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Jun Eto (Software Cradle, Software Engineering Dept.)
HeatPathView: Development Background

Jun Eto
Software Cradle, Co., Ltd.
Tokyo Branch
Software Engineering Dept.

HeatPathView was developed for version 10 as a visualization utility to display analysis results from scSTREAM and HeatDesigner. HeatPathView enables users to manage heat dissipation at the component level. It is a productivity tool that makes it possible to search and understand heat balances and heat paths in an intuitive graphical format. The following interview with Software Cradle's developer Jun Eto, reveals the drivers behind the development of HeatPathView, a feature born from the need "to determine the breakdown of heat transfer to help engineers make more informed thermal design decisions."

What Do you Think of the Utilization of Thermo-fluid Analysis Tools of Late?


 In talking with our users, I hear them say thermal design requirements have become more stringent in recent years with companies in constant pursuit of innovation. These engineers are faced with ever increasing thermal densities in designs that are smaller and in many cases are "fan-less" structures. Circuit boards are more densely populated with components that in many cases are producing more heat.

 This is driving the adoption of thermo-fluid analysis software in the market, and with ever decreasing product design cycles CFD software has become a required tool to tackle today's thermal design challenges. Products like scSTREAM and HeatDesigner can tackle those challenges, making it possible to change materials, or the layout of components within the software and simulate the temperature and thermal effect of heating components, before prototyping and testing. Another valuable insights that can be derived from doing a thermal analysis, are that you can measure the temperature in areas that are hard to reach, you can also visualize the air flow, which is hard to do in experiments, and you can share results easily with your fellow design engineers or clients. However, there are more problems to be solved in terms of practical use of the software. During technical support sessions with our users, I am often asked, "I got the results, but how can I apply them to my product design for improvements?" This was the case where the users were unable to utilize the results of temperature distribution of their products to improve their designs effectively, and the role of the analysis tools was limited to checking if components meet specifications. Of course, that's an important role, but it's an extension of actual measurements, and I couldn't say the analysis tools were fully utilized.
 

Figure 1. Difficulty connecting analysis results and design ideas

 In light of this, I became increasingly convinced that some ingenuity with respect to how analysis results are presented should help create ideas about design improvements directly from the analysis results.

 We also hear engineers talk about "front-loading design." It is a strategy to design with logic early in the conceptual stage while there is still a lot of freedom and flexibility. Although it is often talked about, the truth is it is not quite a reality. In the preliminary design phase, a lot of parameters including structure and power consumption are tentative, making the analysis results tentative as well. At this stage an absolute evaluation of temperature doesn't mean much and so a comparative or parametric evaluation of study should be performed. However, discussions tend to focus on the differences from measured or designed values, presumably because the analysis tools aren't capable of providing visualization. Nonetheless, I suppose it is also true that a comparative evaluation can't bring about enough effects to front-loading design every time, as temperature margins are small due to denser packaging.

 Whether it is in preliminary design phase or in detailed design phase, if analysis results are relegated to "This component is at XX degrees C," only information design engineers derive from the analysis is whether a given component will have a problem compared to the measured or designed value. So, I've come to believe that it is essential to have the software deliver an answer to the question, "How come this component is at XX degrees C?"

 And to do so, I came to a conclusion that it is necessary to graphically show the flow of heat in a way that is easy for engineers to understand.

 For example, Figure 2 shows temperature distributions of two different circuit boards with a BGA mounted to it. As far as the temperature distribution goes the two cases don't appear to be very different. However, when we are able to examine how the heat dissipates from the BGA we see there is a large amount of heat dissipation to the air on the left, while there is a fair amount of heat dissipation through radiation on the right. For the purpose of thermal dissipation management, it is more important to know the cause (flow of heat) than to know the result (temperature).

 You can obtain detailed temperature distributions in experiments using devices like thermography, but it is difficult to measure the amount of heat transfer. I suspect in many cases, design engineers measure temperature at multiple locations and use this information to picture in their heads of how the heat flows. I thought if we could show this process as an analysis result, it would help create ideas about design improvements more directly from analysis results.

Figure 2. Temperature distribution of the board and illustration of heat dissipation

So this is Why you Developed HeatPathView?

 ​Right. Actually, heat transfer is calculated in the course of obtaining results in any thermo-fluid analyses. So we already had the ingredients to visualize the flow of heat. In addition to the traditional analysis tools that give results (temperature), visualizing the heat flow allows for a more active approach toward thermal design/management by providing an understanding of the cause (flow of heat) of the results.

 

 This "tool for understanding the cause of component temperature" is HeatPathView.

*All product and service names mentioned are registered trademarks or trademarks of their respective companies.
*Contents and specifications of products are as of November 28, 2012 and subject to change without notice. We shall not be held liable for any errors in figures and pictures, or any typographical errors.

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