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Capturing PCB Artwork for Thermal Design
Keywords: Thermal Design, PCB Copper Distribution, Image processing
Thermal design engineers in the electronics cooling industry realize that properly capturing the PCB trace layer copper distribution in their Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) analysis can mean the difference between over design or unexpected thermal issues during prototyping and testing. Unfortunately the process of including the copper distribution in any significant detail has been too time prohibitive to enhance the design process. A thermal engineer might have access to the detailed copper distribution information based on a 2D drawing or gerber files. Incorporating this information requires a significant time investment and must be repeated manually each time the board layout changes. A novel approach to determining the copper distribution in a printed circuit board involves processing a black and white image of each metallic layer. The binary image is tessellated according to the required resolution level determined by the engineer. For each subdivision the effective thermal properties are determined based on the ratio of black and white pixels. This approach allows for capturing the copper distribution in a manner suitable for a board or system level thermal analysis. This process has recently been automated and integrated into Electronics Cooling thermal analysis software allowing the engineer to design with more accurate predictive models. A brief overview of the methods of capturing copper distribution is discussed including the advantages and disadvantages of each process. Examples of the thermal predictions based upon these methods will be shown.
John Wilson, Consulting Engineering Manager
Mentor Graphics Corporation
San Jose, CA


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