Thermal management software helps keep the heat off

Written by: Paul Fanning | Published:

As technology advances and greater electronic performance is demanded from platforms without any enlargement, products are becoming more densely packed and, as a consequence, hotter.

Since 1995, in fact, there has been a seven-fold increase in average PCB density, as the number of components has risen by a factor of 3.5 and the area into which they have to fit has reduced by half. This clearly places great pressures on the mechanical design of electronic products in terms of thermal management.

FloTHERM XT from Mentor Graphics is the latest iteration of the company's thermal management solution. It is designed to interconnect mechanical design automation (MDA) and electronic design automation (EDA) domains and to address the needs of design engineers rather than just thermal specialists.

Design complexity is driving the EDA and MDA design flows closer together, with pressure on thermal designers to use native geometry from these systems without simplification to keep the simulation model up to date, minimize the time taken to analyse design variants, and increase accuracy of results.

These changes have affected the demographics and skill sets of engineers, which has implications for software usability, geometry handling, and the underlying CFD technology. FloTHERM XT has been written to support different types of design engineers and levels of expertise, to be as usable in early design as it is in late design verification. It has the ability to evolve the model as the design is elaborated and provide an environment that delivers the best possible collaboration between the main mechanical and electrical design flows.

This need to satisfy a range of users including electronic and mechanical design engineers is something that Mentor has considered carefully in developing the software. According to Roland Feldhinkel, Mentor's product line director for the Mechanical Analysis Division: "The user profile has changed a great deal. Mechanical engineers are increasingly having to do thermal modelling. For this reason, FloTHERM XT is very CAD-centric and can be used in such a way as to look less at the detailing a thermal engineer might want."

Thermal management is a process that cannot be undertaken late on in the design stage and relying on physical prototypes does not work. Thus, FloTHERM XT starts simulations at the conceptual stage and continues through to implementation and verification. By starting simulations at the conceptual stage, experimental changes can quickly be validated or eliminated and there is more opportunity for 'what-if' designs, allowing for a more competitive product

The product's simplified and customisable user interface allows it to import native CAD data directly. Imported or CAD-generated geometries work seamlessly with the FloTHERM XT's SmartPart library of models, and automatic meshing and data convergence provide significant reduction in execution times. It also provides an easy and intuitive direct interface to enterprise platforms such as the market-leading Mentor Expedition Enterprise solution.

The direct integration of the FloTHERM XT product with PCB design flows will reduce time-consuming data translation and costly errors. As a result, FloTHERM XT is the only solution on the market that allows engineers to work effortlessly with geometry created in the MDA or EDA world.

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