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Electronics Thermal & Structural Simulation in the Cloud

Forced convection cooling simulation of an electronics enclosure

SimScale is a cloud-native simulation software that enables engineers to test, validate, and optimize designs using a standard web browser. Engineers can perform cooling, heat, and fluid flow analysis of electronic devices, PCBs, electronics systems, and enclosures along with structural and mechanical assessment using a single CAD model, all in one simulation platform. 

Many materials and products have temperature-dependent characteristics making the analysis of heat and thermal management of structures and fluids crucial for product development. The SimScale cloud-native simulation software platform allows engineers to predict the airflow, temperature distribution, and heat transfer of many types of electronic devices, from LED enclosures to data center cooling strategies. SimScales’ industry-leading and powerful solvers provide robust CAD interoperability meaning that more time is spent on design analysis through simulation rather than on CAD cleanup. Furthermore, the resultant time and cost savings from simulating early and often, allows engineers to explore more of their ideas, using the parametric capabilities in SimScale and integrations with third-party CAD and analysis packages.

Industry Products and Product Categories

SimScale provides high-fidelity thermal analysis simulation tools that are both technically and economically accessible for designers and engineers, at any scale, in the cloud. Electronics product categories that can benefit from SimScale’s simulation capabilities:

  • Electronics enclosures
  • Electronics assemblies
  • Computers – PC/laptops, server racks
  • Robotics
  • Batteries and energy storage devices
  • Cell phones, smartphones
  • Industrial controls and devices
  • Aerospace and space
  • Automotive
  • Sensors and transducers

Analysis Types and Applications

Heat transfer analysis of an electric vehicle battery using CFD

Heat Transfer Analysis

SimScale solves all three heat-transfer mechanisms from first principles. Conduction refers to a heat transfer between solids that are in direct contact with each other and depends on the heat conductivity of the materials. The SimScale thermal simulation software offers a module for various types of applications where heat and energy are significant study parameters. Engineers can simulate conduction between different materials and can also model temperature-dependent conductivity. Convection (also referred to as convective heat transfer) is the transfer of heat between two areas or regions, through the movement of fluids. Applicable to liquids and gasses, it occurs when fluids absorb or lose heat and change density, leading to convection currents, and is available through the convective heat transfer analysis type. Radiative heat transfer, or radiation, is the transfer of heat through electromagnetic waves between substances (solids and fluids). SimScale can model surface to ambient and surface to surface radiation by using emissivity and other radiation parameters.

An electronic enclosure, for example, will be subject to all three modes of heat transfer. In one platform, engineers can simulate conduction, convection, and radiation and optimize the device based on a comprehensive treatment of the underlying physics.

Flow and thermal analysis of an LED using CFD simulation

Flow Analysis

SimScale’s CFD software can analyze a range of problems related to laminar and turbulent flows, incompressible and compressible fluids, multiphase flows, and much more. In thermal management, engineers want to evaluate the flow of air and liquids through components and devices and evaluate variables such as fluid temperature, pressure drop, and flow rate. With SimScale’s many analysis types including Subsonic, engineers can set up parametric studies to answer critical flow-related questions an order of magnitude faster than traditional approaches.

Fluid flow and pressure simulation using CFD

Cooling Strategies (Natural, Forced, Liquid)

The heat-transfer physics and CFD capabilities in SimScale enable engineers to test multiple cooling strategies including natural convection, forced (fan cooling), and liquid cooling strategies. Boundary conditions for each strategy are easy to set up and run using the intuitive interface in SimScale, as are material selection and assignment. A database of materials in SimScale gives engineers predefined materials that are common in electronics including coolants (fluids), heat sinks, thin layers, and enclosure materials. New features include the ability to upload fan/pump performance curves from the manufacturer and parametric simulation setup workflows that can automate scenario analyses.

Fluid flows simulation of coolants for electric vehicle battery pack

Thermal-Structural

The thermal analysis software takes into account the energy balance of the system that involves calculating the thermal influences on structural load states at each time step, meaning the effects of thermal loads on solids can be quantified. The thermal and structural fields are solved sequentially, in an iterative process, where the results of each thermal step serve as inputs for the corresponding structural step. For many industrial applications, simulating the stress response to thermal loads and understanding failure is essential when developing products that are subjected to temperature-dependent stresses and performance.

Structural vibration analysis of an EV battery pack.

Structural and Vibration

The FEA module in SimScale allows engineers to perform different types of structural analysis including static, dynamic, and nonlinear. Vibration or modal analysis can help determine the eigenfrequencies (eigenvalues) and eigenmodes (mode shapes) of a structure due to vibration. The results are important parameters to understand and model structures that are subject to dynamic loading conditions. Additionally, a harmonic analysis can show the peak response of a system under a load in a given range of frequencies. Engineers can virtually replicate common industry shaker table tests that are required for electronics products. 

Electronics products and components can be subjected to static and dynamic loads with nonlinear behavior and material properties. Dynamic analysis can simulate the dynamic response of structure and components subjected to time-dependent loads and displacements. Time-dependent calculation of displacements, as well as stresses and strains in one or multiple solid bodies, is possible and in contrast to static analysis, inertial effects can be accounted for. In the post-processor, it is possible to analyze single-time steps as well as the dynamic performance over time. Similar to static analysis, engineers can evaluate deformations, or critical stresses and modify designs based on these insights.

electronics cooling datasheet thumbnail

Datasheet:

Electronics Simulation

Download our datasheet and learn how SimScale provides electronics industry designers and engineers with easy access to
powerful flow, thermal, and structural cloud-native simulation.

Features and Benefits

Electronics CFD and thermal simulation in the cloud accessed through a web browser

Cloud-native Parameterization

Enables multiple design CAD geometries simulated in parallel with robust CAD handling and automatic meshing.

Mesh generated using immersed boundary method.

Advanced Meshing with Immersed Boundary Analysis

Allows for the simulation of heat transfer between solid and fluid domains by exchanging thermal energy at the interfaces between them. The Immersed Boundary Method (IBM) is based on a cartesian grid in which the geometry gets immersed into. Therefore it is resilient to geometrical details and does not require CAD simplification even for very complex models.

Flow and thermal simulation of a Raspberry Pi computer

Solver Speed & Accuracy

SimScale meets and in many cases exceeds the accuracy of traditional CAE simulation tools (speed does not compromise accuracy).

  • Advanced analysis capabilities using a custom implementation of Openfoam bolstered by additional state-of-the-art meshing and post-processing tools.
  • Extensive materials library and ability to import manufacturer’s data
Heat sink efficiency using heat transfer analysis for temperature optimization

Ease-of-Use

SimScale takes away the complexity of preparing imported geometry and allows designers to focus on analysis by providing an intuitive, automated, and robust UI that reduces person-hours required for simulation, and also makes it accessible to non-experts/designers.

  • Easy CAD import
  • Auto meshing and manual refinement where needed
  • A guided workflow for simulation setup including a library of templates
  • Automatic results post-processing, statistical results, and image generation including plots, images, and animations.
Python code for integrating with the SimScale API used for automating simulation

API Integration & Automation

The SimScale API facilitates bi-directional coupling with many popular CAE and design optimization tools such as Onshape®, Sketchup®, and more, allowing customization and app development engineering teams or third-party developers. The API is accessible using a Python or C SDK.

Common file formats and CAD tools which integrate and import directly into the SimScale platform for faster CAD cleanup and geometry preparation

CAD File Import

SimScale can import various file formats making it easy for engineers to work with their preferred CAD tools including; Onshape, AutoCAD®, and Sketchup as well as importing common file formats such as STL, DWG, IGES and more.

CAD Mode is a dedicated environment where you can easily prepare your CAD model for simulation. It allows you to perform CAD-related operations directly within the SimScale platform such as delete, extrude, scale, or split/slice CAD parts.

CAD editing and cleanup is available directly in SimScale.

CAD Associativity

CAD associativity between varying CAD files is applied automatically in SimScale, maintaining naming conventions for parts/faces from the original CAD model. This means that when swapping CAD files for comparative studies, users don’t have to reassign boundary conditions, mesh settings, or result control outputs, making the comparison of two or more CAD variants of a single product very efficient.

How can SimScale solve your greatest design challenge?

Request a Demo
rimac logo case study simscale

Rimac Technology Designs the Next Generation of Electric Hypercars with Cloud-Native Simulation

Using SimScale in the early R&D stages of the product, we were able to fully leverage simulation capabilities into our product design process. This allowed us to quickly set up different cooling scenarios for our battery cells using SimScale’s CHT module to efficiently analyze the impact of design changes on battery module performance.”

Antonio Radenić, Battery System Engineer at Rimac Technology

raycore lights 368x227 thermal analysis success story

Raycore Lights Optimized its Iterative Design Process through Cloud-native Thermal Analysis.

“SimScale provides businesses the opportunity to access high-end resources that would typically only be available to well-established companies. The subscription service/cloud computing approach has allowed us to improve our design process and the end products that we provide to our customers without overextending financially, a big win for us!”

Mark Williams, VP Operations and Engineering at Raycore Lights

submer technology case study with simscale

Submer Technologies, S.L. Validated Their Electronics Cooling Solutions With CFD from SimScale

“SimScale has allowed us to be quick and responsive to our product demands. It enables us to simulate anywhere in the world, with no restrictions on our hardware. As a growing company, swift responses and actions are what we seek, and SimScale matches all of our criteria.”

Jaime Pita at Submer

Simulation Physics & Features

Incompressible:

  • Fluid flow (gas or liquid)
  • Mach<0.3(100m/s)
  • Negligible density variation
  • Multiple frames of reference and transient analysis of rotating components
  • Porous media (Filter media) 
  • Momentum sources
  • Non-newtonian fluid modeling

Convective Heat Transfer:

  • Fluid
  • Temperature Distribution
  • Heat Flux 
  • Multiple reference frames and transient analysis of rotating components
  • Porous media (Filter media)
  • Power sources
  • Thermal resistance networks
  • Fan momentum sources
  • Contact & thin layer resistances 
  • Non-newtonian fluid modeling

Static Structural:

  • Solid
  • Steady Loads
  • Linear
  • Non-Linear
  • Snap-fit
  • Automatic Contact
  • Nonlinear Contact
  • Friction
  • Large Strains
  • Elasto-plasticity
  • Hyperelasticity
  • Bolt preload

Dynamic Structural:

  • Solid
  • Linear
  • Non-Linear
  • Drop-Test
  • Shock
  • Material Damping
  • Bolt preload

Harmonic Analysis:

  • Solid
  • Periodic/Cyclic/Sinusoidal Loads
  • Forced Vibration
  • Shaker Table Test
  • Frequency Response
  • Damping
  • Bolt preload

Thermo-Mechanical:

  • Solid
  • Thermal Stress
  • Thermal Expansion
  • Thermomechanical Fatigue
  • Interference-fit
  • Thermal Shock
  • Bolt preload

Frequency Analysis:

  • Solid
  • Frequencies
  • Eigenfrequencies
  • Eigenmodes
  • Prestress for rotating parts
  • Bolt preload

Specific Features

Immersed Boundary Method (IBM)

Common CFD approaches that solve the Navier-Stokes equations are sensitive to the type and quality of the mesh used in the simulation, for their accuracy. A traditional body-fitted mesh is considered to be robust but can be computationally expensive to apply with limiting boundary conditions especially when complex CAD is involved. The body-fitted grid generation used is time-consuming, often requiring manual intervention to modify and cleaning-up the CAD geometry as a prerequisite to simulation. A novel boundary condition called Immersed Boundary (IB) is insensitive to boundary conforming meshes meaning it will still be accurate without the need to force body-fitted grids. This can significantly speed up mesh generation and offer more robust and flexible grids less sensitive to complex CAD.

Vibration / Shaker Table

Many electronic products require some sort of vibration or shaker table testing. Lithium batteries, for example, are required to comply with the UN 38.3 international transportation testing standard. Using the structural vibration simulation capabilities of SimScale can vastly improve the safety of products and help engineers meet international standards. Structural design engineers must ensure that stresses during vibration do not exceed a minimum factor of safety and that deformation magnitudes do not lead to clearance issues in any product. By creating a digital twin of a shaker table setup, engineers can understand and improve product design, virtually test multiple design scenarios in parallel and parameterize their CAD model to faster test options.

Simulation is used to create a digital twin of a shaker table test.
Vibrating enclosure shape with acceleration applied at 1G. Simulation is used to create a digital twin of a shaker table test.

Fan Modeling & Momentum Sources

Fans and pumps in electronic products are common and their performance must be represented accurately. SimScale allows engineers to model the pressure-flow performance curve of a fan directly using manufacturer’s data, to allow accurate flow in the simulation. Data can be uploaded in spreadsheet format. Additionally, the fan curve can also be calculated using flow simulation in SimScale. Fan operating points can be derived from the simulation results and a pressure-flow curve can be generated. This allows engineers to quickly compare the cooling efficiency of various fans using real-world data.

Validation Cases

Request a Demo

FAQs

Thermal analysis is the study of heat transfer within electronic components and products. The primary heat transfer mechanism of conduction, convection and radiation are simulated to calculate temperature effects.

Thermal simulation provides insight into the temperature profile inside an electronics enclosure, even inside an integrated circuit before the IC or circuit etc is manufactured and physically tested. This allows engineers to ensure junction temperatures remain within the design parameters, avoiding costly rework.

Users can import a simple CAD model of a circuit and in SimScale apply the necessary materials, boundary conditions and select the analysis type. SimScale will automatically identify contacts, mesh the model and suggest settings for the simulation setup.

Current flowing through circuits heats up the components and this heat builds up throughout the circuit. Most electronic components operate efficiently within a specific temperature range, excess heat therefore, must be dissipated by ventilation, heat sinks and other cooling strategies.

Yes! CFD is used for heat transfer.

A frequency analysis can be used to evaluate the impacts of vibration and what displacement, deformation and stress this has on components.

Yes. Most electronic products including mobile phones and batteries must undergo physical shaker table testing to design out vibration related physical damage.

Physical shaker table bench tests are common. SimScale users can digitally replicate a physical test bench and recreate the vibration test setup and conditions as a simulation.

SimScale has convective heat transfer, conjugate heat transfer, CFD and FEA solvers to capture most types of physics in electronics applications.

Yes. You can model multiple CAD models of a heat sink design by using the parametric features in SimScale and can also vary material properties.

Yes. Thin layer materials can be defined.

Yes. The Convective Heat Transfer (CHT) analysis type can simulate radiative effects including surface to surface radiation. 

There are many standard output variables including temperatures, heat fluxes, air flow rates, loads, forces etc. depending on the application.

You cannot import material libraries but can copy and edit existing materials to suit your needs that are then added to the SimScale materials library.

Yes. You can simulate the cooling and ventilation in hot/cold aisles for a data center.

You can use the SimScale application programming interface (API) to connect to third party CAD or other analysis software. An example might be to use a CAD tool for parametric geometric modeling while using SimScale for the simulation.

Yes, you can download your results at any time in multiple formats that open in common third party tools.

You can find template projects for structural/thermal simulations here.

Yes, you can manually refine the mesh as needed, using the refinement scale either globally or locally. The global refinement will refine the mesh over the whole model. The local refinement is more specific and users can manually select surfaces/regions to refine and stipulate a maximum edge length, for example.