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Cooling airborne electronics

Courtesy of Honeywell Aerospace Corp.

Honeywell Aerospace, developer of wireless, satellite and defense communication systems, uses CoolitPCB to shrink heat sink size. Since heat sinks frequently drive enclosure size, the results lead to smaller packages.

Recently, the company designed a forced-air cooled, commercial airborne receiver that dissipates significant power from its shoe-box sized enclosure. The system is populated with assorted components, plus two subsystems that are the major heat sources: an amplifier with uniform heat distribution and a power supply with multiple hot spots.

Using CoolitPCB, engineers designed custom heat sinks for both units, analyzing multiple designs in a fraction of time or expense of physical testing. The thermal software predicted that the amplifier heat sink required more fins than originally anticipated, but that fin spacing could be smaller. Once the optimal heat sinks were designed, engineers were able to design an enclosure that accommodated them.

"The software was intuitive and very easy for a first time user," notes the Honeywell engineer. "It quickly zeroed in on the optimum design without spending thousands of dollars for prototypes and waiting weeks for delivery before being able to verify our work."

To verify the CFD analysis, Honeywell built and tested physical prototypes in a lab under both air cooled and failed fan conditions. In both cases, CoolitPCB predictions matched actuals to within 5%.

"Without the ability to do analysis, engineering would tend to overkill heat sink design in order to make sure that the design will work," points out the Honeywell engineer. "But with dependable and accurate analysis, we can shrink heat sinks, making them as light as possible and still keeping the electronic components within their operating limits."

CoolitPCB - designed communications systems fly high.
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