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Tips for IC Package Thermal Simulation

Key Takeaways

  • Simulations are vital for accurately predicting the junction temperature and thermal resistance of IC packages, enabling thermal performance optimization.

  • Accurate material properties, comprehensive boundary condition setup, real airflow modeling, temporal analysis, and validation with empirical data are critical for successful IC package thermal simulation.

  • Understanding and managing the thermal resistance of IC packages ΘJA, ΘJC, and ΘJB is essential for efficient heat transfer.

IC package thermal simulation of transistor

IC package thermal simulation of transistor

Understanding the thermal properties of packaging is crucial for ensuring the dependability of integrated circuits. Effective heat dissipation from the IC through the package is necessary for keeping the device's junction temperature below its maximum allowable limit. IC package thermal simulations are instrumental in predicting these junction temperatures and the thermal resistance of packages, thereby aiding in the optimization of thermal performance to meet specific requirements.

IC Package Thermal Simulation Tips

Aspect of Thermal Simulation


Accurate Material Properties

Ensure the thermal properties of materials used in the simulation are accurate and vary with temperature.

Comprehensive Boundary Condition Setup

Set up boundary conditions that closely mimic real-world scenarios for more accurate simulation results.

Incorporate Real Airflow Patterns

In air-cooled systems, model the actual airflow patterns rather than assuming ideal conditions.

Temporal Analysis for Dynamic Systems

Conduct temporal thermal analysis to understand the thermal response over time, especially in variable systems.

Validation With Empirical Data

Validate simulation results with empirical data from physical prototypes whenever possible.


Example Process Steps for IC Package Thermal Simulations

  • Create a three-dimensional model that includes the die, substrate, bonding wires, encapsulation material, and package body, in addition to any external pins, metal tabs, or other necessary heat sinks. 
  • Determine the material parameters and boundary conditions for the simulation. Key material parameters in thermal simulations include specific heat and thermal conductivity. These properties are temperature-dependent and necessitate careful definition to ensure accuracy. Boundary conditions are crucial, as they dictate the temperature and energy transfer at the model's edges. These boundaries might function either as a heatsink, which dissipates heat, or as an insulator, which retains it. In scenarios where the model is surrounded by air, the presence and flow of air become significant factors heavily influencing the temperature distribution across the model.
  • Determine and analyze temperature distribution over time. In addition to determining the final or stationary temperature, the analysis of how temperature distribution develops over time offers additional insights for thermal simulations. For instance, in a time-based simulation for a packaged device, the temperature distribution can be observed for 100 milliseconds. This time-based component provides two perspectives:
    • Heat primarily emanates from the heat source and, within the first 100 milliseconds, depending on the thermal resistance of the packaging, can remain a localized phenomenon or continue into the rest of the board. 
    • Analysis may show any tendency for directions of heat spread and the role of different components and materials in this process. For example, bond wires may be a type of component that is particularly impactful, while the molding, which acts as an insulator, may not significantly alter the temperature distribution within the initial timeframe. 

Such detailed time-based simulations are crucial for understanding the thermal dynamics within a device.

Components of Note for Simulation

  • Dies are the heat source in most IC packages. Their material properties and heat generation characteristics are central to the simulation.
  • Bond wires are often overlooked but can have a significant impact on heat distribution within the package.
  • Package molding acts as an insulator. The material's thermal properties and thickness are crucial in heat dissipation.
  • Leads and solder joints are components that can act as secondary paths for heat transfer to the PCB, impacting the overall thermal performance.

Thermal Resistance

Managing heat in a semiconductor is almost directly related to thermal resistance (often denoted as theta), a key metric that describes a material's heat transfer characteristics. The thermal resistance of an integrated circuit (IC) package quantifies its capability to transfer the heat produced by the IC to the circuit board or surrounding environment. Given the temperatures at two distinct points, it allows for the precise determination of heat flow between these points based solely on the thermal resistance value.

Analysis of IC Packaged Thermal Resistance Variables





Thermal resistance from junction to ambient

Measured in °C/W. Influenced by package, board, airflow, and system characteristics. Values are typically given for natural convection conditions.


Thermal resistance from junction to case

Depends on package materials and design. The measurement point varies where pin 1 emerges for leaded packages, at the corner of pin 1 for standard plastic packages, and at the center of the exposed-pad surface for exposed-pad packages. Measured by attaching to an "infinite heat sink."


Thermal resistance from case to ambient

Includes all thermal resistances from the package's exterior to the ambient environment.


Relationship between ΘJA, ΘJC, and ΘCA

ΘJA is the sum of ΘJC and ΘCA.


Thermal resistance from junction to board

Measured near pin 1 on the board. Includes resistance from the IC's junction to a reference point on the package bottom and through the board under the package. Measured with blocked convection from the package top and a cold plate attached to the board's far side.


Junction-to-board thermal characterization parameter

Measured in °C/W. Represents component power flowing through multiple thermal paths, not just a single direct path.


For all your IC package thermal simulation needs, Cadence's Celsius Thermal Solver offers a comprehensive solution for thermal simulation in IC packaging. Its production-proven, massively parallel architecture stands out by delivering faster performance than traditional solutions without compromising accuracy. Allegro X Advanced Package Designer enhances the capabilities of Cadence's thermal simulation solutions by offering advanced design and analysis tools for IC packages, enabling designers to efficiently optimize their designs for thermal performance.

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