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From CAD User Mechanical Magazine Vol 17 No 10 - OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2004
Flomerics’ Version5 software, combining all major analysis tools involved in the physical development of electronic products, leads the market in the integrate of physical design in a single environment
We are constantly reaping the benefits of faster, more powerful and more
complex electronic equipment – from cell-phones to advanced media and
communication systems, and, of course, in the laptops, desktop computers and
high powered workstations that we take for granted in our workplace.
Cramming greater quantities of advanced components into smaller and smaller circuits, however, and running them at higher clock speeds, raises the twin problems of increased heat emissions and electromagnetic radiation, the first of which is estimated as the principal cause of equipment failure (up to 55% according to one recent estimate) and the latter causing concern about user health, as well as being an additional factor in equipment reliability.
The earlier potential thermal and EMC (electromagnetic compatibility) problems can be ironed out in the design process, the better. Not only is physical prototyping an expensive and time-consuming exercise, but the results that are obtained from such a process can often be less precise than those that can be achieved from a digital simulation of the operation of the equipment. Consequently the integration of analysis tools into the design software, so that they can be used as early as possible in the design process, has already been well established.
As the demand for yet more powerful and advanced products intensifies, design issues need to be addressed even earlier in the design process, and analysis tools need to be more readily available to a wider range of designers. Hence the decision made by Flomerics to incorporate a range of analysis tools, covering both thermal and EMC analysis, in a single integrated analysis environment for the physical design of electronics.
This is a development of Flomerics’ Design Class Analysis, which was introduced to ‘bridge the gap’ between analysts and designers. Flomerics virtual-prototyping software embeds complex analysis and optimization software in the design process, accessible to both expert analysts and non-expert users. Following on the success of the process in increasing design productivity, and its consequent elevation of Flomerics as a leader in thermal analysis in the electronic industry, the company has taken the process a stage further, and packaged all of its electronics analysis tools together in the latest version of its software.
Integrated Analysis Environment
Flomerics’ software cuts right across the mechanical and electronic elements of PCB design, providing tools for, and improving collaboration between, both electrical and mechanical engineers. They can be used at the concept design stage, through design for manufacturing, right up to testing and validation of the designs.
EDA professionals, therefore, have Flo/PCB, which is used to define the functions of the circuit board, and to investigate the thermal feasibility and the placement of its components. Checking the thermal feasibility and optimization of the complete system comes under the MCAD banner – with FloTHERM as the principal tool, supported by
Flo/STRESS for predicting thermomechanical stresses on circuit boards, and in individual components, Flo/PACK for analyzing thermal models of IC packages, and Flo/EMC for electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) simulation. Now, all of these issues can be addressed in a single analysis environment, speeding up the design process, and improving communication between the different disciplines.
Flo/PCB and FloTHERM are already used in conjunction to import board layout information from EDA software (Flo/PCB) and system-level environment data from FloTHERM – which uses computational fluid dynamics techniques to predict 3D airflow and heat transfer in components, circuit boards, or complete systems – enabling engineers to identify possible causes of overheating and to test design modifications. Flo/STRESS looks at the thermally induced mechanical stresses in components, boards, thermal interface layers and solder joints, and uses temperatures provided by FloTHERM as input data for the calculations. Designers can now use the same model and data to predict product lifecycles and potential failure sites.
Flo/PACK approaches the issues from a slightly different direction. Detailed 3D models of IC packages to JEDEC and DELPHI standards can be created using this web-based software, allowing users to input key design parameters, and then import the resulting thermal models directly into Flo/PCB or FloTHERM.
Flo/EMC allows uses to analyse electromagnetic fields in and around electrical equipment. It shares its geometry with FloTHERM and enables mechanical engineers to check out electromagnetic propagation mechanisms, resonances and other phenomena, and, thereby, to apply effective shielding of enclosures.
Putting the whole integrated suite into practice provides positive benefits for manufacturers of electronics products, proof of which was summarized by Jean Philippe Tigneres, Environmental Group Manager for Barcoview, Toulouse, France, whose company develops and manufactures high quality graphics and computer equipment, who said that “Using a single environment for thermal and EMC analysis helped us bring a new ruggedised computer to market 20% faster by providing performance information prior to the prototype stage that helped us optimize the tradeoff between cooling management and EMC”.
The new integrated design process enabled by the suite typically begins when the systems architect develops the initial concept design by creating a functional block diagram in Flomerics’ Flo/PCB software. Hardware design engineers can then derive the first physical layout directly from the block diagram. A powerful 3D computational fluid dynamics solver predicts airflow and temperature, for both sides of the board, in minutes. Cooling management can thus be considered from the earliest stages of the design process. Changes made to the functional block diagram are instantly reflected in the physical layout and thermal representations. This keeps all team members in sync and enables them to contribute to concept development in real time.
As mechanical engineers begin to develop the physical design, they can drag the Flo/PCB model and drop it into a system level thermal design that they develop with Flotherm software. The integrated environment not only ensures the transmittal of accurate information to mechanical engineers but also provides immediate notification of design changes. The result is that mechanical engineers can also identify thermal issues in the early stages of the design process, long before prototypes are available, and perform design studies to resolve them.
EMC (electromagnetic compatibility) is an issue that is fast becoming a vital part of electronic system design, as the latest advanced products run at increasingly higher frequencies, radiating more powerful EMC waves – potentially damaging to other components in the near vicinity – and, as we are so often reminded in the Press, to user’s health. Flomerics, therefore, has incorporated its EMC analysis within the integrated suite, so that the same model that is created for system level thermal analysis can also be used to address EMC issues far earlier than is normally possible. A step-by-step approach to EMC analysis enables generalist mechanical engineers to optimize the shielding effectiveness of their enclosures with little additional effort and without calling in an EMC specialist. Being able to address thermal management and EMC issues within a single environment makes it possible for mechanical engineers to get a head start on the difficult design tradeoffs that are frequently required between these two disciplines.
Again, the design of the Barcoview ruggedised computer provides a good example of how this process can work in the real world. Long before prototypes were built, Tigneres resolved thermal issues by increasing the size of the inlet and outlet grilles on the panel of the computer. Then, instead of waiting for physical tests to see if this caused EMC problems, he analyzed the system with Flo/EMC and used the information he gained to reshape the openings to reduce emissions to acceptable levels.
Ready access to all of the components that can be used in electronic design can also help to speed up the design process, and, accordingly, Flomerics has enlisted the support www.SmartParts3D.com - an extensive on-line catalogue of hundreds of common, ready-to-use, 3D parts, such as fans, heat sinks, IC packages and standard enclosures, which further reduces the engineering time required for creating simulations.
Flomerics’ integrated analysis environment is all about saving time and money. Companies involved in electronic design are asked to consider how much time they spend on thermal testing, how long their ‘test-and fix’ cycles take, and what they spend on design changes. Flomerics estimate the average savings that users of its integrated analysis can make are in the order of $40,000 a year. Improved EMC design – their figures from test labs report a mere 1—30% first time pass rate – can save between $62-100,000 a year. And 20% improvements in time-to-market (Barcoview figures) can save an estimated $72,000. Add to that the cost of delayed sales, field failures and warranty costs, and the total starts to look quite alarming!
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