Thermal engineering has long been left out of the concurrent engineering environment dominated by CAD (computer aided design) and FEM (finite element method) software. Current tools attempt to force the thermal design process into an environment primarily created to support structural analysis, which results in inappropriate thermal models. As a result, many thermal engineers either build models “by hand” or use geometric user interfaces that are separate from and have little useful connection, if any, to CAD and FEM systems.
This paper describes the development of a new thermal design environment called the Thermal Desktop. This system, while fully integrated into a neutral, low-cost CAD system, and which utilizes both FEM and FD methods, does not compromise the needs of the thermal engineer. Rather, the features needed for concurrent thermal analysis are specifically addressed by combining traditional parametric surface-based radiation and FD based conduction modeling with CAD and FEM methods. The use of flexible and familiar temperature solvers such as SINDA/FLUINT is retained.