Achieving Optimal Thermal Management in OpenVPX Systems


OpenVPX systems offer a huge performance leap over VME and other older systems but there is also a significant increase in the complexity of the chassis thermal management; design approaches used previously may no longer be viable. To avoid cooling issues during an OpenVPX chassis project, thermal criteria need to be defined early in the life cycle. Fortunately, there are several viable cooling methods as well as analytic tools to evaluate these methods based on system configurations and application requirements.

OpenVPX computing for rugged environments deploys the technology industry’s most advanced silicon solutions into the most extreme environmental conditions. As silicon geometries continue to follow Moore’s law, heat density is increasing significantly. Thermal management in the defense and aerospace rugged systems market has become more and more challenging over time.

Why is thermal management critical? 

OpenVPX systems can be configured with a wide variety of advanced processing elements, driving huge performance leaps relative to VME and early VPX systems of just a few years ago. The increased performance levels that processors have been able to achieve bring a design challenge – managing the equally huge leap in power use manifested as heat. Thermal management is a key chassis criterion for these systems and, to avoid issues, some design and architectural parameters must be defined early in a project life cycle.

What inputs are required while building a thermal management solution? 

Identifying the appropriate thermal solution for a particular application requires communication and interaction with the person who is knowledgeable about the target environment. Ideally, this communication occurs early in the system definition process. The right time to start is prior to the PDR (preliminary design review) meeting and during the system requirements review. 

The first step in the process is to define the system’s required functions or capabilities. The next step is to determine the system’s (and platform’s) physical constraints. The required functionality and target environment together drive an architectural approach which delivers the necessary performance, while meeting cost and SWAP (size, weight, and power) targets/requirements, for deployment in the target environment. In practice, this may be an iterative process. For example, a decision might be made as to which module form factor size will suffice: 3U (100x160mm) or 6U (233x160mm). 

This decision is usually driven by space constraints, but there are implications in terms of performance, budget, functionality, channel density, weight, and thermal management. Having a good understanding of the most common cooling methodologies available is quite helpful during the phase when architectural trade-offs are being considered.

Atrenne can help you with your thermal management needs

Atrenne has extensive experience with chassis thermal analysis and design that has been built over decades through the successful deployment of high-power COTS chassis in hundreds of programs. By engaging with us, system integrators can access that expertise to avoid thermal management issues, optimize designs and stay on schedule. 

For design implementation, we offer the industry’s most comprehensive range of rugged chassis solutions, with the broadest mix of advanced cooling technologies available to meet the demands of any defense and aerospace environment.

Next Steps

Want to learn more about how Atrenne’s advanced cooling technology is helping to build world-class electronics for Defense, Aerospace, Telecommunications, and other industries?
Contact our team to explore how we can meet your most demanding thermal management requirements.