Thermal Interface Materials are undoubtedly a very critical aspect in the design of electronic components. It can very well be the difference between a working product versus a faulty product. The purpose of Thermal Interface Pads is to provide a preferential heat transfer path between heat generating components like integrated circuit chips (CPUs) and heat spreaders such as a heat sink.
If you take a close look at the surface of a CPU or a heat sink, the surface will never be entirely even or level. There will minuscule bumps, spaces and gaps between the two that will allow for air to pass through the components. Since air is not a good conductor of heat, these gaps have a very negative effect on the heat transfer. Thus, a Thermal Interface Material with high thermal conductivity is needed to fill those gaps to improve heat conductivity between the CPU and heatsink.
Advantages of Thermal Interface Pads Vs. Thermal Paste
- No Mess – Applying thermal paste can be a messy process. Thermal Pad installation is a simple peel and stick.
- Fills Bigger Gaps – Thermal Pads are available up to .250 in., as opposed to a thin layer of thermal paste.
- Easier Installation – Thermal Pads can be custom die-cut to the exact specification of the component for a perfect fit, every time.
- Conformity – Thermal Pads conform precisely no matter the surface to ensure no air is allowed to pass through.
Important Aspects to Consider When Choosing A Thermal Interface Material
When developing electrical components, the design and engineering teams should work closely together. It is important to determine the amount of electrical conductivity generated from the components, and the gap early in the design phase to prevent design changes down the road. This could save a lot of time and money when it comes to prototyping and testing. When using Thermal Interface Materials, common application mistakes are often made. Mistakes to avoid include:
- Avoid using Thermal Pads and Thermal Pastes together. Thermal Paste will reduce the ability of heat to pass through the Thermal Pad to the heatsink.
- Avoid stacking Thermal Pads on top of each other. This will actually decrease the material’s performance. One Thermal Pad with the correct thickness and electrical conductivity rating is all that is required to solve even the most stringent application issues.
- If you ever remove a heatsink, the Thermal Pad will need to be replaced in order to properly conform to the surface. Be sure to remove any debris that may have entered the component as well.
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