Circuit Design Cooling Fan

IC Thermal Management: Part 1

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IC Thermal Management: Part 1

[Updated February 9, 2018]

Mechanical Engineering Related to Integrated Circuit Design

IC Thermal Management Part 1 is Glew Engineering’s next blog on this topic.  System manufacturers may not fully exploit all the available options for heat transfer. Glew Engineering can help with taking the next step in delivering a more satisfying user experience and assist with making a transition to an improved thermal management system.  Integrated circuit design and ASIC design involve mechanical engineering considerations, such as heat transfer, to allow the cooling of the semiconductors.  Thermal management is important not only in IC and ASICS, but also in LED and solar concentrators.

Once we have reliable temperature measurements (and if not, check out our last week’s entry), throttling back voltages and operating frequencies when things get hot is a standard practice implemented at chip level. From a system perspective, what other possible advantages would this present to a system builder?

A practical approach is to tie cooling fan rotation speed to measured temperatures. Constructing optimum fan policy must consider various conflicting requirements, such as maximum allowed operating temperature and fan acoustics. In addition, maximum power of logic processing units may exceed system thermal dissipation capability: such designs are becoming more common with thinner compute form-factors. This further delineates an importance of proper cooling response.

More capability can be added with feedback control of fan rotational speed. This approach has a potential of becoming a valuable building block in delivering well balanced system design but it has its own challenges. While feedback controllers are available from several manufacturers they should properly be integrated within the system design to ensure control stability under all operating conditions. (Fig. 1)


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Fig. 1


Considerations must also be given to
– Reliability at both chip and board level connections
– Fan acoustic noise
– Exhaust air and enclosure temperature
– Fan longevity
– Battery life

Owing to these factors, system manufacturers may not fully exploit all the available options. We can help with taking the next step in delivering a more satisfying user experience and assist with making a transition to an improved thermal management system.

Finite element analysis (FEA) and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) can be used in IC thermal management.  These techniques can help the engineer to maximize the cooling efficiency by careful consideration of heatsinks, and mechanical shrouding to properly direct the airflow.

Let the Glew Engineering team help with your IC thermal management and electronics thermal management problems.  Our engineering consulting can help you to get the project finished on time and create a more reliable product.


Glew Engineering Consulting, Inc.
240 Pamela Drive
Mountain View,  CA  94040


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