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John O | November 2018

Do more efficient heat sinks have to be costlier - rethinking thermal design from system perspective

By Josh Perry, Editor


A recent article from Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. (ATS), a thermal engineering company based in Norwood, Mass., explores the question of whether or not it is worth paying more for a higher-efficiency heat sink, which is smaller and lighter, rather than a heavier, casted or extruded heat sink that is just good enough.


This article discusses whether it is cost-effective to save on individual heat sink costs rather than looking at thermal management from a system level.
(Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)


“In most cases, the single piece part price is the main driver as to why engineers and purchasers stay with lesser effective solutions,” the article noted. “This is generally because they believe that they are saving money for the company in the long-run.”


The question that the article seeks to answer is whether or not that is actually true. As the article explained, focusing solely on the thermal performance of a heat sink ignores factors such as airflow performance, weight, spatial requirements, and its effect on other components within the system.


If a larger heat sink is chosen for the first component to receive airflow in a system, then it could limit the amount of air that downstream components receive. This leads to either larger heat sinks downstream or more powerful fans, which both come with their own costs.


“However, if we would have started from a system level point of view instead of concentrating on a single heat sink, we would have studied the flow field and the interaction between the heat sink and the flow more closely, and we could have arrived at a better solution,” the article said.


The article also discusses the manufacturing issues that come from larger heat sinks, such as the forged heat sinks created for cooling LED applications. Material and energy costs have to be taken into account when examining the overall impact of the design.


“Optimizing your thermal design by optimizing around the heat sink could in some cases avoid the use of a fan at all, making up for the extra costs of a more sophisticated heat sink,” the article continued. “The use of more efficient cooling solutions will lead to a more optimized overall thermal design of the system, influencing directly the thermally and thermo-mechanically related reliability issues of the overall system.”


It added, “In times long gone by, it was standard practice that project leaders got bonuses for buying parts as cheap as possible. Needless to say, such an attitude cannot survive in a world where end-users buy total systems, not a collection of parts.”


Read the full article at https://www.qats.com/cms/2018/11/07/are-more-efficient-heat-sinks-really-costlier.

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