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Heatsink Design and Selection

Heatsink optimization is one of the most important elements of electronics design

Mentor’s family of electronics cooling tools can help you choose the best heatsink solution, whether it’s based solely on thermal performance or a combination of factors such as cost, weight, or influence on the overall system pressure drop.

Choosing the right heatsink design is integral to achieving a successful product cooling strategy, whether it’s mounted on a component or part of an avionics box. Mentor’s CFD software allows you to test various criteria, including the overall performance of the system, so you can select the right heatsink design.

Simulation Benefits for Heatsink Design and Selection

  • Understand and communicate the thermal behavior of your designs with the aid of visualization tools
  • Choose the best possible heatsink design with the help of powerful heatsink optimization tools
  • Conduct “what-if” testing by trying various heatsink designs without the time and expense of building physical prototypes

Application Examples

Thermacore’s Tower Mounted Amplifier Thermal Challenge

Thermacore used FloTHERM thermal simulation software to solve a challenging thermal management problem in a tower mounted amplifier for a cellular base station.

Thermal simulation showed that the 1x1.5-inch amplifier chips were overheating because the heat did not spread out sufficiently to utilize the full extent of the heatsink. The problem was addressed by adding a vapor chamber to each chip to reduce the spreading resistance and utilize the full extent of the heatsink. The simulation showed this approach reduced the temperature at the base of the heatsink to acceptable levels.

"When we first decided to use thermal simulation we polled our customers and asked them which software package they would like to have us use. They said that they preferred FloTHERM over the other leading thermal simulation packages. They use FloTHERM themselves so they have confidence in its predictions and can easily incorporate our models into their full system models. Since we began using FloTHERM we have been very impressed with its ability to accurately simulate thermal management challenges. On average, our simulation results predict real-world measurements within 5%."

Matt Connors, Applications Engineering Supervisor, Thermacore

Cooling Aircraft Electronic Equipment at 50,000 Feet

A defense contractor gave Hybricon Inc. the challenge of cooling an ATR form-factor chassis that dissipates almost 200 watts and operates at altitudes up to 50,000 feet. Hybricon used FloTHERM thermal simulation to evaluate several design configurations, focusing on heatsink design and fan performance at high altitudes. The simulation helped identify several alternative designs that would meet the customer's requirements. Based on Hybricon’s recommendations, the defense contractor built the system, which performed almost exactly as predicted by the simulation.

"We use a variety of tools to address these challenges, including hand calculations and flow network modeling tools, but the most powerful by far is FloTHERM, our thermal simulation tool of choice. In this application, we were able to meet the customer's demanding thermal requirements by carefully optimizing the heatsink design to squeeze the last bit of cooling out of the limited mass of air that could be drawn through the chassis at high altitude. Then we were able to answer the what-if questions that made it possible for them to develop their thermal management strategy for both the current demo version and future production version of the system."

Michael Palis, Senior Simulation Engineer, Hybricon Inc.

An Optimized Heatsink Design for Optical Transmitter

A major Asian engineering consulting organization reduced engineering time and cost by using FloTHERM thermal simulation to optimize the design of a heatsink used in a parallel optical transmitter.

The goal of the consulting project was to maintain the case temperature at or below 70C by natural convection cooling (i.e. without using a fan). The greatest design challenge was creating a heatsink for the driver integrated circuit (IC), which had a very high heat flux.

Engineers modeled and simulated six different heatsink designs using FloTHERM. The results of the simulations gave the engineers the information they needed to achieve an optimized heatsink design. The heat transfer path between the laser array and driver IC were also improved by optimizing the trade-off between thermal and electrical performance.

Thermal simulation saved a substantial amount of time and money on this project and the consulting organization has achieved similar results in many other applications.

ALSTOM Slashes Development Costs For Variable Speed Drives

"When we eventually manufactured a physical prototype, we were delighted to discover that experimental data obtained from the physical model in the laboratory was within 1.2% of the results generated in FloTHERM.

“Using FloTHERM in the design process allowed us ultimately to maximize the current density of the Insulated Gate Bi-polar Transistors (IGBTs) while keeping below temperature limits, thus reducing the risk of overheating, one of the primary causes of electronic equipment failure.”

Rod Jones, Alstom

Angled Geometry

Today’s new generation heatsink designs need a solution that can handle complex geometries. Simulating angled and complex geometries is a breeze with Mentor Graphics thermal simulation solutions.

Heatsink Design & Selection Solutions

In use by 75 of the top 100 electronics companies in the world, FloTHERM® is a powerful 3D computational fluid dynamics software that predicts airflow and heat transfer in and around electronic equipment,... FloTHERM®

FloTHERM XT is an industry unique thermal simulation solution designed to be used during all stages of the electronics design process – from conceptual design to manufacturing, improving product quality,... FloTHERM® XT

Embedded into major MCAD systems Concurrent CFD software FloEFD is a full-featured 3D fluid flow and heat transfer analysis package to help Design Engineers optimize product design and speed up their workflow.... FloEFD™

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