Thermal Prototyping As ICs get faster and denser they dissipate more heat. This is compounded by increasing densities of those ICs on the PCB and in the system. Having ICs exceed a critical temperature has two affects. First, it reduces performance. The ICs literally slow down and the performance of the system suffers. It may also result in timing errors that result in functionality failures. The second effect is reliability. Above a critical temperature the reliability of the IC decreases exponentially and may result in a long term failure and warranty costs to the product. This second affect may not be discovered through physical prototyping as the failure may take months or years to materialize and building/testing a physical prototype may not run long enough to cause the failure. So analyzing the product for proper thermal management is absolutely necessary. But virtual prototyping during the design process is a multi-tiered process requiring the collaboration of both electrical and mechanical designers, as viewed in Figure 3.
Figure 3 – Thermal management of an electronic product requires virtual prototyping at all levels of the product and participation by both electrical (ECAD) and mechanical designers (MCAD).
First, the IC supplier usually analyzes the component package and delivers a model of the thermal characteristics. Next we want to analyze the standalone PCB as the design is being performed.