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Sony Vaio laptop in mass 'recall'

“Authorities in the US have instructed Sony to conduct a recall of its Vaio laptops, after problems with overheating were reported.” started this article on the BBC’s web site.

There is a saying, ” the news is never as good or as bad as it is first reported”. And so it is with this story. It’s not a product recall, as the story later goes on to explain, but what grabbed my attention was that the problem can be cured by an on-line firmware update. In my view that means it’s not a thermal problem at all. Rather it’s essentially a software fault of some sort that’s causing some part of the system to pull a lot more power than it was expected to during design, or needs to for the laptop to function normally.

One of the challenges when doing the thermal design of a laptop or a smart phone is knowing what powers to design to, as power consumption is a function of the use profile. Watching a DVD or gaming tends to thrash the graphics card pretty hard. Running a CFD solver like FloTHERM of FloEFD tends to thrash the CPU. How about both at the same time? Should this be considered when designing the system? Similarly how about surfing the web on a smart phone while downloading a few dozen picture messages?

A lot of thought goes into this and companies like Sony use Mentor’s thermal design software to help them manage the trade-off between product performance and the cost, weight, size and battery life issues related to the cooling system. However, there are still a lot of companies out there that trust to luck during design and rely on physical prototyping to resolve any (presumably unexpected) thermal problems post-design.

Whereas the cost of fixing problems during physical prototyping pale into insignificance when compared to the costs of a product recall, it’s still orders of magnitude higher than if the problem was found and fixed during design. See for example the next graph that comes from Ricoh.

Cost of Fixing Defects at Different Stages of the Design Cycle

Cost of Fixing Defects at Different Stages of the Design Cycle

If you’re interested in finding out how Mentor’s thermal design software can help you to reduce design and prototyping costs and get products to market faster, take a look at this white paper.

Dr J, Hampton Court

Design Process, CFD, Reliability

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About John Parry

John ParryI started my career in the consultancy group at CHAM Ltd., using PHOENICS for a variety of CFD applications. From the consultancy group I moved into support, helping customers debug models, and figuring out how to model new applications. That broadened into delivering training courses and creating training material. I was invited to join Flomerics when it started in 1989 to head up Customer Services, and I jumped at the chance to work for a startup. After a few years supporting customers using FloTHERM I moved across into research, developing thermofluid models of common electronic parts, like fans and IC packages, later managing the DELPHI and SEED projects. More recently I worked with Flomerics’ Finance Director on the acquisition of MicReD, helping to integrate MicReD’s business into Flomerics Group which was great fun. Since Flomerics acquired Nika, I’ve been responsible for promoting the FloEFD suite in education, and moved into marketing. I now work as part of the Mechanical Analysis Division’s Corporate Marketing group, responsible for ElectronicsCooling Magazine and the division’s Higher Education Program. Expertise: I’m a chemical engineer by training and did a PhD in reactor design before getting involved with CFD more than 25 years ago. Visit John Parry’s Blog

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