Editor’s note: The article is the introduction from A step change in electronics thermal design: Incorporating EDA and MDA design flows, a white paper by Mentor Graphics that deals with the hazards of overheating. It may be of interest for those who design electronic equipment for wind turbines nacelles, structures in which temperatures easily reach 100°F and more on Summer days.
The main source of heat in electronic equipment is their semiconductor chips, and the temperature sensitivities of these chips presents a challenge in designing cooling mechanisms. Overheating causes the chips to prematurely fail—and failure of only one chip can disable the entire equipment, the higher the chip temperature, the earlier and more certain the failure. As functionality has increased, the associated heat dissipation has escalated to the extent that it is recognized as a potential limitation on the pace of electronics development. Appropriate cooling strategies are needed to prevent overheating, and failure, of critical components. In electronics, the complete design cycle from concept to first customer ship is much shorter than in traditional manufacturing industries—in some sectors, now as short as nine months—and delays in product release of even a few weeks can severely affect profit.
Electronics cooling design and simulation applications have to be quick, reliable, and integrated into a fast-moving, complex design process. The people responsible are not experts in CFD or fluid dynamics, and they do not want to spend a lot of time learning detailed CFD concepts, or running potentially time-consuming operations such as sophisticated grid generation.
Mechanical engineers are responsible for all aspects of the physical design of the equipment, that is, everything beyond the electronics design, which typically culminates in the printed circuit board (PCB) layout. They are responsible for the enclosure, appropriate location of the PCBs and other components, and for ensuring structural integrity as well as safe, reliable operation of the equipment. Cooling and thermal design is only one of the issues they are concerned with, although often it is a crucial issue.
For the full white paper:
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