Stokes Research Institute Releases Guide to Evaluating Thermal Analysis Software
The Stokes Research Institute (SRI) at the University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland, has released a guide to evaluating thermal analysis software that can be downloaded at www.stokes.ie/pdf/questionnaire.pdf. The guide is designed for engineers and managers with responsibility for thermal design of electronic hardware. It highlights a wide range of technical issues that should be considered in purchasing thermal analysis software, including the modeling methodology, the definition of the system for analysis, the creation of a computational grid, the solution and control features, and the presentation of the results. It also highlights the vendor's ability to provide customer support, training, and documentation for their product.
In the customer support area, the guide points out that strong technical support can help to assure success with thermal analysis. It suggests that engineers and managers ask prospective vendors for evidence regarding the quality of after-the-sale support. It recommends asking to see the results of a recent customer satisfaction survey. The guide says that prospective purchasers should learn about the size of the support staff and determine how knowledgeable its members are in the field of electronics thermal analysis. It suggests asking vendors to supply documentation as proof of their expertise, such as published white papers and trade journal articles. The guide also says that purchasers should ask potential vendors to provide references from customers working in their own sector of the electronics industry.
The guide also covers a wide range of technical issues. It asks users to confirm that any software they consider covers all three modes of heat transfer, conduction, convection, and radiation, because all three act simultaneously in most electronic cooling problems. It asks users to find out whether the software includes interfacial or contact resistances between objects or components, because they can greatly influence the accuracy of a simulation. According to the guide, users should determine whether they can transfer complete system geometry from their computer aided design system or must transfer one part at a time. Does the meshing technique of this software lead to the most efficient solution for the kind of problems that the company needs to solve? Does the software allow the user to specify what design variables they are trying to optimize and then find an optimum solution in an intelligent way?
The SRI has extensive experience in addressing the Design for Reliability (DfR) process for electronic hardware. It specializes in the areas of thermal management, thermomechanical analysis, mechanical design, humidity and corrosion control, accelerated testing, failure analysis, and reliability prediction. Research on thermal management at the SRI has covered all structural levels of electronic systems: 1) system-level optimizations of fans and heat sinks, including acoustic noise minimization 2) module-level thermal behavior of circuit boards and substrates and applications of heat pipes and thermoelectric cells 3) component-level package characterization and microchannel cooling for packages and dies. The SRI possesses state-of-the-art computational and experimental facilities for thermal management research activities. SRI's research has resulted in novel cooling solutions, simulation tools, and measurement techniques.
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