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FloTHERM and its new XML neutral file format

We have recently published a new xml schema and associated xml reader for FloTHERM that offers some exciting new possibilities. Unlicensed and freely available it’s well worth checking out. Introducing my first guest blogger, my colleague Byron Blackmore explains more…

byron-picture

Byron is also a product manager for the electronics cooling line of business in the mechanical analysis division based in Canada. I’ve worked with him for the last 10 years and look forward to the next 10!

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I’ve been working with application specific simulation tools for a long time now and I’ve gained a strong appreciation for how much productivity one can gain by having access to application specific ‘widgets’ within the software.  The FloTHERM users reading this know these widgets as SmartParts.  For FloTHERM these SmartParts come in many different flavours (heat sinks, PCBs, fans, etc) and support the majority of electronics cooling objects you’ll need to use.

However, due to the wide range of electronics cooling applications that could be modeled with FloTHERM, it is entirely possible that you will need to build a part that falls outside the intended scope of the available SmartParts.  The FloTHERM community has traditionally handled this by sketching the part manually in FloTHERM with simpler objects (with many small solid blocks to create a customized heat sink for example) or by importing a solid model from an MCAD tool.  Fine for a one-off calculation, but not so efficient when having to follow this path a dozen times for a dozen variants of the object in question.  A common request then is to provide some capability to automate the geometry creation for those non-SmartPart objects that arise periodically, but not with enough frequency to justify adding a new SmartPart to FloTHERM.

To address this, the ability to read XML files has been added to FloTHERM via the recently announced Productivity Toolkit (http://supportnet.mentor.com/downloads/related/flotherm-productivity-tools.cfm).  For the uninitiated, XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language, and the format is described by a variety of tags (very similar to HTML) and expected inputs.  The collection of tags and inputs is formally known as an XML schema.  When you’re whipping up an XML schema the tags can be whatever you’d like, meaning there’s literally thousands of different, but valid, XML formats out there.  For FloTHERM, we’ve defined tags to match the inputs the user would see when working directly in the software.  A simple example of an aluminum block is shown below to give you an idea of what it looks like.

xml-example-and-result2A user can now create these XML files, and as long as they adhere to the published FloTHERM XML schema, they can be imported either into the model directly or into the library for future use.  The simplicity of the FloTHERM XML schema, as well as the prevalence of XML authoring tools today, means it’s an enjoyable coding experience (basic scripting experience required however) to get from idea to functioning script/macro/widget.  My personal favorite way to work is to use Microsoft Excel macro scripting as you can use spreadsheet data to form the macro inputs…keeps things neat.  Here’s an example [http://supportnet.mentor.com/reference/technotes/assets/public/files/MG501244/folded_fin_heat_sink.xls] of a spreadsheet that will output a FloTHERM friendly XML file of a folded fin heat sink.  My stopwatch tells me I get my heat sinks ready ~100x faster this way (compared to manual creation in FloTHERM).  The hour required to write the macro was time well spent in my book!

heatsinks1

What’s really exciting is the range of applications that are now possible; building up customized heat sinks, cold plates, detailed venting, data center layouts, rack or card cage auto-population, fan trays, and more.  I’m looking forward to hearing about how our community leverages this new capability in their work!

Schema, XML

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About Robin Bornoff Follow on Twitter

Robin BornoffRobin Bornoff achieved a Mechanical Engineering Degree from Brunel University in 1992 followed by a PhD in 1995 for CFD research. He then joined Mentor Graphics Corporation, Mechanical Analysis Division (formerly Flomerics Ltd) as an application and support engineer, specializing in the application of CFD to electronics cooling and the design of the built environment. Having been the Product Marketing Manager responsible for the FloTHERM and FloVENT softwares he is now Market Development Manager for the Physical Design of Electronics in the Mechanical Analysis Division. Visit Robin Bornoff's blog

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Comments 10

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The xml files are really very powerful and in Thales we use them for capitalize our thermal models since 2001. I would like to know if you have you done extended tests or dedicated spreadsheet to export into flotherm some smartpart components or better the new assembly networks? Many thanks. Eric.

Eric Monier-Vinard
4:05 PM Jan 19, 2010

Hi Eric, we have extensively tested the import of xml into FloTHERM. It is important to note however that not all pdml objects are supported with this 1st release of the xml schema and reader. Unfortunately this 1st release does not support Network Assemblies. Please refer to the pdf document that is included inside the xml productivity toolkit for a complete description of supported pdml objects. We fully intend to extend the list of supported objects incrementally in future releases.

Robin Bornoff
4:11 PM Jan 19, 2010

Hi Robin, could you please be kind enough to send me directly the pdf file about the object that can be export into flotherm from xml neutral file form. Many thanks. Eric.

Eric Monier-Vinard
9:38 AM Jan 26, 2010

[...] XML strategy, whereby geometry data can be automatically created outside of the FloTHERM/FloVENT gui, has also [...]
What's the difference between Geometry type XML and Project type XML? What is the tag used to define a Project type XML? According to the snapshot of the XML file, the content inside tags , and looks like a Geometry type XML, right? Thanks!

max lai
6:37 PM Apr 21, 2013

The existence of a XML element makes it a project XML file. Without it becomes assembly XML. Hope this helps, this and more info is in the FloTHERM Help system, search for XML, locate the XML FAQ.

Robin Bornoff
8:36 AM Apr 22, 2013

Can tag makes it a project XML? because it seems that is only for Assembly XML

max lai
6:34 AM May 1, 2013

Can "xml_case" tag makes it a project XML? because it seems that is only for Assembly XML

max lai
6:35 AM May 1, 2013

Heated Block Example Steel (Mild) 6.300000e+001 7.860000e+003 4.200000e+002 Aluminum (Typical) 1.600000e+001 3.970000e+003 7.650000e+002 Block Heat 8 Large Plate 0.03 0.1 0.1 0.005 0.1 0.15 Steel (Mild) Heated Block 0.035 0.12 0.14 0.005 0.04 0.04 Aluminum (Typical) Block Heat

max lai
6:49 AM May 1, 2013

A project XML file will have a element, and an assembly XML file will not. This is only difference in structure between the two.

Byron Blackmore
8:08 AM May 2, 2013

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