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Issues Of Physical Design In Electronics Surveyed

June 02, 2004

Flomerics, an industry leader in virtual prototyping software for engineers, has recently completed a survey of physical/mechanical design engineers in the electronics industry that identified some of their major concerns. 40% confirmed that thermal management was the “most significant and expensive” design challenge they face and 49% of the respondents have changed a board layout for thermal reasons within the past 6 months. For 19% of respondents, basic mechanical design was identified as their greatest challenge, followed by electromagnetic compatibility for 14%. The survey also showed that 39% of the engineers said that better interfaces between their electronic design automation (EDA) and mechanical design software would make a big difference in improving the collaboration between electronic design engineers and mechanical design engineers at their company. In response to a question about which aspects of design and layout of printed circuit boards are commonly influenced by mechanical designers, 67% identified “heat sink keep-out area”. Only 35% said that “optimizing component layout from a thermal standpoint” was an aspect of design they could influence.

Other parts of the survey zeroed in more specifically on the role of thermal analysis in the design process. When asked which software tools need most to interoperate with thermal simulation software, 64% said mechanical computer aided design (MCAD) software and 19% said EDA software. As far as the reasons why board level thermal analysis software is not in widespread use by electronic engineers (EEs) at their company, 31% said that EEs are not responsible or are too busy to use thermal analysis software, while 29% pointed to the limited functionality and accuracy of current board level tools.

Only 8% of the engineers in the survey currently use software to simulate electromagnetic compatibility. Of the large majority that does not yet simulate EMC, 22% said the main reason was skepticism as to whether EMC problems can really be predicted by simulation software and 20% said their company doesn’t have a clearly defined person or group responsible for EMC issues.

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