Printed circuit boards or PCBs are an integral part of almost all electronic and electrical devices, need to be designed, manufactured, and assembled with care and precision. Several factors must be considered that will boost the performance of PCBA and in turn the final product. One factor is heat dissipation, which prevents overheating and helps the board to cool fast. The increasingly complex designs and multiple components mounted on the board may trigger PCB heating and impact its performance. Hence, PCB thermal management is a major factor of the design. There must be provisions in place in the design so that excess heat can escape. This post discusses some PCB thermal management techniques one can use, their benefits, and more.

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Important PCB Thermal Management Tips

Once the current flows though the board, most components generate heat. The excess heat needs to be removed from the board as it would overheat and may damage some components. It may even cause shorting. Thermal management of these boards is crucial. Here are some useful pointers in this regard:

  • Proper thermal management starts at the design stage. PCB designers must address factors like the type of components used, operating environment, and the operating and storage temperature ranges of the boards to incorporate effective thermal management. Suntronic offers inspection and prototyping to ensure proper design.
  • Almost everything on the board including the components, copper traces, wires, and vias among others generate heat, so proper placement and connections are important.
  • To allow heat dissipation, it is important to study components and their heat dissipation capabilities, their overall sizes and dimensions, PCB layout, other materials and coatings used, component placement, and heat sink areas. Accordingly, a cooling mechanism, such as a fan, needs to be incorporated.
  • In the case of PCBs with limited components and wiring, natural convection cooling is sufficient.
  • However, nowadays, boards with intricate designs and complex features require heat sinks, fans, outlet pipes, and so on to remove the excess heat.
  • Heat sinks should be designed in such a way that heat flows through thermally resistant materials on the board, so that it is removed in a seamless manner. If there are any heat sensitive elements in between, they become a hindrance for the heat flow and may even be damaged due to their reaction with heat.
  • Here, the thickness, length, and cross sectional area of the material or component are also crucial considerations as thermal resistance is directly affected by these three factors aside from thermal conductivity.
  • Thermal resistance can be reduced by decreasing the thickness of the board, adding heat resistant vias, and facilitating horizontal heat conduction through copper foils. Copper foils facilitate heat dissipation.
  • As mentioned, choosing the right components with thermal resistance is also important. Designers must refer to the thermal rating and other properties mentioned on the data sheet provided by the component manufacturer. This must be compared with the application requirement and compatibility with other components. All these aspects together will help ensure the right components are suitable for the application to help with heat dissipation.
  • The position and placement of components on the board is an important aspect in thermal management. Components with good heat dissipation capabilities must be placed close to the heat sinks. Also, while the board may be packed with mounted components, designers must leave some space to allow ventilation and circulation of air.
  • The temperature on the board varies at each location, and this is largely due to the heat present there as well as the component types. While it may be challenging to have equal heat or temperature conditions throughout the board, components must be placed evenly as much as possible. For instance, some high power components must be placed along with low power ones, so that the heat is not concentrated in a single area on the board.
  • Always mount sensitive components such as integrated circuits and transistors in low-temperature locations on the board.
  • A PCB assembly services provider must test these boards for heat dissipation and removal. For this, there are various testing & inspection techniques used. These tests can be performed by creating simulated environments. This will help designers and engineers analyze the properties and heat related behavior or various components as well as the way in which heat is generated and flown through the circuit.

If you are a manufacturer of electrical or mechanical products which require complex PCBA for their functioning, ensure you partner with an experienced PCB assembly services provider. They must have experience in making miniature-sized boards with complex design and several components. Also, they must understand your requirements well. This is because your PCBA directly impacts the functioning of the product.

Suntronic Inc. has decades of experience in PCB design and manufacturing and offers intricate and small-sized boards based on client requirements. The company also offers prototyping, testing, and inspection services to check the overall design, functionalities, heat dissipation, and so on.