Heat management is essential for living on this earth as weather and devices affect buildings, vehicles, and equipment. Thermal management is also necessary for printed circuit boards, as they will get damaged if they can’t dissipate the heat their components generate. Besides, the board also gets hot due to soldering during manufacturing. Hence, heat dissipation methods become mandatory to increase the PCB speed.
Though FR4 is good at heat management, sometimes it is not enough when there is a high-speed circuit board. Likewise, the power supplies also generate heat and you have to install heat sinks and insulators. You must have experienced mechanical engineers to assess the heat flow to create a suitable heat dissipation system.
Printed circuit boards provide current to help devices function, but electronic devices get hot and heat sinks dissipate unnecessary heat. A PCB Manufacturer will use different heat sinks to prevent the overheating of PCB components and their damage, increasing the performance of the board.
Fourier’s law is an important law of heat that determines the heat sink function. When an element gets hot, heat travels from high-temperature areas to a low- temperature surface. The heat transfer occurs in three ways, such as:
When two components having different temperatures connect, it results in thermal conduction. In other words, fast molecules collide with slow molecules, resulting in heat transfer from hot components to cool components. PCB has high-temperature components like transistors, so you need to dissipate heat to cooling mediums, like water, air, or it can be oil, or some other element. This heat transfer occurs through conduction and convention.
Types of Heat Sinks
Heat sinks come up in different types as below:
Active Heat Sinks: There is a fan in an active heat sink to provide cooling. Such a heat sink provides great cooling, however, it needs regular maintenance as it is mostly running which affects its condition.
Passive Heat Sink: Passive heat sink is without a fan, so it remains still and needs less maintenance. You can consider it reliable and more effective than an active heat sink.
The shape and design also determine the type of heat sink, including swaged, stamped heat sinks, machining, folded and bonded fin, single fin sink, and forged heat sink.
Factors Affecting a Heat Sink
The main purpose of the heat sink is to exchange heat, so a large part of its surface area should be in contact with the cooling component like air. The quality of the heat sink depends on different factors, including its material, finishing, and certain physical features, like:
- Air velocity
- Attachment technique
- Protrusion type
Materials That Enhance Heat Sink Function
Manufacturers use specific materials to enhance the function of the heat sink in terms of heat transfer. These materials include:
- Conductive tape
- Thermal paste
These materials are inserted between the surface of the heat sink and the surface of the component that generates heat. Metals having high thermal conductivity are ideal for heat sinks, including aluminum, copper, etc. But, aluminum is common as it is cheaper than others.
What To Consider Regarding Heat Sinks
Many factors affecting heat sink function include length, fin spacing and density, width, airflow, heat resistance, etc.
Which Devices Need Heat Sinks?
Electronic devices with components having poor heat dissipation ability need heat sinks. The devices in this case include multiple integrated circuits, diodes, transistors, switching devices, CPU and graphic processors, and LEDs.
Key Factors of Heat Sink Design
Heat sinks dissipate heat with the help of natural and forced convection, liquid, or radiation. The requirements of thermal management vary, depending upon the applications. Apart from a heat sink design, you have to consider several other factors while designing a thermal management system for a specific device. For like, you have to consider the standards of the component level, heat sink level standards, chassis levels, and requirements for a system level.
Let’s discuss essential factors that you have to consider during heat sink PCB design.
Heat Resistance: Thermal or heat resistance is the sum of multiple resistances occurring to heat flow between a cooling liquid and the die, thermal interference resistance, as well as the resistance between a moving fluid and a heat sink. Thermal resistance is bad for thermally unstable modeling systems.
The Value of Thermal Resistance: It is not precise, instead, it is approximate. It helps evaluate the thermal conductivity of the heat sinks and semiconductors. Heat dissipation depends on heat sink parameters that need proper analysis while designing the heat sink device. Heat sinks can be meshed through a 3D thermal resistance to have a complex system of thermal factors. Different platforms help design heat sink meshes.
Heat Sink Materials: Generally, copper and aluminum are ideal heat sink materials as described above. These materials are good at conducting heat, especially copper as it also helps absorb heat, resists rust, and resist biofouling, moreover, it is also antimicrobial resistant. Though copper is better than aluminum, it is thick and costly compared to aluminum.
Another material is diamond and its thermal conductivity is also high due to the lattice vibrations it has. Some other materials for thermal applications include copper-tungsten pseudo-alloy, and AlSiC, Dymalloy.
Size and Shape of Heat Sink: The shape and the size of the fins also help enhance heat dissipation. You can evaluate various fin shapes through modeling.
Fin Placement or Location: The arrangement of fins in a heat sink affects its cooling quality. Its configuration should be optimized to minimize the resistance of fluid movement, providing maximum air in the heat sink.
Cooling Quality: The cooling quality of the heat sinks has to be high. The aspect ratio of fins should be less to perform well. If the distance of the fin from the heat sink base is more, it will reduce the heat transfer to a cooling medium.
The function of the fins in a heat sink is to absorb heat from the electrical components of a device and sends it to the cooling medium. Besides, you should choose a cooling medium matching a PCB design and device requirements.
Heat Dissipation: Certain factors reduce the heat sink performance like a rough surface and gaps. They cause high resistance to thermal contact, thus affecting heat dissipation. You can reduce such thermal resistance by using thermal interface materials because most resistance-reduction techniques have limitations. You should consider specific things while selecting a thermal interface material, such as contact pressure, the material’s resistivity to current, and the dimensions of the surface gaps.
Attachment Methods: The attachment of the heat sink with PC Board components affects its thermal efficiency. So, you should choose the attachment technique carefully, considering the requirements of a thermal management system in terms of mechanical and thermal properties. Some popular attachment techniques include,
- Thermal tape
- Standoff spacers
- Flat spring clamps
However, these attachment methods don’t end here as there are many others. You would also see m rein the future as engineers continuously update these methods according to new technologies.
By considering the above factors, engineers can design an effective heat dissipation system, including a heat sink.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Heat Sink?
The heat sink is a device and a way to manage heat in electronic products. Electronic components like transistors release heat, and you need heat sinks to dissipate heat to cooling mediums, like water, air, or it can be oil and other elements.
Do All Electronic Devices Need Heat Sinks?
Most devices need heat sinks to dissipate heat to cooling components. However, some electronic components have a built-in ability to dissipate heat. Generally, lasers or power transistors can’t transfer heat and need a solution to manage heat. MOSFETs and IGBTs are good examples in this case. So, here you need a heat sink device.
Can PCB Survive Without Heat Sinks?
PCB components release heat which can damage them, making the electronic device slow. However, it also depends on the PCB materials as some have their heat dissipation property. Mostly you need a cooling system to enhance PCB performance.
What Are The Types Of Heat Sinks?
The basic types in this case include the active heat sink system and the passive heat sink system. Some other types are also popular, like swaged heat sinks, stamped heat sinks, machining, folded and bonded fin, single-fin sinks, and forged heat sinks.
Which Factors Influence The Heat Sink Design?
Many factors affect heat sink design, including its material, fin shape, and performance, fin size and location fin configuration, attachment technique of heat sink, and finally the thermal interface.
Devices having PCB also have heat sinks because they get hot due to high temperatures caused by different components. Heat sinks are either active or passive. You have to consider a few factors while designing the heat sinks, like its material, fin shape, and performance, fin size and location fin configuration, attachment technique of the heat sink, and finally the thermal interface. Various models help determine the heat sink parameters and geometry to provide a high-level heat transfer.
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