Thermal management and electronics cooling with cloud-based CAE: Page 2 of 3

As soon as you start CPU intensive software solutions like Photoshop or MATLAB, a buzzing sound of the laptop follows. For the entire time using them, the CPU shows near 100% usage and the laptop continues to heat up with the fan running.

In addition, the emergence of cloud-based CAE solutions has been a paradigm shift from the traditional on-premises software, which lacks flexibility, is exorbitantly expensive, and is affordable only for big companies. Browser-based simulation tools have made the technology accessible to everyone, including small and medium-sized companies that are involved in the design and development of components. In other words, one can say that they have democratized the design process by empowering every designer with the necessary tools.

Thermal analysis of a chip

To understand what’s so difficult when miniaturized, a simple example of heat conduction across an insulating place can be considered. Consider two chips of the same efficiency, say Chip A & Chip B. Let Chip A be 10 times smaller in dimension along each direction, in comparison to the size of Chip B. If the chips are of equal efficiency, then the total heat flux remains the same.

Now, considering simple Fourier Law of heat conduction, the net change in temperature is ten times in Chip A compared to Chip B. In other words, a ten times reduction in size also leads to 100 times faster heating! Thus, much rapid heat removal is required when Chip A is used.

The entire process of thermal management is complicated. Thus, it is imperative to break down the entire process into subprocesses to incorporate CAE modeling. Let us consider the example of thermal management in a laptop. From a physical standpoint, most printed circuit boards are made of chips that are powered by electronic circuit. In an ideal world, there is no dissipation and hence no thermal loss.

However, due to the inefficiency and being governed by second law of thermodynamics, some input part electrical energy (or power) is converted and dissipated as heat energy.

Further on, this heat is transferred to the printed circuit board (PCB) to which the chip is attached. Before the board is heated up, a heat sink needs to facilitate removal of heat either through a forced convection (using a fan) or natural convection (passive cooling).

The entire process involves the thermal - structural analysis of a chip, a transient thermal analysis of the PCB and finally conjugate heat transfer using CFD.

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