Celebrating ten years of 6SigmaET

2 min read

“6SigmaET was first launched at the thermal engineering conference, Semi-Therm in 2009,” remembers Chris Aldham, Product Manager, Future Facilities. “It was in response to the changes happening in the IT industry.

“Electronic devices were getting smaller and flashier, and for designers, this ushered in a whole new era of thermal considerations. Even 10 years down the line, we’re still seeing the repercussions of a lack of thermal management within devices.”

According to Aldham, the biggest evolution over the past 10 years has been in the use of 3D mechanical CAD data to create thermal models.

“6SigmeET has made it easier to import and use CAD shapes directly and the powerful parallel solver means that these could be simulated without the need for extensive simplification, which was required in the past.

“We’ve always been keen to experiment and were the first thermal simulation product to incorporate virtual reality, pioneering a way that engineers can see their way around designs,” says Aldham.

“Intelligent objects existed in other software when we started out, but we took the concept and expanded on it with many more objects. We expanded the intelligence to not only cover the parametric definition of the objects but also the representation in the simulation. The appropriate numerical grid required could then be automatically created giving accurate results with little or no user inputs.”

According to Aldham, the expectations of design engineers have changed.

“Thermal simulation has become a necessity and ‘engineering margins’ have been eroded as cost is a major design consideration, raising the accuracy requirements of products. Simulations with hundreds of millions of grid cells are now routinely performed, and engineers expect to be able to set these up and solve them as easily as they did the 1M cell models of 10 years ago.”

The thermal simulation industry has certainly changed and Aldham thinks the main difficulty for thermal engineers has been keeping up with the level of detail required by today’s electronics.

“There has been an increase in two particular types of simulation. We are seeing more liquid cooling being used. The other, is time dependent simulations and complex control strategies – such as CPU throttling to avoid overheating. Simply looking at a steady state is not always viable so, the simulation must be time dependent and the heat dissipations varied according to the temperatures reached in a particular control scenario.”

Future Facilities has grown steadily over the past 10 years and the electronic thermal business has become a major contributor to the company’s turnover.

“At first it took time to show how superior 6SigmaET is in terms of model setup and solver speed. I think we have now demonstrated true credibility and also that we are not a ‘flash in the pan’. The company is well established, and we continue to develop and respond to our users’ needs.”

Looking to the future Aldham believes it will be ‘more of the same’.

“It will continue to evolve with more intelligence, more connectivity, more speed and more automation.

“When the industry demands more from electronics, the necessity for our software will increase. Thermal considerations are synonymous with all the biggest IT trends such as IoT, AI and of course, the shrinking of devices.”

Heat in electronics is not going away and issues with thermal design need to be removed earlier in the design process, according to Aldham.

“AI is an important driver and we are working with a number of groups who want to use it to control equipment and to use simulations to teach the AI system faster and in a safe environment. This is proving to be a very exciting area for us.”