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Intelligent PCB Modeling Enables Efficient Thermal Management


Intelligent PCB

Printed Circuit Boards are primarily designed to mechanically support and connect electronic components electrically thus making them a fundamental part of almost all electronic systems. PCBs are also crucial for thermal management by acting as a heat sink. This allows transfer of heat away from the high-powered components that are likely to overheat as a result of overworking.

As the needs of users grow exponentially each year, manufacturers  and design engineers are looking for increasingly complex ways to squeeze greater capabilities from smaller devices to dissipate heat and reduce the risk of overheating in their products. The design of the PCB is paramount to effective and efficient thermal management of the devices. Thermal simulation is a process widely used in the industry to predict temperature and airflow of a device which in turn is utilized to improve the thermal design of a device.

The simulation results allow engineers to identify issues early on with the thermal design of a device and assists engineers to optimize their designs with the ultimate goal of reducing costs and minimizing overheating. Even the simplest boards require to some degree thermal simulation to ensure that the PCB can withstand the amount of heat and airflow that it is subjected to.

Simulation software back in the 1990’s could only represent PCBs as simple thin blocks and the simulation could only dump the heat into the first adjacent air cell thus providing an inaccurate portrayal of heat transfer from the surface of the PCB. With today’s technology it is possible to model PCBs and components as thick as solid blocks, properly accounting for their layered structures and today’s modern modeling systems boasts a combination of high speed computing and processing power. This has enabled the simulation to represent each individual layer in a PCB design and even include details of layout traces as well as vias and on-board copper content.

An additional advantage of modeling solutions is to analyze how power is best utilized. The copper content of a layer can be analyzed to figure out the best balance between granularity and processing time. The data collected can provide a much less resource-intensive thermal simulation at the cost of a slightly less accurate reading. In the end the thermal management process is the most important as the early stages can provide designers the opportunity to catch issues at the onset and allows them to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their devices. This will go a long way towards saving energy and costs to areas they might have overlooked.


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