Thursday, November 30, 2023

Automotive electronics design acceleration with simulation technology


By Rafiq Somani

Simulation technology has been playing an increasingly important role in automotive electronics design, as Industry 4.0 is shaping up the entire auto industry. The simulation technology is being applied by almost all the automakers and component manufacturers as well. How is it accelerating the automotive electronics design?

What drives us? If I must pinpoint it to one thing, it would have to be: Energy. If I specifically talk about Auto, in today’s context, I would say Electrical Energy.

Transportation, as we all know, drives the global economy and it is what connects all of us. It’s at the heart of not only businesses but also entertainment and pleasure. Now more than ever, when there are restrictions on travel, we understand how much it means to us! However, all the travel is taking a toll on the planet. Mobility solutions with a lower environmental impact are the need of the hour and with strict government regulations in most countries as well as consumer awareness, there is an unprecedented demand for efficient, environmentally-friendly transportation. This is where electrical energy plays a significant role.

Since the 1970s, electronics have gone from about 5% of the bill of materials (BOM) to over 35% and are set to rise to over 50% by 2030.

An automobile still has four wheels, an engine, radio, doors, hood, etc, however, since the 1970s, electronics have gone from about 5% of the bill of materials (BOM) to over 35% and is all set to rise to over 50% by 2030. One of the biggest challenges that we face in the auto industry today is the ability to distribute adequate power to the systems that utilize it in a reliable manner. There is a disruptive transition that the automotive industry is going through. In terms of both markets and regulations, there is a lot of demand and this requires newer technologies and business models. The challenges are many and it is only through digitalization, virtual testing, and simulation that one can overcome it. The electrification dream of auto companies can be a reality with simulation.

Herculean task

On one side, we have consumers who expect up-to-date, supreme automotive electronics that provide enhanced safety, convenience, and entertainment. Of course, people are aware of the common challenge that has to do with charging stations, but there is also the distribution of power to the automotive electronics systems that comprise the vehicle. For a designer, this distribution of power is a matter of concern as it impacts every stage of design one way or the other.

Automakers, in order to cater to the demands, want to add all the additional features without any compromises. They expect no additional weight to be added to vehicles and this becomes an especially puzzling challenge as the number of automotive electronics mushrooms with safety systems, electric propulsion, and autonomous vehicle initiatives. While they want the performance to be increased, there is a constant push to make electronic components and packages smaller, and this is a herculean task.

Automated design analysis software can evaluate older fatigue failures from thermal, mechanical, and manufacturing conditions by enabling designers to model silicon.

Automated design analysis software

It is only by integrating reliability analysis early in the development process that automotive designers will be able to solve the dilemma of more electronic functionality in a smaller package without impacting the time to market and remain competitive.

This is where automated design analysis software comes in as it offers fast and accurate life predictions for electronic hardware. The software can evaluate older fatigue failures from thermal, mechanical, and manufacturing conditions by enabling designers to model silicon. Such capabilities can have a major impact on the development time and cost as it reduces the test-fail-fix-repeat cycle thus accelerates product qualification while reducing manufacturing risks. Incorporating reliability physics/physics of failure (PoF) early in the product design and development cycle plays a huge role in helping automakers and their suppliers in bringing new technologies to the market faster.   

The automated design analysis software by Ansys, Ansys Sherlock, is a reliability physics/ PoF based electronics design analysis software that provides fast and accurate life predictions for electronic hardware at the component, board, and system levels in the early design stages. It does not use statistical models to predict reliability that would end up not giving any insights into why something failed. Instead, it has a PoF-based approach, and therefore uses knowledge and understanding of the processes and mechanisms that induce failure in order to ultimately improve product performance.

Both electrical and mechanical engineers can thus work together to design for reliability from the very beginning of a project. It evades the ‘test-fail-fix-repeat’ cycle by allowing designers to accurately model silicon–metal layers, semiconductor packaging, printed circuit boards (PCBs), and assemblies to predict failure risks due to thermal, mechanical, and manufacturing stressors. All this is well before the prototype is made. This is taking a reliable analysis of electronic assemblies to a new level!

How to successfully predict electronics reliability?

As soon as it is clear that an electronic module meets the requirements, the better. The automated design analysis software tool aids in the quick estimation of the reliability and lifetime of the parts. The focus is not on a constantly assumed error rate, but explicitly on the late failure phase. It simplifies and improves reliability prediction in three phases.

Input of data

One of the major highlights of automated design analysis software is its extensive parts/materials libraries. Thanks to that, there is an automatic identification of files and imports of the parts list. The software is then able to build a finite-element analysis (FEA) model of the circuit board in minutes by automatically analyzing standard electronic design automation (EDA) files such as schematics, layouts, and parts lists. It uses embedded libraries for parts, packages, materials, solders, and laminates and builds box-level FEA models.

Complete analysis

By enabling the designer to simulate each environment, failure mechanism, and assembly that a product might encounter over its lifespan, the software also produces a holistic analysis, which as you know, is critical to developing reliable electronics products. Thermal cycling, Mechanical shock, Natural frequency, Harmonic vibration, Random vibration, Bending, Integrated circuit/semiconductor wear out, Thermal derating, Conductive anodic filament (CAF) qualification, and High-fidelity PCB modeling are included in the assessment options.


Any data that is collected needs to be quickly visualized shared in order for it to have any impact in the long run. With reporting features like life curves, red-yellow-green risk indicators, tabular and graphical overlay displays, binned results based on reliability goals and automated report generation, the automated design analysis software makes data interpretation easier and thus helps in analysing and collaboration.

Additionally, the software also gives you the ability to share a model for review by suppliers or customers that gives them the information they need while locking down your intellectual property. The key aspect here is the speed with near real-time production of custom reports (up to 100+ pages per PCB), plus dataset and image export capabilities.

The future is electric and electrical systems fortify more connected, electric, and autonomous transportation and mobility vehicles. At the same time, they have to operate in both a safe and reliable manner across varying environments that can even be harsh and unpredictable. The requirement here is a design that fits in the ever-smaller form factors and that too with reduced power requirements and lesser weight.

The automated design analysis software can be used to translate electronic computer-aided design (ECAD) to FEA (Finite Element Analysis) in minutes, providing the basis for a streamlined product development workflow. It can be implemented at many stages of a typical design process, from the initial part selection and placement to the final BoM and layout to design for manufacture. Furthermore, it can be made a part of an integrated workflow to assess board-level reliability for accurate product lifetime predictions by connecting it with the complete ecosystem for electronics reliability.

The speed and efficacy of innovations are what will define market leaders in the electrification revolution. To deliver these vehicles of the future, there is a need to optimize electrical system design and this can be done only with simulation: the most efficient and cost-effective way to help the future move!

Also Read: Indian automotive suppliers have a great opportunity to go global and look at export markets through simulation technology: Shree Harsha, Dassault Systèmes

(Rafiq Somani is the Area Vice President – India and South Asia Pacific, Ansys.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)


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