Design for Six Sigma (DfSS) is a design philosophy aimed at improving the success of innovation processes. The method is well suited to the thermal field. Thermal design starts with identification of the product requirements (Six Sigma Define Phase) and flows down to how this translates to the thermal requirements, usage conditions, magnitude and location of heat sources, environment, and the location of temperature critical components (Six Sigma Identify Phase).
Addressing thermal design in the pre-CAD phases using Six Sigma principles can minimize risks and reduce design costs.
Temperature problems are well-known in the high-tech industry. We have all heard of cases where overheated products stop working and, in the best-case scenario, resume their function only after an extensive cooling down. In past years, the challenges have been all about cooling consumer electronics (like TVs and computers), data centers, and telecom applications. Now we see the focus shifting to smartphones, tablets, smart watches, and other wearable electronics, as well as other transitional areas in our society.
For example, LED lighting is an enabler for energy saving, which is why electronics cooling needed for LED lighting is a hot topic. The energy transition from fossil fuels toward solar energy and all-electric transport is enabled by cooling solutions for power electronics, such as in vehicle electronic systems, for solar cells and inverters, and in fast chargers for electric cars and buses. Electronics cooling is necessary to meet the demand for faster and greater amounts of digital communication as well. Data centers, servers, and telecom equipment for 5G, as well as the Internet-of-things, need cooling solutions.
Where energy is stored or transformed, some of it is released as heat. Higher operating temperatures directly affect product reliability, lifetime, and safety; hence, embedded control algorithms are increasingly used to dial back performance or switch off once a measured temperature exceeds a threshold value. A good thermal design will keep your product cool and up its performance.
Cooling Solutions are Fundamental to Good Electronics Design and Difficult to Solve
For many product developers, the temperature of their product is something that just happens; it’s only discovered at the stage that the total product has been realized in hardware and software, and is tested for the first time. This is too late for a cost-effective solution. In addition, thermal problems at this stage are difficult to solve. Solutions often comprise multiple parts and are challenging to realize: requiring multiple prototypes and possibly further fixes when production starts (Figure 1). In the worst-case scenario, problems are found in the field and product reliability is impaired due to thermal issues.
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