70% of Engineers Left out in the Cold by Thermal Simulations
Phillip Keane posted on January 25, 2018 |

As computational power grows to match the complexity of simulations, there is one group of simulation engineers who are feeling left out in the cold (pun intended) as far as developments are concerned.

In a new industry-wide survey titled State of Thermal by simulation software vendor 6SigmaET, over 170 thermal engineers were polled about their views on the current state of thermal simulation software. The conclusion: They are not happy.

Of the software packages examined in the survey, users were found to primarily use the following: Icepak, Fluent FloTHERM, FloTHERM XT, FloEFD, HeatDesigner, SOLIDWORKSFlow Solutions, Autodesk CFD and 6SigmaET.

The most popular application of this software was focused on natural convection, while the least common application was for solar radiation. You can see the distribution of application use in Figure 2.

Figure 2.The main applications of simulation software by percentage of those polled. (Image courtesy of 6SigmaET.)
Figure 2.The main applications of simulation software by percentage of those polled. (Image courtesy of 6SigmaET.)

Overall, the survey found that 71 percent of participants reported that they were not completely satisfied with the current support offered by their chosen package, with one in four being unhappy with the cost of their chosen software platform.

The biggest pain point appeared to be related to the time needed to achieve tasks.

According to the survey, only 37 percent of engineers spend less than an hour building their models, while 30 percent spend more than a day on this task. Once the design stage has been completed, 39 percent spend more than an hour defining properties, while 23 percent must spend over an hour setting boundary conditions. Of those surveyed, 41 percent also said that they typically spend over an hour gridding their designs, while 10 percent spend more than a day doing so.

Apparently, the design of the software itself is to blame for this.

According to the survey, 66 percent of thermal engineers spend up to a day or more solving their simulations—and yet 14 percent said that they can perform this task in under 30 minutes. Similarly, 39 percent spend over an hour importing CAD data, while 24 percent claimed they can run the same task in under 10 minutes.

These discrepancies highlight the significant differences in usability and solution time offered by different thermal simulation software packages.

According to the survey, thermal engineers are also struggling to adopt the hardware necessary to support today’s resource-intensive thermal simulation software packages. Given the nature of the coupled nonlinear equations that must be solved in this field, most software requires a significant amount of processing power in order to generate accurate results quickly. As it stands, 22 percent of thermal engineers said that their organizations are not able to keep up with the hardware requirements needed to run a thermal simulation. As a result, 24 percent said they find themselves having to compromise on the accuracy of their designs due to hardware limitations. It seems that the thermal simulation industry might need to migrate some of that computational work to the cloud, as is the trend with finite element analysis (FEA) solvers.

Oddly, the report also highlighted that companies often leave thermal considerations until the final stages of their projects, with over a quarter not testing the thermal reliability of a design until after it is completed.

This may be indicative of cultural practices within organizations, rather than the result of any technological lag. Surely, isn’t the whole point of simulation to simulate early and modify the design accordingly? Seems as though a few folks have got this premise back to front.

A summary of what thermal engineers want to see improved in thermal simulation software is summarized in Figure 3, which shows that improved accuracy is the number one requirement they’d like to see.

Figure 3.What engineers want to see improved in thermal simulation software by percentage of those polled. (Image courtesy of 6SigmaET.)
Figure 3.What engineers want to see improved in thermal simulation software by percentage of those polled. (Image courtesy of 6SigmaET.)
You can see the full report at this link.

Are you a thermal engineer? What are your thoughts on this subject? Are they in line with the results of the survey? We would love to hear your thoughts. Let us know in the comments below.


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