December 12, 2005
Bridging the Gap
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Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor

by Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor
Posted anew every four weeks or so, the EDA WEEKLY delivers to its readers information concerning the latest happenings in the EDA industry, covering vendors, products, finances and new developments. Frequently, feature articles on selected public or private EDA companies are presented. Brought to you by If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

What is the time difference between the UK and India?

It's about 5 hours.

Not as bad as from Silicon Valley to India.

That would be very difficult to manage. In fact just last week I returned from China where I talked to some people there. That's about an 8 hour difference which makes it difficult. Five hours is manageable.

Who do you see as competition in your niche?

There are a few players who provide solutions to the electronics industry and they are all very different in a way. The main other player in this market is Fluent with a product called Icepak. Then there are a number of smaller players as well. Some of the more general purpose CFD codes such as CF Design are also present in this marketplace. But each has its different sales points. Bigger companies like ANSYS who have general purpose, principally structural engineering codes, also overlap into this marketplace. There are a few of them but we are the only one whose 100% focused on the electronics marketplace, that's our hard core business. That is what we do. For the others, it is
part of a bigger business.

What industries are the primary targets for your software?

It's getting more and more diverse. Traditionally it has been things like communication and computer companies like Intel, Sun Microsystems and IBM. It's really become more diverse in recent years as the use of electronics starts to build itself into more and more different applications. So where we were once in communications, computers and semiconductors, we are now in defense, aerospace, auto and transportation. The automotive industry is particularly interesting. The amount of electronics in the average motor car is increasing pretty rapidly, really driving the need for products like FLOTHERM and FLO/PCB in that environment where historically it wouldn't have been used. Consumer
electronics is another area that comes to mind. Companies like Philips. We continue to see strong growth with increased miniaturization and bigger and bigger demand to simulate designs before they run off to prototype or to manufacture.

Who is the end user? Mechanical engineer? Electrical engineer?

It would depend upon the product. Some firms typically use a specialist, a mechanical engineer. At some companies they would be labeled as thermal engineers. In FLO/PCB the typical end user is an electrical engineer who is working in a group on the design and layout of the board. The need to do thermal engineering further upfront in the design cycle is changing the profile of the end user away from just the pure mechanical engineer into much more of a general engineer or specific an electrical engineer. It depends upon the organization and the setup of the organization. FLOTHERM by far accounts for the biggest part of our revenue and is used nearly always by mechanical engineers.

What is the input and output to the software?

With FLOTHERM the input is typically a mechanical CAD model from say Pro/Engineer or SolidWorks. For FLO/PCB the mechanical CAD model as well as there is also information from EDA systems in terms of layout. This month we are launching a version of FLO/PCB specifically for Cadence Allegro which reads data from the EDA system in an associative way and stores it. That's where the input is coming from. Then you've got the thermal boundary conditions such as the input temperatures of the components on the board or in the system and things like the air flow if there is a fan driving the cooling. That's the input to the process. The output will be an understanding of the thermal
characteristics of the design. That could be looking at the temperatures on components, looking at the airflow around components in and out of the device, looking at the effectiveness of the cooling. That's on the thermal side. On the electromagnetic side with FLO/EMC and also Microstripes (a high frequency general purpose code) looking at antenna design there you are looking at the electromagnetic fields as the output. Ultimately of course it is an understanding of how good a design is or perhaps actually an optimization study to look at what the optimum design is to meet certain design requirements.

If there is a problem or if there is less than an optimal design detected, what is the solution? Add heat sinks, change the fan, change electrical components, …?

The sledge hammer approach is to put in a bigger heat sink or a bigger fan. What we try to do with our software is to aid the engineers to have a better understanding of their design and look at the layout of their design and improve that as a first step. Of course bigger or more efficient heat sinks are still a requirement in many cases. There still may be a requirement to change a fan but looking at the location of each of the components in itself can improve to far greater efficiencies. Looking at FLO/PCB allows you to look at the layout of the board and play around with different designs at the conceptual stage to make sure that you have an optimum layout before you really start
detailed design and hopefully to avoid any downstream requirement to retro fit heat sinks or have to put in a bigger fan to solve the problem. At the same time there are a lot of parallel design requirements that engineers are struggling with such as acoustic requirements. Keeping the noise levels down particularly in consumer areas is a bigger challenge than thermal or EMC design requirements.

If the end user is a mechanical engineer, he would more likely change things like fans and heat sinks than an electrical engineer would.

That has been the traditional way. It is almost like an after the event. The design is already laid out. Now, what can we do with it? Last week I was at a big telecom company in China having this exact discussion with them there. What we want to do is perform the simulation earlier in the process before we get to that stage. That means looking at the thermal issues at the board level or even down to the package level to get a better understanding of what's going on and try to design out the problems earlier on in the design process. That means definitely bridging this gap between the mechanical engineer and the electrical engineer, trying to deliver mechanical thermal solutions to
electrical engineers who are not necessarily trained in the use of those tools. It's a question of training but it is also the way that the technology is packaged in the product which are the factors making this happen.

How are your products packaged and priced?

On a perpetual or annual basis! They are either node or floating licenses. Most of them are floating licenses. The distribution between perpetual and annual depends on geography to be honest. In Asia Pacific nearly every license is sold as perpetual. In Europe there is a much higher proportion of annual licenses. In North America it's a mixture. We let the customer make that decision. The pricing is set so that it is in theory neutral. It really depends upon the customer's own particular requirements on how they acquire software.

What is the list price of the products?

That depends where you are starting from. At the lower end with a product like FLO/PCB we are looking at anything from $10K to a high end of $50K. That's the kind of scope. It depends upon which modules you have.


It varies with the territory. Let me give you a ball park price figure around $30K.

How many seats would the typical company purchase?

Our biggest customers have 70 to 80 licenses. A typical user has 2 to 3 licenses of FLOTHERM. The expectation for FLO/PCB is that there will ultimately be a higher number of seats. It's a lower price product. It's aimed at electrical engineers. We expect to see larger number of that kind of product in an account. It would very much depend upon the number of EDA seats that the customer has. We would expect once the product has reached maturity maybe 5 times as many seats of FLO/PCB as you would see FLOTHERM seats.

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-- Jack Horgan, Contributing Editor.


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