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Hi there,

We're going to be very blunt here, simulating Electronics is challenging. In this newsletter, we look at the three main reasons why and point to a few resources that can help.

Multi-Scale Electronics

Electronics are Multi-Scale

The first, and probably most challenging part of electronics is that it is multi-scale. As you can see above, electronics can range from microscopic transistor gates to massive data centers. Before you jump into any CAD/CAE software, the first thing to establish is at what scale to focus on. At Fastway, we call this the Level of Detail (LOD), and it is something we define before we begin preparing the geometry and mesh (i.e. "Pre-processing"). Below are three ways to model and analyze a microchip for heat transfer, depending on the LOD required.

microchip thermal analysis multiscale fastway engineering-1

On the left, we see full detail at the "component level", in the middle we see it as a simple rectangle at the "board level" and on the right it is not even included at the "system level".

To address this, CAE companies have developed software for different scales. For example, Ansys Icepak has a huge library of detailed 3D components and Autodesk CFD has a built in "Compact Thermal Model" which can provide additional details of a component without having to mesh it.

Electronics are Multi-Disciplinary

An Electronic product requires a multidisciplinary approach to design, especially across the Electrical and Mechanical Hardware teams. In the CAE world, we call this the ECAD-MCAD connection, where design data can be easily (and parametrically) transferred between sources. Both SOLIDWORKS' direct connection and PTC Creo's Collaboration Extension (shown below) allow for quick design iterations while doing simulation-in-the-loop alongside ECAD tools like Altium, Cadence and Mentor.


With ECAD mainly taking place in 2-D, and MCAD manly taking place in 3D, extensive libraries connect the two to allow full detail in both environments.

Electronics are Multi-Physical

The Engineering behind an Electronic System bridges almost all physics, from Chemical and Electrical, to Thermal, Fluid and Structural. Probably the most common use of a multi-physics analysis that is used for Electronics is a Thermal Stress Analysis. In this analysis, the temperature profile results from a thermal analysis are used as a load for a static structural analysis to exploit the Coefficient of Thermal Expansion. Our 5-Day Intro to FEA classes cover Thermal Stress on Day 4.


Here's an example of using Onshape CAD and Simscale FEA to perform a thermal stress analysis on a Printed Circuit Board completely in the cloud.

Make sure you use the right tool for your next Electronics Cooling Simulation. FEA has limitations of analyzing Conduction only (as only solids are meshed), so whenever Convection and Radiation play a significant role, you must use a CFD tool no matter what the scale is.


Sometimes you need insight down to specific traces (in-plane connectivity) & vias (through-plane connectivity) at the PCB level. In these cases, dedicated simulation tools, like Ansys Icepak (shown above), are built to handle high Levels of Detail. This assumes, of course, that you have a lot of computing power!

Speaking of computer power...

We live near some big computers! The unassuming building above left is called the Lakeside Technology Center, and is the largest data center in the US, located in downtown Chicago (about 5 miles from our office). Above right is a rendering of Aurora, the US's first "Exascale" Supercomputer, which will be completed in 2021 at the Argonne National Lab (25 miles south of us).

In order to deliver expert services in thermal and structural simulations, Fastway owns and operates several servers in house. With an active Cage Code and ITAR compliant infrastructure, we regularly help DoD contractors and aerospace companies design electronics for harsh environments. Want to use our electronics to simulate yours? Contact us!

Upcoming Fastway EventsUpcoming Events:

Oct 18th: DFM - Sensor Technologies (mHUB Chicago)

OCT 26th: SAE Detroit Fall Seminar

Nov 14th: Chicago PTC User Group

  Check Out Our Full Schedule

Latest on LinkedIn:

ANSYS to acquire LS-DynaANSYS, Inc. recently announced that they will acquire LS-Dyna, which is an explicit FEA code. Explicit codes are used for structural problems with very fast load applications and very large deformation. Examples are car crashes, bird-strike, and drop tests. Here is an example (from the LSTC website) showing the impact of a Formula 1 car into a rigid wall). Note the combination of high deformation, buckling, and complex contact. We will be launching explicit FEA classes in 2020. Learn more here.

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