Mentor Builds An MCAD-to-EDA Bridge With FloTHERM XT
Mentor Graphics has combined the electronics cooling DNA from its FloTHERM thermal analysis software with the concurrent CFD technology at the heart of its FloEFD product to deliver a new solution to let engineers work seamlessly with geometry created in both the mechanical CAD and EDA space.
Called FloTHERM XT, the software is designed to deliver electronics cooling simulation capabilities that can be leveraged throughout the design cycle, from concept through verification. The idea behind FloTHERM XT is to create bridges and optimized integration between mechanical design and EDA tools and workflows in the specific area of electronics cooling—the goal being to enable earlier virtual prototyping, a reduction in design iterations, and promoting more advanced “what-if” analysis, according to Eric Buergel, general manager of Mentor’s Mechanical Analysis Division.
By optimizing the MDA/EDA workflows, FloTHERM XT dramatically shortens the design cycle since potential problems are caught far earlier, reducing the number of iterations, Buergel says. Moreover, because FloTHERM XT lets engineers work with geometry created in either the MDA or EDA world—and its user interface and solving engines take a lot of the complexity out of the meshing process—design engineers, not just CFD specialists, can take advantage of the capabilities. That means simulation is pushed further up in the design cycle, encouraging teams to explore more upfront scenarios to aid in product optimization.
“The goal is get a good product before you get to the first prototype,” says John Isaac, director of market development for Mentor’s Mechanical Analysis Division. “The bad approach is to depend on multiple prototypes to find flaws.”
Mentor cites a number of market scenarios that highlight the need for an effective electronics cooling simulation approach. The faster speeds and higher density of smaller-factor printed circuit boards (PCBs) are increasing heat dissipation, driving a need for companies to explore new approaches to heat management. Based on data Mentor collected as part of its Technology Leadership Awards, the total area of PCBs has been reduced by 50% while the number of components has surged by 350% between 1995 and 2012, resulting in a 7X increase in PCB density.
The complexity of geometry, driven by the smaller form factors of electronics devices and the influence of industrial design, is also compounding the design challenge. In a traditional electronics design flow, the MDA and EDA teams typically spend an inordinate amount of time importing data between systems, resulting in a lot of error-prone manual clean up work around data translation. FloTHERM XT addresses this issue in several ways, including enabling imported CAD geometries to work seamlessly with the tool’s SmartPart library of models in addition to its automatic meshing capabilities, according to the company.
For Guy Wagner, director of electronic cooling solutions at Electronics Cooling Solutions Inc., a thermal analysis consulting firm, FloTHERM XT’s capabilities have really streamlined the development process. For one thing, the software is able to handle thermal analysis on complex shapes, which wasn’t possible in earlier versions of FloTherm, Wagner says. In addition, being able to work directly on a SolidWorks model and have changes be automatically reflected in FloTHERM XT without invention goes a long way towards reducing his design cycle.
“The fact that you can bring MCAD geometry into FloTHERM XT and if you make a change in a part, it’s automatically reflected in FloTHERM XT without having to do any imports is the real timesaver,” Wagner says. “It’s just totally linked.”
Between that capability and the software’s simplicity around meshing, Wagner says he’s able to turn client jobs around much faster. “This is the real value to the client because I can get the job done at a lower cost and return results to him faster without going through a lot of the geometry imports that I had to do in the past.
Below is a video demonstration of how FloTHERM XT integrates the MCAD and EDA design workflows.