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Alpine Electronics, Inc.
Successful Implementation of Thermo-Fluid Analysis in Car Navigation System Design

Alpine Electronics, Inc. (hereinafter, Alpine) is an electronics development company specialized in automotive systems such as car navigation systems and car audios. Alpine design engineers are utilizing thermo-fluid analysis tool in the design of car navigation systems. Ten years after the introduction of a Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) tool into Alpine, it is well-established as a familiar tool for thermal analyses, and thermal simulations are performed at early stages of development, as early as preliminary discussions with car manufacturers. We interviewed an Alpine staff about how they accomplished the great achievement.

Fig.1: ALPINE BIGX (VIE-X088)
8-inch car navigation system

Alpine develops automotive systems such as car audio systems and dashboard information communication equipment. Alpine has headquarters in Tokyo, a development center in Fukushima. Sales bases, manufacturing bases, and development bases are also located overseas and diversify geographically. A high proportion of its products is genuine automotive products. Especially, car audio has a high standing among users who are particular about sound quality. Also, Alpine BIGX (VIE-X088 or VIE-X08S) 8-inch car navigation system (Fig.1) has gained a high reputation, and this has led to a good sale.

Introduction of CFD tool in 2001


In 2001, Alpine introduced a thermo-fluid analysis tool "HEAT Designer" developed by Software Cradle to the Car Navigation System Development Department. The company introduced the thermal analysis tool because of high maximum safe operating temperature. Unlike home electronics, in-car devices are placed in extreme environments such as direct sunlight. Because the maximum safe operating temperature of these devices is tens of degrees (ºC) higher than that of home appliances, the introduction of thermal analysis tool was crucial. Since most design engineers were unfamiliar with software operations, HEAT Designer was chosen for its operability and comprehensible GUI.

They started using the thermo-fluid analysis tool on a full scale from around 2004. Ms. Machiko Iwasaki, an engineer from Structural Product Development Department and responsible for heat dissipation designs, has worked consistently on spreading the use of the tool among design engineers.

 

ALPINE JSME-Certified
Computational
Mechanics Engineer
Machiko Iwasaki

Improving the CFD education environments


In order to expand the thermo-fluid analysis tool to Alpine design engineers in her department, she established the education system and the environment to allow easy use of the analysis tool. Ms. Iwasaki started launching the group education program with Software Cradle, prepared a dedicated text for Alpine from around 2005 based on several goals she set for the educational program. The education system should be practical, immediately applicable to design sites, easy to remember, and it should encourage continuous skill improvements based on the design concepts. To meet her goals, Cradle provided information needed for Alpine and used Alpine products for the model cases. The text included theories so that the engineers could make full use of the analysis tool based on the fundamentals of thermo-fluid dynamics. After a series of discussions between her and Cradle engineers about the text and lecture contents, the text includes fundamentals of thermo-fluid dynamics, analytical theory, operation procedures for analysis preparation and analysis results display, and heat dissipation design concepts in Alpine. She included concrete operation procedures in a text so that the participants can perform analyses themselves after the course.

The group education program was carried out with up to eight people taking a lecture course for three days. The final exam on the thermal problem of an actual product was given out on the last day of the course, and the due date was scheduled one week from the final exam. This one week period would help establish the education content by getting participants to learn through trial and error. And the course was held about twice a year. Today, almost all employees involved in thermal design in the Structural Product Development Department are trained in the course and utilizing the tool in practice. Some members of affiliated companies or technology center in China also came to attend this program. Later, the text was translated for the training of Chinese design engineers about HEAT Designer.

After each program, participants were asked to fill out an evaluation form which is rated on a five-point scale. The average rating on the first course was 3.6, but it rose to 4.7 on the most recent course. Ms. Iwasaki says, "we were able to build the base part of the thermal design concept for Alpine by receiving advice from Software Cradle while refining the program."​

Facilitating accessibility to the analysis tool

Ms. Iwasaki improved the environment for the analysis tool. Specifically, she prepared a dedicated interface to facilitate analysis work and organized the database system to store data such as analysis results, measured temperature of the actual products, and reports. She also prepared a display system for non-CFD experts to understand the analysis results easily. Furthermore, she created a system to store and retrieve analysis data and exchange it between circuit design and mechanism design smoothly.

 

​The web-based CAE integrated tool (CAE-ONE) is used for interface and database (provided by Information Services International-Dentsu, Ltd). An easy-to-use interface was required in calculations because they used parallel computation (HPC) edition of scSTREAM, a high-end sister product of HEAT Designer, on a Linux cluster server that had no GUI. This motivated the introduction of CAE-ONE to Alpine. If a user registers a data file necessary for analysis to the CAE-ONE, it is sent to the parallel computation system. After the computation, the results are stored in the CAE-ONE, and the notification mail is sent to the user. CAE-ONE also has a function of database storing not only the results of thermo-fluid analyses but also the data from various other analyses in the department. Moreover,data of measurements on the actual products and reports are managed using CAE-ONE.


Presenting analysis results in easily comprehensible ways


Since it is hard for non-CFD experts to understand analysis results if they are just series of numbers, Alpine uses Excel macro to provide an easy view of analysis results, so that the display can show significant values and graphs (convergence status of calculations, fan motor operating points, temperature of each part, heat fluxes, etc.) with one push of a button.

Because errors tend to occur when sharing information across departments, data must be handled with care. In Alpine, electrical design engineers transfer IDF files (intermediate files of electrical CAD) and CSV files containing thermal analysis conditions, to mechanism design engineers. The system is designed to check the data in Excel automatically, then the data is transferred to mechanism design engineers. The system works smoothly as HEAT Designer read data in CSV format.
 

* All product and service names mentioned are registered trademarks or trademarks of respectable companies.
* Contents and specifications of products are as of March 1, 2011 and subject to change without notice. We shall not be held liable for any errors in figures and pictures, or any typographical errors.

Company Details

 

Alpine Electronics, Inc.
Date of Establishment May. 10th, 1967
Description of Business In-car Audio Products/In-car Information & Communication Products
President & CEO Toru Usami
Headquarters Tokyo, Japan
Paid-in Capital ¥25,920 million

 

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