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Reliability in Avionics: Using Virtual Prototyping, Simulation and PoF

Posted by Lloyd Condra on Mar 28, 2017 8:56:48 AM


Modern electronics have continued in the pattern of Moore’s Law which has decreased transistor size and increased performance. This necessitates development of faster, smaller ICs with greatly reduced power dissipation. However, the increased number of transistors in smaller spaces causes higher power density which can lead to higher failure rates, shorter device lifetimes and unanticipated early device wearout.

These reliability issues are of special concern to industries that require long service lifetimes and rugged environmental conditions, such as avionics, aerospace, and other high performance (ADHP) industries.

In order to mitigate risk, reliability testing and analysis must keep pace with the technological demands of smaller form factors, greater functionality and higher density IC and PCB systems.

Limitations of Physical Testing

Avionics have been moving from copper-based fly-by-wire (FBW) to fly-by-light (FBL) systems which offers huge advantages in weight, cost, design, and EMI protection, but at the cost of extraordinary thermal demands. Additionally, the pressure of shorter design cycles and highly reliable products presents a challenge when it comes to physical testing.

Thermal cycling analysis on traditional CAD tools limits testing capabilities and efficiencies—particularly crucial testing as it relates to FBL systems. It’s labor-intensive and time-consuming  and there’s no promise of high reliability outcomes. It’s a poor investment of time, money and effort.

Virtual PCB Prototyping and Simulation using a Physics of Failure (PoF) Approach

Virtual modeling and simulation combined with a Physics of Failure (PoF) approach can accelerate design and predict time to failure of electronics under thermal cycling and vibration loads. Real-world conditions are applied and adjustments can be incorporated into the design and virtual prototype in real time. Today’s avionics suppliers are required to develop mission critical devices that are highly reliable, and to demonstrate reliability prior to deployment. Knowledge of an accurate mathematical approach which utilizes semiconductor wearout formulae, industry accepted failure mechanism models and device functionality can deliver IC reliability vital to system stability.

With bandwidth advances in next-generation FBL applications and beyond, avionics suppliers need to make thermal management a core competency. Using virtual modeling and simulation with a PoF approach leverages the flexibility and focus of software to better predict time to failure of avionics, and to do so cost-effectively. Using a tool like Sherlock Automated Design Analysis™ software allows for on-screen application of degradation algorithms that describe how physical, chemical, mechanical, thermal or electrical mechanisms can decline over time and eventually induce failure. It’s a real-time, real-world approach to reliability that aligns with complex, high-performance avionics applications.

To explore the many factors that impact reliability outcomes, download Best Practices in Thermal Derating. Click the button to get your free copy.

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Topics: Physics of Failure, Avionics