Modeling moves rapidly into the mainstream

The rapid adoption of model-based design has been one of the quickest transformations in system design in recent years. Only a few years ago, about the only time I heard about model-based design was in interviews with tool suppliers like The MathWorks.
Over the last year or two, system engineers increasingly bring it up during discussions about the ways that they’re pushing the envelope in their markets. Even in interviews on vastly different topics, product designers tout the benefits of modeling and simulation, saying that it gives them more freedom to innovate yet it also shortens development time.
Add in the cost reductions that come from fewer prototypes, and it’s easy to see why some engineers are more excited about this tool than they are about the products they’re developing. One of the big challenges now is to make sure that all the models are validated. That’s necessary to ensure that when models are run through simulation, what’s predicted is indeed what happens in the real world.
In the printed board world, where minor material changes can make a big difference in performance and lifetimes, validation is a big task. That’s true for both laminate materials and solder.
The need for accurate models for various solder compositions is particularly acute. Understanding the tight bonds formed during the soldering process is critical for long-term reliability. Too many products are ending up in scrap heaps because solder junctions failed. If improved models can help reduce that waste and make the design process easier to boot, the money and time spent validating models will be a very good investment.

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