Multinational Telecom OEM Improves Heat Sink Attachment System to Preserve Quality of 4G Equipment

A telecommunications OEM had problems with thermal adhesive tape reliably attaching heat sinks to hot DSP chips in their new ATCA board for a 4G wireless application. ATS’s superGRIP™ heat sink clip with maxiFLOW™ heat sink solved these problems.

Norwood, MA, May 20, 2011 --( A leading telecommunications equipment OEM’s original plan for cooling the DSP chips on their new densely packed ATCA board for 4G wireless called for heat sinks to be attached with double-sided thermally conductive adhesive tape. This offered a low cost, easily applied solution, but physical testing later showed that the heat sinks could fall off in some conditions. The consequences, in addition to a chip exceeding its safe operating temperature, could be loose metal heat sinks in the ATCA enclosure. This could lead to physical and electrical damage on other parts of the board. If deployed in a central office, a board failure could mean an outage for mobile phone users.

Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc., ATS, was consulted for an alternative heat sink clip solution – one that would provide high reliability attachment along with the needed cooling performance in the narrow, low airflow conditions.

ATS engineers performed CFD using CF Design from Autodesk’s Blue Ridge Numerics. Thermal analysis was performed using laboratory airflow studies to characterize the available cooling air on the ATCA board under normal working conditions. This data was used in calculating the size, shape and positioning of an off the shelf maxiFLOW™ heat sink. The maxiFLOW™ heat sink features a low profile, spread fin array that maximizes surface area for more effective convection (air) cooling to reduce the die temperature of the DSP. The cooling performance would help preserve the chip performance and prolong its working life.

Most importantly for the OEM, the ATS heat sink could be attached using the proven superGRIP™ heat sink clip. The two-part superGRIP™ attachment system features a plastic frame clip that fastens securely around the perimeter of a component, and a metal spring clip that slips through a heat sink’s fin field and locks securely to both ends of the plastic frame. The resulting superGRIP™ assembly applies steady, firm pressure to the component throughout the product lifecycle, improving long-term reliability. In addition, superGRIP™ enables the use of phase change thermal interface material, further increasing the thermal performance.

The ATS heat sink and attachment system solution provided high reliability and performance, and was within the production budget for the new ATCA board.

With multiple, fast-running components the total power dissipation of a PCB is often several hundred watts. ATS provides thermal design and characterization of PCBs to determine the optimal placement of components to enhance the cooling effects of natural or forced airflow, or to minimize the size, number and cost or heat sinks, fan sinks, thermal vias and other mechanical cooling system. ATS thermal engineers use both analytical and computational design methods, along with visualization tests to enhance airflow across a PCB so that all components are effectively cooled.

To see how ATS's superGRIP™ technology works, see their video at or visit our web site at or email us at

Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.
Andrea Koss