Posts Tagged ‘electronics cooling’

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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16 March, 2011

The first day of spring is almost upon us. It signals the beginning of my “smiley” days because I get to drive to and from work when it’s light outside. This year, the first day of spring also coincides with the first day of Semitherm. Semitherm which is being held in Santa Clara, California, is considered the premiere electronics cooling event in the world. Semitherm offers us a great opportunity to meet with customers (old, new and future alike) and learn some new skills.

As the leaders in the electronics cooling market, we are presenting several papers:

  • A Heatsink Design Methodology using the Concepts of Thermal Bottlenecks and Shortcut Opportunities by Robin Bornoff – Tuesday March 22 at 11:50
  • Advanced in CFD Modeling in Data Centers by Travis Mikjaniec– Wednesday March 23 at 8:40
  • Issues of Testing AC LEDs by Andras Poppe – Thursday March 24 at 11:10
  • New Level of Accuracy in TIM Measurements by Andris Vass Varnai – Thursday March 24 at 11:30
  • How Temperature Affects OLEDs Operational Characteristics by Andras Poppe – Thursday March 24 at 12:10

All presenters are fantastic and experts in their fields so you’re sure to learn a few new things by attending these sessions. For additional information about each one of these sessions please refer to the Semitherm website (

I hope that you’ll join us for any and or all appropriate sessions. I also hope that you take the opportunity to stop by our booth and say hello. Would love to see your smiling faces too!

Until next time,


28 October, 2010

Call me jaded but there are times when I read new product press releases with a bit of trepidation – can the product really be new and improved? Or is it just a minor enhancement to existing functionality?

But from time to time you do come across some real gems.

Optimized heatsink design with FloTHERM 9. Image courtesy of Mentor Graphics.
Optimized heatsink design with FloTHERM 9. Image courtesy of Mentor Graphics.

Earlier this week we announced the release of FloTHERM 9 – the market leading CFD solution for electronics cooling applications. While FloTHERM has been around for a good many years, FloTHERM 9 includes some truly revolutionary new patent-pending technology. FloTHERM provides Bottleneck (Bn) and Shortcut (Sc) fields so engineers can identify not only where heat flow congestion occurs in the electronic design but also why!

The Bn and the Sc fields raise use of simulation from just an observation tool for identifying heat management problems to a proper problem-solving tool which can guide the designer by suggesting potential solutions.  The Bn field highlights the congestion area in a design heat path; therefore, by making a design change to these bottleneck areas you can relieve the heat flow problem. The Sc field can highlight possible solutions where the addition of another element to the design yields even more effective paths for further cooling. By using these two new features, you can replace expensive “trial and error” iterations with a guided “what if” so you can solve heat management issues faster and more efficiently.

For the sake of brevity I won’t go into all the technical details … several articles have already been written about the technology and if you haven’t had a chance to read them, please feel free to read a handful here:

If you are intrigued and would like to learn more about this truly unique technology, then I’d like to encourage you to attend a free online presentation on the technology and how it can be applied to everyday thermal design. The presentation, Identifying Thermal Bottlenecks and Shortcut Opportunities, will be held on November 3rd and will be broadcast live twice – 11 AM London time and 11 AM US Eastern time. For additional information or to register please click here.  The presenter, Dr. Robin Bornoff, is the product manager for FloTHERM and is one of the experts behind the Bn and Sc technologies.  He is an all around fantastic presenter and I’m sure you’ll find this session very interesting.

Until next time,

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19 August, 2010

If you knew me well then you’d know that I have a special place in my heart for things that come in little turquoise boxes from a certain retailer. Actually, as an honorary magpie, I pretty much like anything shiny– even cars and gadgets. But I want to talk about another type of shiny thing in small packages.  Today we’ll talk about high power electronic components.

A few days ago I ran into a very informative article by one of our customers and thought it made an excellent topic of discussion for us today.  Founded in 1970, Thermacore Inc. specializes in the design and manufacturing of thermal management systems and components for a variety of OEM applications including military/aerospace, computer, transport and medical. In the article, they introduce a new heat spreader design. Heat spreaders offer an effective/economical means of transferring heat. The design discussed in the article is based on a vapor chamber assembly and is quite effective for conducting away heat– especially in a tight package.  If you haven’t had a chance to read the article and would like to know more about it, please follow this link.

Designing any effective method of transferring heat is a challenge regardless of the size of the package – especially when you want to utilize fresh/ forward thinking design ideas.  That’s why simulation is always a good way to test your ideas. Sometimes you can try new ideas using trial and error but sometimes you want something a bit more effortless. While we all recognize that FloTHERM is a de facto standard for electronics cooling applications, what we may not realize is that FloTHERM has some pretty cool functionality such as the Command Center.  The Command Center offers nifty optimization tools to help you create better designs, faster. With the Command Center, you can optimize a wide range of things including heat sink design and fan/blower selection. You can even optimize for cost!  If you haven’t had a chance to see Command Center in action, please watch an on-demand presentation titled: Using Command Center to Design. It is about 50 minutes long but it is well worth it. I still remember design optimization tools from the mid ‘90s that were pretty much ineffective (well, some were effective but required so much time and computing power that you’d be better-off setting up everything yourself). But the Command Center is pretty much a whole new ball game – another good thing that comes in a small package.

Until next time,

PS. I’m taking a rather short vacation to do the Tarka trail in north Devon next week. The trail consists of 180 miles of railway paths which have been converted to a cycling path. Should be fun. Speak with you when I get back — physically tired but mentally refreshed!

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15 February, 2010

I normally don’t do posts about these kinds of things but I was really excited to hear this. Recently FloEFD was given an EDN Magazine’s Hot 100 Electronic Products for 2009 award. The Hot 100 consists of EDN’s list of “the products and technologies that in 2009 heated up the electronics world and grabbed the attention of our editors and our readers.”


I know I’m a proud parent but FloEFD is pretty cool.  Because FloEFD is embedded in CAD, it helps users integrate the CFD process into their overall design process.  Due to its heavy integration with CAD and its underlying technology, FloEFD offers users feedback on their designs quickly. As a matter of fact, users have found that FloEFD can reduce simulation time by as much as 65 to 75% when compared with traditional CFD tools.  We call this technology Concurrent CFD.  It really is a fantastic bit of technology and it’s for a lot more than just electronics. If you haven’t had a chance to see FloEFD in action, then you may want to watch one of these short on-demand video clips — you’ll find a whole slew of products being evaluated and improved.

And for those of you who voted for FloEFD, here’s a big thank you for making us one of the Hot 100.

Until next time,

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9 February, 2010

I come across a fair bit of industry research and I read it all. Unfortunately retrieving the information from my brain can be a bit problematic because my brain doesn’t think or store information in a linear fashion. So from time to time I find myself skimming the reports again just to remind myself of the information. These sessions are usually littered with my yelps of “that’s right” and “oh that’s interesting” (no doubt much to the annoyance of everyone else sitting around me in our open office).   And sometimes when the information is really juicy I read it out loud to no one in particular and inevitably start a conversation chain reaction.

One of the conversation chain reactions was about PCB respins. Now my division has quite a pedigree in matters relating to electronics cooling so we have a lot of experts who’ve been there, done that and so to speak have not only read the book but in all likelihood they wrote it! But even this bit of information made everyone stand up and listen.

Users of Mentor Mechanical products respin their designs fewer times. Image courtesy of Aberdeen Group.

Users of Mentor Mechanical products respin their designs fewer times. Data courtesy of Aberdeen Group.

According to a 2007 Aberdeen Group survey, our customers (Mentor Mechanical Analysis customers) are 5 times more likely to respin their design only once with the rest of the industry averaging nearly 3 respins per design. So what this says to me is by using software tools such as FloTHERM and FloTHERM PCB, users can significantly reduce the number of design respins by dealing with mechanical thermal issues with simulation early on and get the product out to market faster (and less expensively if I might add). Wow … now that’s a secret I don’t mind spilling the beans on!

If you are a mechanical engineer and are curious about how you can reduce PCB respins, then I’d like to invite you to attend a free presentation titled Reducing PCB Respins. The presentation will take place on Wednesday February 24 and is open to everyone. The speaker is one of our product managers, Byron Blackmore. He is one of the electronics cooling gurus I mentioned earlier so he really knows what he’s talking about.  I for one am really looking forward to hearing him speak on the topic because I always learn something new whenever I speak with him.  Hope to see you there.

Until next time,

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