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R-tek’s FAQ section features the most frequently asked questions from product designers, engineers and scientists. It’s just another way we try to reach out and assist our customers. You’ll find useful information here, which provides answers to the most common questions we receive about our thermal products, equipment and services. You’ll also find many other topics covered in our white paper section. We provide updated technical data from our partners, as well as, answers to your “Frequently Asked Questions” below. Please visit us regularly and submit any questions you find pertinent. Search our library and if you are not finding answers, please feel free to contact us.

Spotlight / Technical Q&A

For your convenience, you’ll find a number of “frequently asked” technical questions answered below. Not what you’re looking for, call us direct +1 952 322 7059 or email us at support@rtekthermal.com.

Q: What is thermal resistance and how does it relate to thermal interface materials?

Thermal resistance describes the heat conducting performance of a stack of one or more materials, and is defined by the temperature difference between both sides of the stack. Where there is lower thermal resistance there is better heat transfer.

formula thermal resistance

Thermal interface materials are used to improve the heat transfer from electronic components to heatsinks. Generally speaking, TIMs are better heat conductors than air. By replacing the insulating air gaps resulting from the inherent (microscale) roughness of the surface, TIMs are able to improve the heat flow between the electronic component and heat sink. The overall thermal resistance the heat flow between the electronic component and heat sink. The overall thermal resistance between the joining partners depends principally on:

  • Thermal conductivity (TC) of the thermal interface material
  • Bond line thickness (BLT), which is the amount of thermal interface material used between the joining partners
  • Contact resistance between different types of material at contacting interfaces (electronic component, TIM, heat sink)

Q: How can I reduce thermal resistance for better heat transfer?

Three principal ways to improve heat transfer are:

  • Increase the thermal conductivity of the TIM
  • Reduce BLT between the electronic component and heat sink
  • Reduce contact resistance by increasing the mounting pressure for solid TIMs or use a liquid-dispensed TIM

Q: How does the bond line thickness affect thermal performance?

In general, lower bond lines reduce the length the heat must travel to be removed from the heat source. Therefore, a thin bond line is preferred over a thick one to reduce thermal resistance. The BLT is determined by the part design, and depends mainly on the tolerances of the substrate and assembly stack. In general:

  • BLT ranges for adhesives: 170 μm (KL95) to 300 μm (KL90 and KL91)
  • Gap Filler Liquids: 40 μm (GFL 3020) to 5 mm (GFL 3020, 3025, 3030, 3040) 
  • Gap Filler: 0,5 mm up to 5 mm (All Softtherm)
  • Thermal Tapes: 0,125 mm up to 0,5 mm (All Keratherm) 

Q: How do particle size and pressure help achieve the right bond line thickness?

Additional constraints, such as part design or electrical insulation, can require a higher BLT. To achieve precise bond line thickness during production, glass beads (GFL 3021 GJ) with precise sizes (e.g. 250 μm) can be added to increase the minimum achievable BLT. In addition, a pressure bond line thickness test can be performed to better understand assembly conditions. 

Q: How does contact resistance affect thermal performance?

Contact resistance generally depends on the TIM’s ability to conform to the surface of the heat source and heat sink. A higher contact resistance typically leads to less heat transfer. For a solid material (e.g. foil or cured silicone sheet), contact resistance can be improved by using more pressure on the layer stack. Please consider the maximum compression of 30%.

battery module 1

For materials that are liquid (KP12, 97, 98 and 99) or liquid dispensed and then cured (GFLs), the TIM conforms easily without high pressure, helping to limit stress on the electronic components.

battery module 2

Q: What types of pumps can be used to dispense thermal interface materials?

Due to the heavily filled, highly abrasive nature of TIMs, processing of these materials requires specialized equipment for transferring and dosing. 

Because certain fillers have a high hardness, not all pumps can be used. 

Pump type that dispense TIMs particularly well include piston pumps and positive displacement pumps or screw pumps. Piston pumps forward materials through the pump with an up/down movement to provide positive displacement. This creates little to no friction of the TIM during dispensing, which helps minimize wear and tear on the equipment.

Screw pumps, also known as progressive cavity pumps, dispense material by rotating a screw. This action also creates little to no friction while dispensing TIMs, helping to reduce equipment wear. These pumps do not use rubber seals (as do regular pumps) that can become damaged by the abrasiveness of the material being dispensed – further reducing potential wear points. 

Q: How do I choose the right dispensing pattern for my application?

The least complex dispense pattern able to achieve the required performance is the best. More complex dispensing patterns can take longer to produce, and in turn decrease overall cycle time. 

Each application is unique. There is no set standard for where a particular pattern should be used. Many factors need to be considered when trying to determine the ideal pattern for your application. Kerafol’s technical service team can help you establish what material is best for your application, assist you in choosing the correct dispensing equipment to partner with your material, as well as suggest the optimal dispensing pattern to help achieve the desired cycle time for your individual application.

dispensing patterns

Q: How do I choose the right dispensing needle (cone, straight, particle size)?

Because there are so many types of fluids with different properties to accommodate different application requirements, it is important to know which type of dispensing needle is right for your specific application. Using the wrong dispensing needle can lead to broken machinery and downtime, poor part quality and an inefficient production process.

The most common dispensing needle is the general-purpose tip. This needle can dispense nearly any kind of TIM; however, this does not mean that it is the best choice for your material or your application. 

A good rule of thumb is that your needle diameter opening should be at least 7 to 10 times larger than the largest particle in the material (e.g. 80 μm max particle size multiplied times 10 means needle diameter needs to be at least 800 μm). 

Tapered tips are generally the best type of tip to use for thicker viscosity fluids because they promote flow and help dispense a greater number of precise, consistent fluid deposits in the shortest amount of time. Tapered tips allow you to lower the pressure on your pneumatic fluid dispenser. This is important when dispensing filled materials, because high pressure can cause filled materials to separate in the syringe barrel. Using a tapered tip when dispensing thick fluids can help operators apply deposits faster helping to improve productivity in your dispensing process.

Q: How do I mix potting materials (GFL 1800 SL) to ensure consistent material quality?

Due to low viscosity and the density difference between the polymer and the filler (polymer 1g/cm³ vs. filler 4g/cm³ AI2O3), potting materials can separate over time, allowing the filler to settle to the bottom of the container. To ensure the potting material delivers optimal performance, it is important to fully mix potting materials before use to guarantee a homogenous material. Mixing procedures include spatula mixing, drill mixing, shaking and rotational mixing. Each material has recommended procedures.

For materials that are liquid (KP12, 97, 98 and 99) or liquid dispensed and then cured (GFLs), the TIM conforms easily without high pressure, helping to limit stress on the electronic components.

Q: Do I need to degas materials before application?

Because silicone can absorb air, degassing low viscosity thermal materials in a vacuum mixer is recommended before application. Otherwise, air may remain in the cured silicone and can cause potential issues, including visible defects and dielectric breakdown. It is important to degas all low viscosity materials inside the vacuum mixer, not just the top layer.

Q: How does thawing time affect performance?

It is extremely important to thaw silicone that has been stored in a refrigerator at 7°C (44°F) or below before opening it. Warming up the silicone to room temperature 22°C (71.6°F) can take up to 24 hours depending on the packaging and amount of material. If you do not warm up the silicone and open it before it reaches room temperature, ambient humidity will immediately infiltrate the silicone and bubbles can form during vulcanization at higher temperatures. This may lead to poor adhesion performance.

Q: Do I need to prepare the surface or part to get maximum adhesive performance?

The performance of any adhesive is highly dependent on proper surface preparation. When preparing a surface for bonding, make sure that it is clean. Contaminants can weaken a bond. Make sure that the surface is dry. A wet surface poses the same problems as a dirty one. Effective solvent cleaning substances are isopropyl alcohol for plastics, and MEK for metals, but compatibility to the part needs to be verified beforehand.

Q: What is the Thixotropic Index (TI) and why is it important?

The Thixotropic Index (TI) is a ratio of a material’s viscosity at two different speeds. It is obtained by taking measurements at low and high shear rate. Because thixotropic materials drop in viscosity as shear stress increases, the TI value for a thermal interface material indicates the material’s ability to hold its shape when exposed to stresses, such as gravity. A high TI indicates that a thermal interface material will resist sagging or slumping out of place after dispensing. 

It is critical to thermal interface performance that it remains where it is applied. A thermal interface material cannot dissipate heat from a component if it does not stay in contact with that component.

Q: How important is the mix ratio for two-part TIM materials?

Mix ratio is a term used to describe the amount of each material to be used in a two-component system. This ratio is usually given in the weight of each material. If the mixture rate of each material is off from the specified ratio, the hardness of the cured material can change. 

For silicone based two-component systems, a slightly deviation of the 1:1 mixing ratio is no problem, in contrast to silicone free systems.

Q: What is the curing process?

When the material is mixed by the mixing tube, the curing process starts. The viscosity is stable for the first minutes and at a certain time, the viscosity increases very quickly. When the viscosity is too high it makes no sense to dispense it any more, this can be controlled by the pressure of the machine. If the plant has a down time, only the mixing tube has to be replaced. Most of the dispensing plants have pot time control and will dispense into a collection bucket so you don´t have to replace the mixing tube in that case.

  • Pot time: time for processing of the material in the dispensing plant (Standard: 20 minutes)
  • Handling time: Even if the viscosity of the material gets higher, the mounting process can be still done. But at a certain viscosity the material can’t be spread as in the beginning. That’s why there is a limit in handling time, it is in range of 50 minutes for the standard material
  • Curing time (95%) -> 60 minutes for standard material
  • Curing rest period is twice of the curing time
chart curing process