Identifying Thermal Bottlenecks and Shortcut Opportunities at your leisure. I’m sure you’ll see why FloTHERM has gathered so much attention lately.

What do all these “feathers” mean to you? They mean that you too get to put these feathers in you cap simply by using the software. FloTHERM is not only the safest but also the wisest choice — it was developed specifically to deal with the unique needs of engineers working on electronics cooling problems and we haven’t become complacent. We continue to strive to provide you the best price performance in the market by offering unique technology to keep you a few steps ahead of your competition.

So wear your feathers proudly. You’ve earned them.

Until next time,

PS. Just wanted to give you a heads-up. We are starting to schedule User-2-User events specifically for users of FloEFD, FloTHERM, FloVENT and  T3Ster/TERALED. These events will consist of technical training sessions; therefore, you should be able to put into practice what you learn at these sessions immediately. The U2U meetings will take place in England, France, Germany, US, China and Japan. We’ll announce the dates shortly and I do hope that you can join us at one of the events.

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