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FEA Settings for Thermal/Electical Simulation

Designers who need to perform thermal or stress simulation in SOLIDWORKS have a number of special requirements that those who are doing form-fit-function do not need to consider.

For example, consider the interaction between the copper traces and the dielectric on a PCB. When a multi-layer PCB is manufactured, the layers are placed into a press and heated. The dielectric "flows" into any empty gaps between conductors on a given layer and provides a fairly uniform encapsulation of the conductors.

A simple 3D conversion that treats the dielectric and copper on a layer-by-layer basis will cause the mesher (and thus the simulator some serious problems.

Read3Di Thermal Simulation Setting menu allows you to achieve that.

Dielectric board Extension - This feature is used to insure that our boundary (the dielectric outline) is slightly larger than any conductor. This insures that our next step, the boolean creation of the "negative" dielectric regions, has a suitable boundary.
This value is usually set to be quite small but it provides a nice flat face for any boundary conditions that have to be defined. Some FEA tools such as Abaqus only work well when all surfaces of the body being simulated are "flat" and can be assigned boundary conditions.

Enable Drill Holes - insures that the hole in the dielectric is drilled through for the via and that the faces properly match so that there are no tiny gaps between the via cylinder and the hole in the substrate. Any such gaps can cause the mesher to fail.

Enable Negative Dielectric This feature does a 2D boolean between the conductors and the dielectric boundary and produces a new solid body (via extrusion in SolidWorks) that produces the proper solid body to fill in any and all gaps. This, combined with the original dielectric produces the correct surrounding body that enables a FEA mesher to work correctly as long as it knows that all the members of the dielectric layers and "negative" dielectric layers are contiguous.

Of course, this generates additional solid bodies and makes the 3D model much bigger.

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