At Puget Systems, we take the quality of our computers very seriously. Because we focus on building quiet computers, long term cooling is something we examine very closely. We have invested significantly in our QC process, with the Flir Systems A320 thermal camera. The A320 is a powerful and accurate solution for thermal imaging and temperature measurements. It allows us to immediately identify thermal problems that would otherwise go undetected, and allows us to optimize each computer's airflow. Its application is an excellent example of the caliber of product and process monitoring required from our quality assurance programs.
There are hundreds of microchips in a computer, and yet temperature sensors are only present on 5-10 of them. The typical sensors available are on the CPU, video card, motherboard northbridge, and hard drives. There are a handful of others scattered across the components, but the problem is still that we do not have complete information about the thermal behavior of each computer. Once we have that complete information, we make are equipped to make better decisions.
Identifying Failing Chips
Can you spot the failed portion of the microchip to the left? It's obvious in a thermal image!
With our equipment, we can better identify not only failed chips, but chips that are putting out an unusual amount of heat. Computer chips are semi-conductors, which means in the process of performing their logic, they convert electricity into heat. By looking for unusual patterns of heat, we can identify shorts, high workload, and infinite loops. We can identify problems even before they result in complete chip failure.
In addition to identifying failed chips, we can look closely at chips that are performing properly, but are running hotter than is safe. Since many chips do not have temperature sensors, we rely on our thermal imaging to identify these hot chips, and can make sure to adequately cool them. This will not impact the performance or short term reliability of the computer, but it will allow the computer to operate longer, without the stresses of high temperature that can lead to early failure.
Optimizing Computer Cooling and Airflow
With thermal imaging, we have a better "big picture" of the heat characteristics of a computer. With this information, we can help cool hot areas, and we can cool them more intelligently. For example, if we find that an area of the computer contains a number of hot components, we can make sure to place an exhaust fan in that area. That will allow us to cool those components, without simply blowing that hot air elsewhere in the system. In many cases, it may be perfectly acceptable for some chips to run at higher temperatures, but we can still make significant gains in the complete system temperature by exhausting the hot air created by those chips rather than circulating it through the computer.
What makes our thermal imaging unique is the same thing that makes Puget Systems unique in other areas: we are large enough of a company to obtain this information, but we are also small enough to apply the information individually to each computer, and are transparent to share this information to you. The large OEMs definitely do thermal imaging, but they only do it at the system design level. With our lower volume, we are able to take thermal images of each and every computer, and we're happy to share those images with you! This is an excellent contribution to our innovative engineering, while maintaining our custom nature. We are very excited to be offering this service, and to use it not only to make individual improvements to each and every computer that goes out the door, but also to use this knowledge in the long term to design better and better computers.
If you have other questions about our thermal imaging, please feel free to contact us!