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Look around your desk, within reach of you right now. How many things do you see that have a circuit board, a couple of chips and maybe an LED or two in them? I count 12, and that’s just within reach. When you think about the electrification of our world, smaller, more powerful and newest are the three words that describe the value of a piece of electronics. So let’s look at these two statements through the eyes of a typical thermal analyst: “I have to build and analyze, smaller, hotter and faster to stay competitive.” That is precisely the reason we have spent the last few years developing the Electronics Cooling Toolset within STAR-CCM+® software. We recognized that designers in the electronics market need tools to setup, run and analyze their products in STAR-CCM+ but with fewer clicks, more interactivity, and a much more focused interface. This is a tool available to every user, aptly named the Electronic Cooling Toolset, or E-cool for short.Steps.png

So let’s start with the reduction in clicks; the core concept that drives this toolset is the quick part. When you look at a coffee cup on your desk you see it, feel how heavy or hot it is and move it around. This is the same idea behind the quick part - it holds the size, material, physical and position data in a single object. This means if you want to move this heat sink over there, make it a copper alloy and change its thermal boundary conditions, you do it in one panel. In the traditional STAR-CCM+ world this data is stored in a number of different locations, but what we have done with the quick part is combine all of the important information and put it at the user’s fingertips. As a user, you can import any of your in-house CAD components and piece them together and understand their thermal performance in a fraction of the clicks and time. So it’s all fine and dandy that we can import components but what about making them on the fly?

Quick parts have another trick up their sleeve: E-cool offers not only the import of components but also allows for the interactive creation of templated quick parts. This gives designers the capability of importing the basic layout of the system, then add enclosures, heat sinks, fans and a plethora of other components. The templated quick parts even give the user the ability to create an entire electronics assembly from scratch. The scenario I have done a hundred times is to import a basic board with 40 to 50 higher power density chips from an IDF, run it plain, then start adding sinks and fans to drop the chip temperatures. To create a heat sink it’s simply a matter of right-clicking the top of the offending chip and creating the -heat sink of your choice. The choices include traditional finned, cross-cut, pin-fin, compact and custom (imported). Now that a type is selected the user can define things like spacing, count and dimensions of the fins/pins as well as the material type and construction method. The same thing goes for axial, radial and radial with volute fans. Users get to define the size and shape of the fan, and as you can expect, you can also define the fan curve, housing material and even the heat addition from the motor. So far you have seen that quick parts have quite a bit to offer in the streamlining department…but wait, there’s more.


Once you have some quick parts in your model, now comes the question of sizing and placement; this again is another first in STAR-CCM+. Underneath the hood of the electronics cooling toolset is the power of 3D-CAD which grants the toolset the ability to parametrically create, size and place components. What the electronics cooling toolset does here is hide the 3D-CAD feature creation from the user and present them in a different way.  When sizing Templated quick parts users can, for instance, simply select the edge of a chip and make that length the width of the heat sink. Want a heat sink to span the distance between two surfaces? Just click the two surfaces and set them as the required dimension. If a quick part is created off the top of a chip, per-se, E-cool automatically links the two, so if you move the chip the sink will move as well. This brings up the topic of placement, just as with sizing what we want to do here is make the placement of objects more user-friendly. To place an object, users just select the target point or edge and the point or edge on the quick part and snap the things together. You can set dimensions, alignment, angles and all sorts of placements depending on what it needed. From what you can see the main advantage so far is that there are far fewer objects and inputs to manage and that really leads to one of the next key benefits.

The interface of the electronics cooling toolset cuts down the tree to a fraction of what it is in STAR-CCM+. This has a host of benefits, the first being the fact that users don’t need extensive training to master the tool and gain all the thermal knowledge needed to make better engineering decisions. The tool not only cleans up the preparation process but it takes this cut down interface concept through meshing and postprocessing as well. Meshing in E-cool is completely automatic as all the mesh settings are tucked away so the average user doesn’t need to worry, but for those who want to control the sizing all of the traditional tools are close at hand. The data analysis portion of the process is just as clean as the rest. If users want to know the temperature of the chip, they can create a temperature report on the chip and find out the minimum, maximum and average temperature in one shot. A convenient summary report will give component breakdowns, total wattage and run statistics, so in the flick of a finger you can take stock of the analysis. E-Cool allows users to build and analyze the thermal performance of their designs in a simple, interactive way, but the key thing to keep in your mind is this is STAR-CCM+ through and through.

The electronics cooling toolset is just that, a toolset that enables features of STAR-CCM+ in a slick and straightforward way. Every click inside of E-cool drives 5 to 10 clicks in full STAR-CCM+, so this means after finding that best thermal design you have a run-ready simulation to look at anything from dust incursion to thermal stress. You could go as far as dropping the assembly in water to see how long it would float before water could get to key components.  Even though E-cool puts on the face of a low-level tool, in one click users can unleash the full power of STAR-CCM+ with all the setup benefits of E-cool. Graphic.png

Now that I had you look around your desk and think of all the electronics you can reach, now I ask you to look around your work portfolio and imagine all the places where the electronics cooling toolset could benefit you or your team. Simple design, fast turnaround and reliable results - that’s what being (E) cool is all about.


Matthew Godo
STAR-CCM+ Product Manager
Stephen Ferguson
Marketing Director
James Clement
STAR-CCM+ Product Manager
Joel Davison
Lead Product Manager, STAR-CCM+
Dr Mesh
Meshing Guru
Ravindra Aglave
Director - Chemical Processing
Karin Frojd
Sabine Goodwin
Director, Product Marketing