Tag Archives: Digi-Key

Power Brick: #GoldStandard Heat Sinks for DC/DC Converters

Power Brick

ATS Power Brick heat sinks are the #GoldStandard for cooling eighth, quarter, half, and full brick DC/DC power converters. (Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. (ATS) has a line of Power Brick heat sinks (available through Digi-Key Electronics and Arrow) that are specially designed to cool eighth-, quarter-, half-, and full-sized DC to DC power converters and power modules. Power Brick heat sinks feature ATS’ patented maxiFLOW™ design, which reduces the air pressure drop and provides greater surface area for more effective convection cooling.

Power Brick heat sinks are a critical component for the optimal thermal management of electronic devices because DC/DC power converters are used in many applications and across a number of industries, including communications, health care, computing, and more.

DC/DC converters are electronic circuits that convert direct current (DC) from one voltage to another. Converters protect electronic devices from power sources that are too strong or step up the level of the system input power to ensure it runs properly. The process works by way of a switching element that turns the initial DC signal into a square wave, which is alternating current (AC), and then passes it through a second filter that converts it back to DC at the necessary voltage.

As explained in an article on MaximIntegrated.com, “Switching power supplies offer higher efficiency than traditional linear power supplies. They can step-up, step-down, and invert. Some designs can isolate output voltage from the input.”

When converting electrical input to the proper voltage, DC/DC converters operate at a specified efficiency level, with some energy lost to heat. ATS Power Brick heat sinks provide the necessary step of dissipating that heat away from the converter to lower the junction temperature. This will optimize the performance of the component and ensure the longevity of the converter.

Anodization boosts Power Brick heat transfer capability

The pleasing gold color that has made Power Brick one of the most popular lines of heat sinks for DC/DC converters stems from the anodization process that ATS uses for its heat sinks. Anodization, as noted in an earlier blog post on this site, “changes the microscopic texture of a metal, making the surface durable, corrosion- and weather-resistant.”

Surface anodization works by turning the metal into the anode (positive electrode) of an electrolytic circuit. By passing an electric current through an acidic electrolytic solution, hydrogen is released at the cathode (negative electrode) and oxygen is released at the anode. The oxygen on the surface of the metal anode forms a deposit of metal oxide of varying thickness – anywhere from 1.8-25 microns.

The previous article explained, “The advantages of surface anodizing are the dielectric isolation of the cooling components from their electronics environment, and the significant increase in their surface emissivity.”

The emissivity coefficient of an anodized surface is typically 0.83-0.86, which is a significant boost from the standard coefficient of aluminum (0.04-0.06). By increasing the emissivity of the metal, there is also a significant enhancement of the metal’s radiant heat transfer coefficient.

The eye-catching gold color of ATS Power Brick heat sinks is added during the anodization process.

maxiFLOW™ design gives Power Brick an edge

Anodization of heat sinks is a standard practice to ensure that the metal components can withstand the rigors of dissipating heat from high-powered components. The feature that gives an ATS Power Brick heat sink the significant edge on its competitors is its patented maxiFLOW™ fin geometry, which has higher thermal performance for the physical volume it occupies compared to other heat sink designs.

maxiFLOW™ design is a low-profile, spread-fin array, which offers greater surface area for convection cooling. While it offers more surface area, it does not require additional space within the electronics package. This is an important feature in today’s electronics devices, which have an ever-increasing component density and in which space is always at a premium. This is an especially important feature for designers that want to cool DC/DC converters but are limited in the amount of available room.

Independent testing at Northeastern University of various heat sink designs demonstrated that maxiFLOW™ had the lowest thermal resistance for natural and forced convection, particularly when air flow velocity was below two meters per second. For heat sinks with the same base dimensions and fin height, maxiFLOW™ performed the best.

Testing has demonstrated that maxiFLOW™ can produce 20 percent lower junction temperatures and 40 percent lower thermal resistance than other heat sink designs. Utilizing maxiFLOW™ allows ATS Power Brick heat sinks to meet the industry standard base plate temperature of 100°C.
For more information about maxiFLOW™, watch the video below:

Power Brick meets industry standards

In the DC/DC market, there are a number of standard footprints that manufacturers use to offer flexibility for designers in choosing a vendor and in laying out a PCB. ATS has addressed the industry standard footprints with its Power Brick heat sinks. This will facilitate the use of the heat sinks for thermal management.

By optimizing the thermal management and meeting industry standards, Power Brick heat sinks can provide cost savings and reduce MTBF. Rather than having to over-design a system or a layout, engineers can turn to Power Brick as a thermal solution.

It is not only the industry standard footprints that Power Brick heat sinks have matched but also the standard hole patterns, which meet the standards set by the Distributed-power Open Systems Alliance (DOSA) to make assembly easy. The three millimeter holes (and soon 3.5 mm) match up to sizes commonly used in power brick manufacturing to ensure the proper connection for the heat sink (to avoid increasing the thermal resistance) and also to avoid using additional space in the tight confines of a PCB.

For the above reasons, Power Brick heat sinks are the “gold standard” for cooling DC/DC converters. Learn more in the video below:

For more information about Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. thermal management consulting and design services, visit www.qats.com or contact ATS at 781.769.2800 or ats-hq@qats.com.


i http://uk.rs-online.com/web/generalDisplay.html?file=automation/dc-converters-overview&id=infozone
ii https://www.maximintegrated.com/en/app-notes/index.mvp/id/2031
iii https://www.qats.com/cms/2010/11/09/how-heat-sink-anondization-improves-thermal-performance-part-1-of-2/
iv https://www.qats.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Qpedia_Oct08_How-Air-Velocity-Affects-HS-Performance.pdf

Industry Tips for Placing DC/DC Converters on PCB

DC/DC Converters

This article outlines industry tips and suggestions about placing DC/DC power converters on a PCB with other components. (Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

The design of a printed circuit board (PCB) that includes isolated DC to DC power converters is an important consideration to ensure the optimal performance of a system. Engineers have to be concerned with parasitic impedance and capacitance, the effects of the electromagnetic field created by the power converter on nearby components, as well as voltage accuracy, environmental noise reduction, and limiting radiated electro-magnetic interference (EMI).

This electromagnetic effect can cause significant voltage drops and improper design of a PCB could force engineers to make potentially costly changes (in terms of design time and budget), such as additional circuitry or upgrades to external components like power switches and capacitors.(i)

There are many advantages to using DC/DC converters and engineers adding these power bricks to a PCB do not have to be experts on power supply design, since the Distributed-power Open Systems Alliance (DOSA) has defined the industry standards for footprints and pinouts. Engineers know ahead of time how much space to dedicate and how the converter will be connected to the board.(ii)

“The brick typically comprises all the components (apart from filter circuits) required for a switching power supply including MOSFET switches, energy storage components, and switching controller,” writes Steven Keeping of Electronic Products on DigiKey.com. “By selecting a brick, an engineer does not have to worry about the intricacies of switching power supply design. The supplier has done all the work to ensure the unit operates optimally.”

While much of the work has been done by the manufacturer of the DC/DC converter to ensure its proper function, the engineer designing the system still has to consider the converter’s placement on a board carefully.

Parasitic Resistance, Impedance, and Capacitance

The most prominent issue that DC/DC converters can cause on a PCB is parasitic resistance, capacitance, and impedance. The power module creates an electromagnetic field that could disrupt the performance of components within its boundaries. As noted above, this could cause an unwanted voltage drop for the system and force more external power to be pushed through the converter.

According to a report published by members of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) from Georgia Tech University, “Short and wide routing traces have lower parasitic resistances and inductances and therefore superimpose less ill-fated effects to the system. As a result, to reduce the parasitic resistance and inductance, the first rule in PCB layout is to place connected power components as close as possible and in a way that their interconnection lengths are minimal.”(iii)

An article on DigiKey.com adds, “The signal traces should not be routed underneath the module, unless they are sandwiched between ground planes, to avoid noise coupling. Similarly, to prevent any coupling, no component should be placed under the module.”(iv)

The IEEE report continued, “Ground planes are effectively close high-speed return paths for average forward signal paths, but arbitrarily increasing the ground plane may not necessarily reach critical nodes. In PCB technologies with more than two layers, middle layers are normally dedicated to ground planes, thereby decreasing their distance to high-current forward switching paths.”

It also recommended using parallel connections for the supply ground, load ground, and measurement instrument’s ground rather than series connectors that are potentially unreliable and that can add impedance between nodes. The report stated, “Undesired noise and high temperature gradients across the PCB usually result when problems with supply ground connections exist.”

DC/DC converters regulate the voltage supply to the system from external power supplies, which makes accuracy a critical component of its performance. In order to ensure the optimal accuracy, it is recommended that the feedback sense terminal is connected as close to the load as possible. It is this voltage that will be converted.

(Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

Radiated Electromagnetic Interference

Another major concern for placing a DC/DC converter on a PCB is the amount of radiated electromagnetic interference (EMI) is emitted from the module. This is limited by industry standards (CISPR in Europe and FCC in the U.S.) but, as converters work by converting input voltage to AC before converting it back to DC at the correct voltage, there is an electromagnetic field that is produced when the converter is in use.

To minimize the effects of this EMI, “High-frequency nodes should be as short as possible. The metal paths act as antennas and their frequency range is directly proportional to their length. High frequency signal-return paths should be as close as possible to their respective forward paths. The two traces will therefore generate equal but opposite magnetic fields, canceling each other and hence reducing radiated EMI.”(v)

Tim Hegarty, writing for EDN Network, said, “A passive shield layer is established by placing a ground plane as close as possible to the switching loop by using a minimum dielectric thickness. The horizontal current flow on the top layer sets up a vertical flux pattern. The resulting magnetic field induces a current, opposite in direction to the power loop, in the shield layer.

“By Lenz’s Law, the current in the shield layer generates a magnetic field to counteract the original power loop’s magnetic field. The result is an H-field self-cancellation that amounts to lower parasitic inductance, reduced switch-node voltage overshoot, and enhanced suppression of EMI. Having an uninterrupted, continuous shield plane on layer 2 underneath and at closest proximity to the power loop offers the best performance.”(vi)

On DigiKey.com, Steve Taranovich of Electronic Products Magazine wrote, “The input of a DC/DC power module is a constant power at low frequencies. As the voltage decreases, current increases. This will present negative impedance at the input source. The converter will oscillate when the combination of the input filter’s impedance and the power module impedance becomes negative, causing a mismatch to occur. One way to prevent this is to ensure that the output impedance of the filter is much smaller than the input impedance of the power module at all frequencies.”(vii)

Another issue related to electromagnetic field is ground bounce, which is produced by changing magnetic flux due to the fast-changing currents. One of the solutions to prevent this problem, which could cause noise in video and audio devices, is to ensure that “true ground” is at the low end of the load and that all the other points are part of the ground return. In a two-layer PCB, Jeff Barrow of Analog.com also suggests, “A well-planned cut in the ground plane will constrain the return current to a minimum loop area and greatly reduce the bounce. Any residual bounce voltage that is developed in the cut return line is isolated from the general ground plane.”(viii)


Industry standard DC/DC converters have made adding a power supply to a PCB easier for engineers in terms of known sizes and connections. The footprint of a power module is known, but engineers still have important considerations to make before deciding where it should be placed. Keeping in mind the effects of parasitic impedance, capacitance, and resistance and ensuring that the electromagnetic interference will not surpass industry standards or affect other components on the board will ensure optimal performance of the system as a whole.

Using the design tips that are listed here, engineers are well on their way to creating an effective PCB layout with a DC/DC converter. Using Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. (ATS) Power Brick heat sinks will ensure the proper thermal management of the converters and of the board.
Learn more about Power Brick heat sinks at https://www.qats.com/eShop.aspx?productGroup=0&subGroup=2&q=Power%20Brick.

For more information about Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. thermal management consulting and design services, visit www.qats.com or contact ATS at 781.769.2800 or ats-hq@qats.com.


i http://rincon-mora.gatech.edu/research/pcb.pdf
ii http://www.digikey.com/en/articles/techzone/2012/dec/an-introduction-to-board-mounted-dcdc-converter-bricks
iii http://rincon-mora.gatech.edu/research/pcb.pdf
iv http://www.digikey.com/en/articles/techzone/2012/jul/proper-pcb-layout-minimizes-noise-coupling-for-point-of-load-converter-modules
v http://rincon-mora.gatech.edu/research/pcb.pdf
vi http://www.edn.com/design/power-management/4439749/3/DC-DC-converter-PCB-layout–Part-2
vii http://www.digikey.com/en/articles/techzone/2011/dec/conducted-and-radiated-emissions-reduction-techniques-for-power-modules
viii https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e3bb/49a1403b2da7d3d77e7024f7be208ee3a732.pdf

Q&A: ATS Thermal Engineer Sridevi Iyengar

Sridevi Iyengar

ATS thermal and field application engineer Sridevi Iyengar does CFD modeling (like the one shown above) and on-site consulting for ATS from her location near Bangalore, India. (Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. field application and thermal engineer Sridevi Iyengar recently spoke with Marketing Communications Specialist Josh Perry about her career in engineering and the work that she does for ATS. Iyengar works near her home in Bangalore, India and provides ATS with CFD simulations and on-site support for customers in the region.

In this Q&A, Iyengar speaks about why she became an engineer in the first place, how she came to work at ATS, the type of projects that she works on, the challenges that she faces as a woman in a male-dominated industry, and what it is like working halfway around the world from the engineers at ATS’ Norwood, Mass. campus.

JP: How did you get interested in engineering? How did it all start for you?
SI: I was a good student in high school and in college and my father is a metallurgical engineer. He was a professor in one of the premier institutes in India, the Indian Institute of Science. When we were at the crossroad, during 12th grade, honestly the bright students either went into medicine or engineering and since my math skills were pretty good and I’d been to the Indian Institute of Science a couple of times I had written the entrance examinations for both streams. For engineering, I got into a very good school.

Although I didn’t know about the different disciplines of engineering, I happened to go into chemical engineering because that’s what my rank got me into. I liked it because chemical is kind of a fusion between math and physical phenomena and so that’s where my engineering journey started.

After my Bachelor’s, I wanted to do higher studies. I got married and came to the United States and I wanted to continue in my field of study. I didn’t want to move into software like pretty much everybody else from India when they move to the U.S. I wanted to keep myself different and I had a lot of support for that from my family. The first place I set up home is Norwood, Mass. (in 1993). I was preparing for my GRE and contemplating whether I should take my AGRE but I got positive responses from a couple of schools that I was also keen on getting into. I had options. One was the University of Massachusetts – Lowell, one was Rutgers University and the University of California – San Diego. I chose San Diego.

I was actually accepted into the doctoral program, however at UC-San Diego I liked the fluid mechanics and heat transfer program but then I didn’t want to jump into a Ph. D. without really having real world experience. I wanted to finish my Master’s, work for a few years and then maybe come back if I was interested. Much to my disappointment of my dad, I dropped out of the doctorate program with my Master’s and entered the job scene.

My entry into thermal engineering was kind of by chance. My first job was with Structural Dynamics Research Corporation (SDRC) in San Diego. It was the advanced test and analysis group. I had a background in heat transfer and fluid mechanics and therefore I joined as an intern and they made me do a little bit of this and that. The software associated with the IDEAS master series for electronics cooling was MAYA-ESC electro-systems cooling and TMG (thermal model generator) and we did a project for Cisco Systems in the Bay Area. I worked for about a year and half at ATA-SDRC. SDRC was doing a lot of projects for defense and their core area was becoming more and more defense and I was not a U.S. citizen so it was very difficult for them to assign me to projects because I didn’t have security clearance. At that time I jumped ship and I joined Cisco Systems as a mechanical engineer.

JP: How did you hear about Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.? How did you end up working here?
SI: ATS, the company, I knew even when I was at Cisco back in 1999. I was with Cisco until 2005 and at that time I knew about Advanced Thermal Solutions because as a mechanical engineer my job was also to source heat sinks. Also, that it was based in Norwood kind of struck a chord and it remained in my mind. I had known a lot about [ATS CEO, President and founder] Dr. Kaveh Azar because a close colleague of mine had worked closely with Kaveh. And of course Qpedia Thermal eMagazine was/is a very useful online journal.

How I joined ATS was a very, very chance meeting. We moved back to India in 2009 and I was working for an aluminum extrusion company in their thermal management division. It’s a Swedish company called Sapa. Sapa opened an office in India and it was just the sales manager and myself in the Indian team when I started. I worked with Sapa for three years and I was working for their global application team, half working for Sweden and half trying to set up the market in India. At Sapa I did a little bit more than thermal management. Sapa acquired an extrusion facility and also had a machining/anodizing unit. I was exposed to various aspects of manufacturing with regards to aluminium extrusions, fabrication etc., and worked on several other projects, which needed someone who could work with the customers and the manufacturing team at Sapa – sort of like a liaison and the engineering hand of the sales person.

When I quit Sapa, I thought I would go freelance doing electronics cooling consulting and I met one of the sales channel partners for ATS and with him I went and met Dr. Kaveh and Shashwat Shashwat (ATS Product Realization Manager), who were visiting India. This was in May of 2014 and initially it was just supposed to be a ‘hello, how are you’ meeting, but then we started talking and having common professional contacts and interests made it a very interesting interaction. We had lunch and when I came back home that evening Shashwat called me and asked if I was interested in working for ATS. I had no doubts whether I would take this opportunity; I took it with both hands. It’s worked out very well for me so far.

JP: What kinds of projects are you working on for ATS?
SI: There were two things for me, the mandate. One was that we wanted to beef up our presence in India. We already had a sales presence and we were selling heat sinks through Digi-Key and if the engineers know what they want then it’s not a big deal, but it helps them so much to know that there is technical staff from ATS present in India and in Bangalore in the southern region. They call and they say, ‘We’re looking at this heat sink, do you think it’s okay?’ Otherwise they send an email and then they wait for Norwood to reply. So, my role was to support the local sales partners that we have. They do the initial sales call and everything, but then if there’s anything technical they can say, ‘You know, ATS has a presence here? We have this engineer who is in electronic cooling and she has experience.’ I’ve gone to several meetings with them.

Secondly, for the U.S. customers, when it comes to CFD simulations like FloTherm then I work very closely with Norwood. In fact, I’ve done quite a few projects with [ATS field application engineers] Greg Wong or Peter [Konstalilakis], Vineet [Barot] too. A lot of times there are CFD simulations, they face the customers, they get the answers and I run the simulation and build the models here, do the analysis, we discuss the results and they send it to the customer.

JP: Is there a lot of collaboration between yourself and the engineers here in Norwood?
SI: Almost daily. I am online pretty much every day from 6 and on Wednesdays and Fridays we have the team meeting. On other days, I usually chat up with my counterpart on the project and, if it’s a major project, then the discussion is fairly involved. A lot of times, I’ll have a lot of questions so I’ll contact my teammates during my evening and he’ll take it up with the customer, get all the questions answered and by the time morning rolls around everything is sent to me by email and I get through my day. There is a lot of collaboration.

JP: Looking at thermal engineering as a whole, where do you see the industry going?
SI: People realize the importance of up-front thermal design and these folks who are dealing with high-powered components are aware of the importance of up-front thermal design. However there are still a lot of projects in which the hardware engineers are still not zoned into thinking of up-front thermal management, it’s coming in as kind of a ‘Oh it’s too hot, let’s do something about it’ approach. However, I think that mindset is changing a lot and I think the next-gen heat sinks like vapor chambers, heat pipes, and nano-materials will really start making their appearance more and more in thermal solutions because we’re getting to a point where the run of the mill is not cutting it.

JP: Do you see that change coming fairly quickly? In this industry, it seems like things change every day.
SI: The mindset should change because there’s always an aversion towards liquid and PCB. The more we educate people and the fact that we see everything in liquid cooling systems working…It takes some time for them to know that, okay it is a fairly fail-safe method. It will take at least a year or two and it should be running at that time and then people will catch on. It’s not something that can be easily brought on, I think, because generally we know that liquids and electronic components don’t mix. To assure them that it will not mix and there’s no chance of it coming into contact, I think that’s the stumbling block.

It’s market education and also having systems out there functioning, so that we can show them it’s not just theoretical. You have systems in practice and I think that makes a difference. If we can show it in theory, it doesn’t help as much because in theory everything looks wonderful, so we need to show them in practice and all the possible problems that can come up have been addressed and it is working in the field not just in the test lab.

JP: As a woman in a predominantly male-dominated industry, has it been difficult at all?
SI: In India, even back in 1993, we had a lot of engineers who were graduating but a lot of them didn’t stay back in what I call hardcore engineering. People used to go into information technology because they thought somehow it was more suitable for the women in the workforce situation. But I personally, I’ve had a fulfilling time and it is good to distinguish yourself and be different. The work that we do at ATS is hardcore engineering and we have engineers to lead us. We have Dr. Kaveh Azar and Dr. Bahman Tavassoli who have years of engineering experience and yeah sometimes they come down hard on us but that’s because they know what they’re doing. They’ve been there, done that, and they want to extract the best out of you and they want you to think like an engineer always. That’s what is unique of working at ATS.

JP: Do you hope to inspire other women to not only join the field, but stick with the ‘hardcore’ engineering?
SI: Yeah, absolutely. There have been young women who have reached out to me, young engineers who graduated in India, and I tell them have patience and learn the skills needed to get a job. It’s very easy to learn a few programming languages and jump into IT, especially in India right now, but you’re going to be just like anybody else. If your heart really lies in engineering, you should stick on, network, upgrade your skills and you’ll definitely find a job. The first job is everything you need and after that, if you do well there, then the path is smooth.

JP: How has it been for you as a ‘distant worker’ in terms of not being located here in Norwood? We have a lot of great technology like Skype and GoToMeeting, how have you found it being a ‘distant worker’?
SI: Since I interact with the engineers on an almost daily basis it is not that different. ATS engineers and the customers are very understanding of the time difference and accommodate the meetings, if any, so that it is not totally at unearthly hours for me. I also have the freedom to have my own schedule and that is very helpful since I am a working mother. I’ve been to ATS once and so I have met most of the team there.

The only thing is that I don’t have that touch and feel. Sometimes the ATS engineers have the heat sinks/components on their desk and they’re looking at it. A lot of times they will look at it, turn it around and these are things that I will have to accomplish through video call on Skype or the engineers take pictures and send them to me. But it’s not the same. That’s the only drawback. And of course when you folks have your team lunches/picnics … I feel left out.

JP: From our conversation, it sounds like you really like challenging projects?
SI: I think we all like to be challenged once in a while. With involved models, one of the challenges was I’d have to remotely log in and run the model in the 12-core PC and ensure nobody is logged in and I used to run it through the night and post-process it via remote connection. I’d transfer the results over and make the PowerPoint. However I was given a super fast simulation computer locally so all I need is a VPN connection. Even if the VPN connection goes down, FloTherm will not cut off the simulation and it runs through the solve.

Every now and then I support local customers with their heat sink selection requests. Some local customers have asked for training sessions as well, which is something I would like to start fairly soon.

To learn more about Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc., visit www.qats.com or contact ATS at 781.769.2800 or ats-hq@qats.com.