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The Need for Thermal Management with Heat Sinks

December 10, 2020


Electronic devices need a way to pull the heat away quickly so there isn’t damage done to the device. Between the silicon and heat spreader a thermally conductive material needs to be present to reduce thermal interface resistance. No matter how smooth a surface is there are some irregularities present. It can be at a micro or macro level. The irregularities that occur between the two surfaces can lead to a higher thermal interface resistance. To help remove and dissipate the heat, heat spreaders and heat sinks work together with a thermal management material to pull the heat away. The heat spreader is usually attached to silicone and spreads the heat over a large area. The heat sink performs a little differently by dispersing the heat through multiple fins.

 Thermal Pads vs. Thermal Paste for Heat Sinks

Pros of GreaseCons of Grease
ThinNo adhesion
Low costMechanical attachment necessary
Good wettingSilicone contamination

There are a few different materials that be can used to help mitigate heat. Two of the choices are thermal pads and thermal paste. Adhesive backed thermal pad material is can be used to pull the heat away from a device. If a thermal paste is chosen to mitigate the heat then a clip, screw or device for compression must be used to hold the surfaces together. Material choice is dependent on a couple areas– one being if the device is low power or high power.  Material selection for high power applications must include appropriate temperature resistance for long term elastomeric performance.

Pros of PadsCons of Pads
SoftLight adhesion
Gap fillingMechanical attachment necessary
Greater thicknessCost due to thickness


3M & PGC Working Together to Provide Heat Sink Thermal Management

PGC’s partnership with 3M gives us an advantage that works in your favor. Our engineers work closely with 3M to get the latest updates on material performance. We work with you to help choose the best material that may solve your thermal management issues. PGC’s engineers are ready to help! Contact us today.