Tag Archives: 3d printing

What Cost Reduction Strategies Make New Product Introductions Faster?

Getting to markets faster and in the most cost-effective way is the primary goal of today’s product development process. Choosing a thermal design engineering partner that understands that goal makes a company’s product realization process simpler and faster. There are number of strategies a company’s project engineers can use to save time and money in the design of an electronics cooling solution. Two of the most efficient methods are Virtual Engineering Demos (VED) and Thermal Load Boards (TLB).

VEDs make it possible for project engineers to remotely see an instrument, how it operates, ask questions about how it works, and, if the project is included in the demo, get data in real time about a design. In this method, a live demo is setup at a thermal design engineering partner’s laboratory. Whether the project is a PCB, a system, or another product type, it can be included in the VED and be run through the lab set-up.

Greg Wong

ATS engineer Greg Wong gives a live, online demonstration from the ATS research lab to a potential customer. (John O’Day/Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

Candlestick Sensor

ATS engineer Greg Wong sets up to demonstrate the ATVS-2020, Candlestick Sensors and StageVIEW Data Acquisition Software (DAQ) for measuring and analyzing temperature for an electronics board in this VED. (Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

VED in Lab

Equipment setup and live camera feeds are all part of a VED setup. (Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

As the project is analyzed, data is shown on the engineering partner’s computer screen, which is in turn broadcast in real time to the project engineers via a live video feed. The video feed simultaneously shows the demo and the software’s operation, while allowing bi-directional conversation between the engineering partner and the project engineers in one or more locations.


Screenshot showing data being recorded in stageVIEW. This information is available to the remote team. (Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

The advantages of this strategy to project engineers are:

• Quick evaluation of a design to determine if there is a need for new equipment in a project.
• No lag time in talking with a thermal design engineering partner about how to approach the thermal measurement of project
• Reducing the need to travel to a thermal design engineering partner’s lab.
• Faster response on lab testing, shortening the design cycle.

A Thermal Load Board (TLB) is another strategy for reducing the cost of a design, while getting a product to market faster. TLBs are created by a thermal engineering partner using a simple one- or two- layer non-populated PCB, heat sinks, thermally equivalent mock semiconductors and other mock components created with a 3-D printer.

TLB 3-D printing

Using these components a populated board is created that allows the testing of the heat sinks chosen for the project work and measurement of the airflow over the components and through the board. (Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

The thermal engineering partner is effectively creating a mock version of the functional board. The design of the TLB is based on the size and placement of the semiconductors and other components on the actual board, which is provided by the project engineers, and provides a cheaper and quicker means of producing a prototype for testing. The data from that testing will in turn expedite the design process and time to market.

This can be a very cost-effective method for doing heat sink characterization for the following reasons:

It reduces electronic system development cost.
o A system developer can focus on thermal issues very quickly instead of waiting for an expensive prototype to come out of the factory.
o Rather than using a potentially expensive project, testing on prototypes can determine design flaws without requiring a significant
o Because prototypes are less expensive, each iteration of a design can quickly go through an initial series of tests.
It reduces time to market.
o Valuable resources can be applied to engineering the best solution because a load board can generally be created in 1-2 weeks and at a
fraction of the cost of a full PCB.
It allows a physical testing very early in the design.
o Many times components on a PCB will obstruct air flow, requiring either costly design changes during NPI (new product introduction) or
requiring engineers to over-design a board and the thermal management solution, putting the product outside its cost objective.

After a thermal load board is created, the board is ready to be used:

Completed Load Board

A completed load board ready for testing. (Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

The heaters on the board can be powered up to dissipate the same level of power as the semiconductors they are meant to represent. Heat sinks can then be applied based on initial analysis done via integral modeling, mathematical modeling or through CFD (computational fluid dynamics). To test just air flow, heat sinks can even be created by 3-D printing.

Once populated with heat sinks, the board can be tested in a wind tunnel to see if the air flow will be sufficient. Wind tunnel testing methods include smoke flow visualization or water tunnel testing in order to examine air flow and ensure the most functional and cost-effective design is applied.

Getting to market faster and with the best possible design is very important in today’s product development process. Working with a thermal engineering partner, such as Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. (ATS), that offers Virtual Engineering Demos (VED) and Thermal Load Boards (TLB) will benefit a project’s bottom line and ensure a project’s successful completion. Project engineers will know that their design has proper thermal management early in the process, meaning that they will not have to over-design the project, which will save time and money in the long run.

Learn more about ATS and its capabilities as a thermal engineering partner for your next project by visiting www.qats.com or by calling 781-769-2800.


Thermal Load Board Design Considerations


Thermal Load Boards Gets Engineers To Solutions Faster, Cheaper


Prototype of a full scale load board with mock components

How do you characterize the airflow of an expensive PCB but not actually use a populated PCB itself?  You do it with 3D Printing.

3d printing in business-to-business has been known for its rapid prototyping and small scale production specifically in small to mid-size companies. Larger companies such as GE, Qualcomm and many others have the budget and the means to easily build 3d printing facilities when necessary, capable of 3D printing large and small components.  However,  smaller businesses depend on third-party manufacturers to turn their design into reality.

In thermal engineering 3d printing has become a vital tool in consulting and designing services primarily by creating thermal load boards.  Thermal load boards are a great tool for testing the airflow of a PCB populated with components.  Customers supply ATS with the component dimensions and placements, and ATS literally builds the components to place on a PCB to test the airflow of the PCB.

A PCB load board can save cost and time.  First, it allows an engineer to go beyond CFD to doing real airflow testing. While CFD is enormously helpful, actual airflow data confirms what is simulated, allowing engineers to greatly improve on the design.  And with a PCB Load Board, the physical design of the board and component placement is at a fraction of the cost of creating a sample board for this purpose.

Second,  a PCB load board reduces time on research and development and saves costs on materials by more than half, benefiting both the customer and manufacturer (see here).  This non-linear process sets up the customer for a prototype (Load Board) they are able to test multiple times through wind tunnel simulation, air velocity and temperature measurement, and flow visualization to name a few. The components on the load board consist of 3d printed parts the customer has defined in their layout. Heat sink holes are also placed into the board, again defined in the layout.

In one example of implementing this technology, a customer

“had their board laid out already, with the purpose of the load board is to validate the heat sink performance. The customer was still 6-9 months away from having software, so they can’t actually run their board at 100% capacity to create the load, that’s why ATS stepped in to make the load board with heaters that can be powered directly,” says Field Application Engineer Greg Wong.

Engineer Peter Konstatilakis has this to say as well

“ATS’ purpose of this service is to provide the customer with a means of thermally validating their board with the heat sinks they’ve decided to use before they spin up their board. This way any changes needed to house a different heat sink or make the board more free flowing in key spots can be made before spending thousands to spin up. In the end finding they can’t get their product on the market because they weren’t able to manage the thermals.”

For more information on PCB Load Boards and how they can save time and cost in your next design, please email us at ats-hq@qats.com  or visit our Contact Us page.

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