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What you will learn:

  • Benefits from numerical simulation
  • Evaluation and validation of the performance of an LED using simulation and cooling strategies.
  • How to run a CHT simulation.

The global electronics industry had sales of $ 997 billion in 20181 and is expected to grow at an average annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.6% through 20242. Demand for new products with improved performance fuels companies’ efforts to innovate continuously and innovate to shorten their time to market.

This innovation requires efficient research and development departments as well as efficient design and test processes. In the latter, engineers often use numerical simulations to compare different designs and find the best design for an electronic system or component.

Why is numerical simulation important?

The most powerful decisions are made early in the design process. At this point numerical simulation (or Computer aided engineering, CAE) plays a fundamental role in ensuring good energy efficiency, low risk of failure, proper cooling and high system performance. CAE enables a complex test process by simulating the physical properties of a product under different conditions and environments.

The standard numerical simulation workflow begins with the creation of a first draft (CAD model), its meshing, adding boundary conditions, setting up the parameters, performing the analysis and finally post-processing the results. The simulation results are then analyzed to improve the design.

In an iterative design process, these steps are repeated until the requirements are met and the optimal design has been determined. This helps accelerate product development and eliminates or reduces the number of physical prototypes required in later design phases.

While numerical simulation has been around for several decades and its benefits are well known, native cloud applications for simulation technology have emerged as a new alternative.

The advantages of cloud-based numerical simulation

All cloud-native applications are resident in the cloud, ie they are only created for the cloud environment and provided in it. For a computationally intensive technology like numerical simulation, the cloud is actually a perfect solution. The main advantages include:

  • Accessibility: Traditional simulation software must be installed locally on expensive, high-performance computers, most of which are idle most of the time. Only a web browser is required for cloud-based solutions.
  • Scalability: The cloud offers access to various computing resources, depending on requirements at a specific point in time. This also applies to storage. When more complex numerical simulations have to be performed, the performance can be increased.
  • Pricing: Cloud-based solutions are extremely cost-effective as they do not require high hardware investments. They usually come as Software as a Service (SaaS) applications that customers can use to pay on a subscription basis.
  • Expertise: Most modern tools are designed for experts and experienced simulation engineers. Cloud-based simulation providers typically focus on ease of use and offer training and live support to help with onboarding.

Case study: thermal management of an LED

Thermal management is one of the most important factors that engineers must consider in LED lighting systems as well as any electronic system. Failure to comply with operating temperature limits can lead to overheating of components, shorter life cycles, costly defective returns, system failures and even dangerous risks for end users.

To minimize these risks, critical temperatures must be predicted in the design phase. This used to be a tedious task when it came to complicated and detailed models such as electronics or lighting systems. Before the emergence of thermal simulation and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) could only partially estimate these variables using full-scale experiments, worst-case scenario estimates, and approximated design rules.

The following case study shows how engineers can use electronic cooling strategies and numerical simulations to accurately evaluate and validate the performance of an LED spotlight. Cloud-based CFD enables users to test their CAD models in a short time and with minimal costs. This simulation is carried out on the cloud-based SimScale simulation platform (Fig. 1).

1. Electronics simulation within a cloud-based simulation platform. (Source: SimScale)

The LED spotlight generates 9 W of heat and is a widely used and energy-efficient household lighting device.

The conjugate heat transfer The type of analysis (CHT) is chosen because it solves both the phenomenon of conduction and convection. Using CHT, the distribution of temperature through the heat sink and the other solid components is calculated from the air flow, taking into account the convection (Fig. 2).

2. Velocity lines and temperature distribution of the solid components of the LED spotlight. (Source: SimScale)

The CHT simulation is intended to confirm that the junction temperature is kept below the operating limit of 90 ° C in order to avoid overheating. The simulation results provide an evaluation of the power loss if a natural / passive cooling strategy is selected (Fig. 3).

3. Temperature distribution in the LED headlight components. (Source: SimScale)

From the simulation it can be determined that the temperature of the chips is 72 ° C, below the operating limit of 90 ° C; On average 30 ° C higher than the PVC sheet they are attached to. This shows the importance of the thermal interface between the chip and the board.

In addition, the temperature is fairly homogeneous across the rest of the components and is kept in a reasonable range, i.e. below 26 ° C which is safe for bare hands.

The CHT simulation evaluated the flow and heat pattern of the LED spotlight, taking into account design-specific and realistic material properties, geometry and size. The analysis results helped determine that the surface temperature of 72 ° C for the heater chips met the operating limit of 90 ° C. This means that the strategy of passive convection cooling is sufficient and the components can be guaranteed a maximum service life.

Conclusion

By using numerical simulations, especially cloud-based solutions, the cost and time of each design iteration cycle are significantly reduced, ultimately resulting in cheaper and more competitive electronics.

References

1. “Consumer Electronics Report 2020, ”Statista.

2. “What is the growth rate of the electronics sector?, ”Investopedia.

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