Ansys Sherlock: Product Life Prediction for Electronics

Ansys Sherlock is an automated design analysis software that provides fast and accurate life predictions for electronic hardware at the component, board and system levels in early design stages

Fast and Accurate Life Predictions for Electronics

Approximately 73% of product development costs are spent on the test-fail-fix-repeat cycle. Ansys Sherlock accelerates this process by empowering designers to accurately model silicon–metal layers, semiconductor packaging, printed circuit boards (PCBs) and assemblies to predict solder fatigue failures due to thermal, mechanical and manufacturing conditions. This helps eliminate test failures and design flaws, accelerate product qualification and introduce groundbreaking technologies.

Why Ansys Sherlock?

Leveraging Physics of Failure

Instead of using statistical models to predict reliability without gaining insight into why something failed, Sherlock’s Physics of Failure-based approach leverages knowledge and understanding of the processes and mechanisms that induce failure in order to improve product performance.

Physics of Failure (PoF), or Reliability Physics, uses degradation algorithms that describe how physical, chemical, mechanical, thermal or electrical mechanisms can decline over time and eventually induce failure. The specific term arose from an attempt to better predict the reliability of early-generation electronic parts and systems; however, the concept of PoF is common in many structural fields.

Utilizing PoF and Reliability Physics, Sherlock can accurately predict the failure behaviour of next-generation components, including:

  • Silicon transistors
  • Wire bonds
  • Solder bumps
  • Die attach
  • Light-emitting diodes
  • Electrolytic capacitors
  • Plated through-holes
  • Solder joints
Accelerating Design Analytics

Unlike any other tool on the market, Sherlock uses files created by your design team to build 3D models of electronics assemblies for trace modeling, post-processing of finite element analysis and reliability predictions. This early insight translates to almost immediate identification of areas of concern and gives you the ability to quickly adjust and retest designs.

Electrical and mechanical engineers can work in tandem using Sherlock to Design for Reliability from the start of the project. Teams can use Sherlock to integrate design rules, best practices and Physics of Failure (PoF) methods, including

  • 3D models of electronic assemblies for early analysis
  • Trace modelling
  • Post-processing of finite element simulations to identify critical components and predict time to failure
  • Reliability predictions not previously possible

Sherlock also accelerates traditional design for reliability activities, including:

  • Design Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (DFMEA)
  • Thermal derating
  • PCB Modeling and Simulation:

Sherlock automates the process, reduces required resources and provides results quicker. Design rework is accomplished within minutes, not weeks or months.

Reducing Manufacturing Risk

Design for Manufacturability (DfM) and Design for Reliability (DfR) are not mutually exclusive. Sherlock considers both to mitigate manufacturing risk by assessing solder reliability, strain measurement, suppliers, materials selection and post-assembly handling operations.

To maximize Design for Manufacturability (DfM) and Design for Reliability (DfR) in order to mitigate risk, Sherlock evaluates key components, including:

  • Solder joint reliability to assure a product will function under given conditions, for a specified time, without exceeding defined failure levels
  • Plated through-hole fatigue by using computerized modelling and temperature maps instead of human interfaces for accurate finite element test results
  • Strain measurement during shock and vibration testing to gather data for prediction of failure probability, root causes of failure and failure events
  • Material selection to align a plastic’s properties with design and functionality requirements
  • Supplier analysis for building partnerships that can consistently deliver quality products and services without interruption
  • Post-assembly handling operations assessment to identify areas for efficiency improvement after production
  • Semiconductor wear-out, which allows manufacturers to evaluate and predict IC failures using an approach that follows SAE ARP 6338
Faster Testing

Product development requires a substantial investment of time and money — and it doesn’t guarantee passing qualification testing the first time. Sherlock reduces expensive build-and-test iterations by virtually running thermal cycling, power-temperature cycling, vibration, shock, bending, thermal derating, accelerated life, natural frequency, CAF and more so you can adjust designs in near real-time and achieve qualification in one round.

Sherlock reduces the number of required physical testing iterations and improves the chances that prototypes will pass qualification tests in the first round. Engineers can design reliability right into electronics, allowing them to:

  • Build and test virtual products
  • Modify designs in near real-time
  • Quickly run mechanical simulations
  • Identify testing opportunities
  • Evaluate design choices
  • Gain project-specific insights
  • Align reliability goals with metrics and requirements

Using Sherlock as part of your test plan significantly reduces the time and expense of multiple iterations of each qualification test, including:

Temperature Cycling

Instead of applying and working within the parameters of traditional methods, Sherlock designs the board and applies the temperature cycle to it. Faulty components and the number and type of failures are identified with certainty, allowing for a quicker, usually less costly fix to happen earlier in the process.

Plated Through-Hole Fatigue

Instead of allowing for human interfaces when monitoring several key contributors to PCB functionality, Sherlock’s computerized modeling is based on the temperature map from the solder fatigue input, and uses board stackup to calculate barrel stress for finite test results and remedy.

Vibration and Shock

The conventional probabilistic approach to vibration and shock testing cannot pinpoint actual failure events. Sherlock calculates board strain during mechanical shock and vibration testing, and then uses the data to predict the probability of failure and determine root causes of failure and corresponding failure events.

Conductive Anodic Filament (CAF)

Sherlock gathers data on drill hole locations and diameters directly from the computerized drill files, filters them by hole size and precisely identifies a “damage zone” between a pair of holes for focused analysis. This automated CAF qualification decreases the number of failures and ensures product reliability throughout manufacturing.

Highly Accelerated Life Testing (HALT) and Highly Accelerated Stress Screening (HASS)

HALT and HASS are excellent tools for design verification in the electronics industry. HALT provides insight into margins and weak points in design, and HASS is developed by running a combined temperature cycling/vibration HALT to failure and reducing the duration by 95%. This should ensure that only 5% of the life is consumed in HASS; however, it could be beneficial to confirm this assumption through a Sherlock Physics of Failure simulation. Sherlock also allows test/validation engineers to vary aspects of the HASS profile and understand their influence on life consumed.

How Ansys Sherlock Simulations Optimise Electronic Hardware Design

A unique, powerful capability of Sherlock is its revolutionary ability to rapidly convert electronic CAD (ECAD) files into CFD and FEA models with accurate geometries and material properties. Through its powerful parsing engine (capable of importing Gerber, ODB and IPC2581 files, etc.) and embedded libraries containing over 500,000 parts, Sherlock reduces pre-processing time from days to minutes and automates workflows through its integration with Ansys Icepak, Ansys Mechanical and Ansys Workbench.

In post-processing simulation results from Icepak and Mechanical, Sherlock is able to predict test success, estimate warranty return rates and make Icepak and Mechanical users more efficient by directly connecting simulation to material and manufacturing costs.


Electronics Reliability

Ansys possesses the unique ability to capture all facets of electronic reliability in a comprehensive workflow that allows for true multiphysics analysis.

PCB Modelling and Simulation

Ansys offers a complete, most powerful, accurate and scalable simulation solution for printed circuit boards (PCBs), integrated circuits (ICs), and IC Packages for accurate evaluation of an entire system

Sherlock can be used at every step in the hardware design process and is most valuable when implemented in the early design stages.

Additionally, Sherlock’s Locked IP Model protects intellectual property in the supply chain. With the Locked IP Model, you can transfer designs between design suppliers and design users while preserving PCB design details; the intended use of the PCB design will not be disclosed via environmental conditions or reliability requirements. This communication tool enables two entities to work together on a system with a layer of trust built into the reliability calculations.

Ansys Sherlock simplifies and improves reliability prediction using a unique, three-phase process consisting of data input, analysis, and reporting and recommendations.

Data Input

With its extensive parts/materials libraries, Sherlock automatically identifies your files and imports your parts list, then builds an FEA model of your circuit board in minutes by:

  • Parsing standard EDA files (schematic, layout, parts list) automatically
  • Using embedded libraries (part, package, materials, solder, laminate)
  • Building box-level finite element analysis models


Sherlock produces a holistic analysis that is critical to developing reliable electronics products. It enables designers to simulate each environment, failure mechanism and assembly that a product might encounter over its lifespan.

Assessment options include:

  • Thermal cycling
  • Mechanical shock
  • Natural frequency
  • Harmonic vibration
  • Random vibration
  • Bending
  • Integrated circuit/semiconductor wearout
  • Thermal derating
  • Conductive anodic filament (CAF) qualification
  • High-fidelity PCB modeling

Reporting and Recommendations

  • Life curve
  • Red-yellow-green risk indicators
  • Tabular display
  • Graphical overlay
  • Binned results based on reliability goals
  • Automated report generation
  • Locked IP model for review by suppliers/customers

Can Ansys Help Transform Your Product Design and Development Processes?

Wilde Analysis has been an Ansys channel partner since 2000 and used the software within consulting projects for over 30 years.

Our combined software, training and consulting solutions enable you to exploit simulation within your business efficiently and effectively, with expert support and mentoring from our experienced technical services team.

For more information or to arrange an informal, no-obligation discussion on your requirements, please complete the form opposite or contact us using the details below.

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