In a recent survey, 60% of mechanical engineers in electronics companies stated that thermal issues had forced board layout changes during the previous 12 months. While I can’t purport to know how much respins cost within every organization, I’m willing to bet it is not an insignificant amount – especially if the company has a large portfolio. But I know that thermal simulation can help minimize the risk of late stage PCB respins.
One such solution is Mentor Graphics’ FloTHERM PCB which was released recently. FloTHERM PCB offers board-level thermal design capabilities to the PCB thermal design engineer. It helps users identify thermal issues before detailed design in EDA layout tools and thus helps minimize risks of late stage respins.
FloTHERM PCB is designed to be used by all those involved in the conceptual design of PCBs, including product marketing, systems architects, hardware designers, and mechanical/thermal specialists. It interfaces with several major Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tools such as Boardstation, Expedition, Allegro and CR5000. Removing the data transfer barrier between the EDA design and the thermal analysis greatly facilitates collaboration among the various groups, particularly during the conceptual phase of the design process. FloTHERM PCB promotes a conceptual design process that is based on the ease of data transfer which enables any changes to be reflected in the physical layout and thermal representations quickly and accurately. This keeps all team members in sync and enables them to contribute to concept development in real-time. The result is pre-optimized concepts in less time and drastic reductions in late-cycle rework as product marketing, mechanical engineering, thermal and manufacturing issues are solved before concept commit.
The last few versions of the software, (the latest being version 6.1), feature a handful of significant improvements to ensure real-life designs can be simulated much faster:
- The direct interface to Expedition PCB which was mentioned already.
- Automatic component library swapping when importing files from the EDA interfaces. This ensures the best thermal representations available are automatically used and positioned correctly.
- The materials library has been extended to provide a wider range of materials and classifications such as High Performance Polymers and Laminates. The extended library makes the creation and simulation of real-life PCB designs much easier.
- Slider bar locations controlling the resolution of metallic distribution are now stored to make it easier to apply the same resolution to multiple layers.
FloTHERM PCB can import part models and library folders generated with other Mentor Graphics thermal tools such as FloTHERM and FloTHERM PACK. And a layout change can be imported without loss of other model settings and data (eg. heatsink geometry, daughterboards, etc). It’s a pretty cool tool and if you haven’t had a chance to take a look at it yet, then please feel free to watch an on-demand web presentation titled: Reducing PCB Respins. The presentation will show you why and how to incorporate thermal constraints into an existing design flow. It’ is presented by one of my favorite electronics cooling product managers, Byron Blackmore, and I’m pretty sure you’ll find it very informative. Additional information and application examples can be found on the FloTHERM PCB page on the Mentor Graphics site.
Until next time,