By Dr. Samir El-Khabiry|
Electronics cooling simulation is helping a major aerospace manufacturer reduce design time while minimizing system weight. Thermal management is important for safe and reliable operation of all electronic equipment, and is especially so for airborne systems. Yet it can take several months and cost on the order of $10,000 to build and test a single prototype for certain equipment. For Hamilton Sundstrand, a maker of power modules for aerospace and marine applications, these obstacles have been overcome by using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software to evaluate the effectiveness of different designs. By using simulations to better understand the airflow within each proposed device, engineers can determine the best methods for heat removal before the first prototype is built. In this manner, the company can often find novel ways to improve thermal management while reducing component weight.
During the past several years in all sectors of the electronics business, system functionality has been steadily increasing while system size has been steadily decreasing. The combination of these trends has led to a steady increase in the amount of heat generated per unit volume. Removing internally generated heat requires an effective path along which the heat can flow from the heat-dissipating components to the surroundings. To meet this need, a variety of cooling techniques is available to design engineers including, for example, conduction, natural convection, forced-air cooling, radiation cooling, and liquid cooling. Selecting and eventually optimizing thermal management has relied on, traditionally, building a series of physical prototypes using different cooling methods, and measuring the performance of each.