As technology continues to evolve, so too does one of its worthiest adversaries: heat. In the modern world, the rate of technological evolution means electronics need to be faster, more powerful and pack more functionality than ever before. 

These demands put added strain on electrical devices. Smaller, more powerful devices require more high-power components packed into a tighter internal space. That extensively ramps up the heat within them. Over time, this exposure to heat within the device can lead to reliability issues, degrade performance and lead to failure in components. 

It’s therefore vital that that heat is effectively managed and dissipated correctly to reduce the impact of heat on components. That’s where thermal management materials come in. Whether you’re manufacturing large outdoor installations for telecoms infrastructure, or improving the efficiency of electric car batteries, managing heat efficiently should be a key priority in your design. 

Effective heat management starts with having the right product for your applications. But knowing which thermal management material is best for your task isn’t easy. Particularly when there are so many to choose from. 

Find out more about how to select the right thermal management material for your application below. Discover the most important factors to consider when choosing a thermal material, and ensure you have the best thermal paste, pad or compound to maximize operational efficiency in your electronics every time. 

1. Heat Dissipation Requirements

Thermal dissipation requirements vary within devices, depending on the heat they generate and the impact this can have on components present.

If your application requires the dissipation of a high volume of heat, particularly when working with processors, for example, you need a high-performance thermal management material. Choosing a product with high thermal performance and low thermal resistance means being able to quickly move large amounts of heat away from components before it causes damage or drops in performance.

Applications that would typically require a high level of thermal performance for dissipating heat between heat sinks and surfaces include:

  • Central processing units (CPU)
  • Graphics processing units (GPU)
  • Power converter 
  • Printed circuit boards (PCB)
  • Drive processors
  • Application specific integrated circuits (ASIC)

2. Adhesive Qualities

In electronic manufacturing, components have traditionally been joined using internal clips and screws. This is still the case in many devices to this day. But for some applications, products that combine thermal performance with adhesive qualities are preferable. 

Thermal adhesives allow you to dissipate heat effectively while removing the need for screws and clips during the assembly process. This is particularly useful when assembling devices that need to be thinner and lighter without compromising on functionality and power. Using adhesives allows you to build high-powered, lightning-fast tech that’s feather-light. 

Thermally conductive adhesives are best utilized when you want to minimize bondlines and make the most of a small space within your device’s construction.

Thermal adhesives are best used for applications such as: 

  • Bonding a GPU to a heat sink
  • Bonding heat spreaders and motor control units
  • Bonding automotive electronic PCB
  • High-end computer assembly

Thermally conductive adhesives come in a range of formats. Choose from:

  • Thermal tapes
  • Thermal liquids
  • Thermal films

3. Solid or Liquid

Defining the required state of your thermal product is important for any manufacturing task in electronics. 

Solid thermal management products tend to absorb heat better, giving a stronger level of thermal performance for your device. This is particularly important in applications such as:

  • Attaching a heat sink to a GPU or PCB 
  • Bonding a large area or complex parts
  • Hard drive and memory cooling
  • Heat pipe assemblies
  • IGBT modules

You might also choose to deploy solid thermal materials in applications where mess is a consideration. If you don’t want a product that flows into gaps, a solid-state product can be easier to work with and control. 

On the other hand, liquid thermal products can help with some of the industry’s biggest challenges – including smaller device footprints and process automation. 

They help optimize dissipation performance without impacting bondline thickness, flowing into gaps without the need for bulkier solutions. 

They can also be utilized in automated processes, being dispensed in custom volumes to suit a wider range of applications and improve manufacturing efficiency. Choose liquid thermal products for tasks such as:

  • Automotive electronics (ADAS, HEV, NEV, batteries, ECU)
  • Between semiconductors and heat sinks
  • Telecoms
  • Computers and peripherals

For solid thermal products, your ideal product may include:

If you need a thermal liquid to ensure minimal bondline, select from our range of products including:

4. Gap Size

One of the main roles of thermal materials is to eliminate air gaps within devices. These gaps can perpetuate inefficient heat dissipation and reduce your ability to keep devices cool enough. 

Eliminating these gaps stops the flow of hot air through the device. 

But gaps come in all shapes and sizes. So, you must have the right product to fill them effectively. Choosing one designed for a smaller gap than you need to fill can lead to a less efficient thermal performance. Meanwhile, utilizing a thermal material designed to fill a larger gap could potentially put undue stress on components during and after assembly. 

For devices with smaller gaps of 0.5mm or less, choose from products including:

If your devices have larger air gaps (greater than 0.5mm), opt for alternative products, including:

5. Gap Topography

There’s more to effectively filling a gap than just its size. They also come with diverse topographies. Depending on the type of device being manufactured, a mix of different components, heat sinks and other elements can create a vastly changing surface with a variety of levels. 

In these cases, you need heat dissipation materials that can flow into varied gaps on a range of levels. Or soft solutions with the ability to conform without putting added stress on the components they work around offer an effective solution. 

For applications with rough, uneven or difficult topographies, choose from the range of Henkel products, including:

6. Component Stress Level

Different components can withstand varying levels of stress. While some sturdier components take on high pressure to ensure strong thermal performance, others are a bit more delicate. 

The last thing you want in an ultra-powerful, high-end device is components failing, not due to heat, but because your thermal solutions applied too much weight or pressure on them. 

Applications that require low component stress to reduce the risk of damage can include:

  • Devices demanding low assembly pressure
  • Automotive electronics (ADAS, HEV, NEV, batteries, ECU)
  • CPU construction
  • Telecoms 
  • Computers and peripherals

For these types of assembly, choose products including:

Having the right thermal management material is important to ensure your applications effectively deal with the heat that comes with performance and high power. For more help selecting the perfect Henkel solution for your needs, contact an expert below. 

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