Thermal analysis refers to the variety of techniques developed and used in which any physical property of a given product / system is continuously measured as a function of temperature. Electronic circuits, engines and machines all generate heat while they are working.
Thermal analysis therefore basically means the effect heat will have on the performance of a product. It studies the effect the change in temperature might have on material properties. A good example of a product that needs thermal analysis service is a water boiler. For the manufacturing company, it is important to know what maximum temperature a boiler can withstand and under what circumstances it might explode. This helps the company in developing a water boiler that is more robust and can resist high temperature and heat.
Mechanisms of Heat Transfer
Heat transfer is the physical act of thermal energy being exchanged between two systems by dissipating heat. Temperature and the flow of heat are the basic principles of heat transfer. There are three ways in which heat is transferred between bodies:
Conduction: Conduction transfers heat via direct molecular collision, increasing the kinetic energy of the slower speed molecules. Conduction is the most common form of heat transfer and occurs via physical contact.
Convection: Convection is heat transfer from one material to another via a medium, such as air or water.
Radiation: Heat transfer that occurs without any medium and through electromagnetic waves. It is the direct result of random movements of atoms and molecules in matter. Movement of the charged protons and electrons results in the emission of electromagnetic radiation.
Why Thermal Analysis?
Overheating and excessive thermal stresses are some of the issues related to heat transfer that a thermal analyst has to consider. Thermal analysis can be executed to find temperature distribution, temperature gradient, and heat flowing in the model, as well as the heat exchanged between the model and its environment. Good thermal assessments require a combination of analytical calculations using thermal specifications, empirical analysis and thermal modeling. The art of thermal analysis involves using all available tools to support each other and validate their conclusions. Applying three different and sometimes complex thermal transport mechanisms to a complex thermal product creates a system that cannot be evaluated by simple and inexpensive tools. Often the only feasible approach is to model such a product with tools created for that purpose and validate that model with empirical testing.
Tools of the Trade
Companies that provide professional thermal analysis services use software tools based on numerical methods like the Boundary Element Method, Finite Difference Method, Finite Element Method and Finite Volume Method. These are many commercially available thermal analysis tools with its pros and cons. Since most design companies prefer to outsource their thermal analysis requirements, here are some differentiating features:
- Simulation speed
- Ability to model all three modes of heat transfer, which for convection requires the ability to model fluid flow
- Ability to manage boundary conditions and multi-level nested mesh
- Ability to link thermal models to models in other domains
- Ability to perform transient thermal analysis
Thermal Analysis Services
Since there are many parameters that affect the temperature of a product, and various ways of heat transfer involved, it takes cutting edge CAE software to undertake thermal analysis. Many manufacturers prefer hiring the expertise of companies that specialize in thermal analysis services. Outsourcing thermal analysis helps them keep their manufacturing costs in control.