Tag Archives: pcb design

Thermal Load Boards Gets Engineers To Solutions Faster, Cheaper


Prototype of a full scale load board with mock components

How do you characterize the airflow of an expensive PCB but not actually use a populated PCB itself?  You do it with 3D Printing.

3d printing in business-to-business has been known for its rapid prototyping and small scale production specifically in small to mid-size companies. Larger companies such as GE, Qualcomm and many others have the budget and the means to easily build 3d printing facilities when necessary, capable of 3D printing large and small components.  However,  smaller businesses depend on third-party manufacturers to turn their design into reality.

In thermal engineering 3d printing has become a vital tool in consulting and designing services primarily by creating thermal load boards.  Thermal load boards are a great tool for testing the airflow of a PCB populated with components.  Customers supply ATS with the component dimensions and placements, and ATS literally builds the components to place on a PCB to test the airflow of the PCB.

A PCB load board can save cost and time.  First, it allows an engineer to go beyond CFD to doing real airflow testing. While CFD is enormously helpful, actual airflow data confirms what is simulated, allowing engineers to greatly improve on the design.  And with a PCB Load Board, the physical design of the board and component placement is at a fraction of the cost of creating a sample board for this purpose.

Second,  a PCB load board reduces time on research and development and saves costs on materials by more than half, benefiting both the customer and manufacturer (see here).  This non-linear process sets up the customer for a prototype (Load Board) they are able to test multiple times through wind tunnel simulation, air velocity and temperature measurement, and flow visualization to name a few. The components on the load board consist of 3d printed parts the customer has defined in their layout. Heat sink holes are also placed into the board, again defined in the layout.

In one example of implementing this technology, a customer

“had their board laid out already, with the purpose of the load board is to validate the heat sink performance. The customer was still 6-9 months away from having software, so they can’t actually run their board at 100% capacity to create the load, that’s why ATS stepped in to make the load board with heaters that can be powered directly,” says Field Application Engineer Greg Wong.

Engineer Peter Konstatilakis has this to say as well

“ATS’ purpose of this service is to provide the customer with a means of thermally validating their board with the heat sinks they’ve decided to use before they spin up their board. This way any changes needed to house a different heat sink or make the board more free flowing in key spots can be made before spending thousands to spin up. In the end finding they can’t get their product on the market because they weren’t able to manage the thermals.”

For more information on PCB Load Boards and how they can save time and cost in your next design, please email us at ats-hq@qats.com  or visit our Contact Us page.

WATCH: PCB Layout & Design for PCB Cooling Solutions


Flow Visualization in PCB Testing: Part 3

Part 3: Best Wind Tunnels for Flow Visualization

In our final post of the 3 part blog series, we discuss lab equipment that easily allow for optimal flow visualization when testing PCBs.

Our first two posts show the benefits of air and liquid flow visualization in PCB testing. In order to successfully evaluate the thermal performance of a component and PCB, the proper test environment must exist:

A test system that:

  • Accommodates both single components and multiple PCBs
  • Reflects the actual system
  • Can simulate elevated temperature conditions with a controlled flow, if required


ATS offers a family of wind tunnels that offer an automated facility for thermal characterization, testing, and optimization of PCBs, components, and heat sinks.

ATS Wind Tunnels


All ATS wind tunnels have a large Plexiglas test section for optimal flow visualization. Wind tunnel controllers, such as the WTC-100 and CLWTC-1000 automate testing while accessories such as the HP-97 simulate heat dissipation. Most wind tunnels are easily portable and can be operated vertically or horizontally, maximizing compact lab space.

Rework of PCB layout using flow visualization techniques

Flow visualization is an easy and effective way to understand the flow condition of a component. It allows the PCB layout to be changed at the design stage, reducing the development costs of reworking the board layout after the design has be solidified. It minimizes thermal component costs, increases system reliability, and speeds up a product’s time to market.

To learn more about the wide range of ATS Wind Tunnels, please visit http://www.qats.com/Products/Wind-Tunnels or email ats-hq@qats.com.

Click here for part 1 of this three part series
Click here for part 2 of this three part series

New Consulting Project Subscription Plan

ATS has released a Consulting Project Subscription Plan (CPSP) for engineering services. From our corporate headquarters in Norwood, Massachusetts,we offers comprehensive thermal management analysis and design services for the telecommunications, medical, military, defense, aerospace, automotive, and embedded computing industries. The new plan allows ATS engineers to become an extension of your team for a pre-determined amount of hours, providing expert thermal and mechanical engineering consultation, design, simulation, testing and validation.

ATS Design Services

Services include Design, Simulation, Testing, Analysis & Prototyping

The CPSP includes the use of ATS thermal lab facilities and covers all projects approved by an authorized representative of subscribed customers. ATS thermal management analysis and design services encompass both experimental and computational simulations using proprietary tools and computational fluid dynamics software packages such as FLOTHERM and CFdesign.

Thermal Testing & Analysis

Thermal Testing & Analysis

The new subscription plan gives customers priority access to ATS engineering and manufacturing resources for all chip, board, enclosure, and system related projects. ATS studies the full packaging domain, including components, circuit boards (PCBs), shelves, chassis, and system packaging.

Consulting capabilities include:

– heat sink, board and fan characterization

– heat sink design and optimization

– PCB & fan tray design and optimization

– liquid cooling design

– prototyping of heat sinks and complete cooling systems

– wind tunnel testing of components, PCBs, chassis and enclosures

ATS offers rapid prototyping of machined parts and cooling systems from its US facilities. Sheet metal fabrication and cut heat sink prototypes are quickly provided from international partners.

Liquid Crystal Thermography

Liquid Crystal Thermography

ATS believes that customers who wish to remain competitive should consider a design-to-suit opportunity solution first. Contrary to common perception, this proves to be less expensive to the customer in the long run, because of the ensuing gain in product efficiency and compatibility. Working side-by-side with customers worldwide, ATS engineers provide tailored solutions to thermal and mechanical packaging challenges on real projects with real schedules.

To learn more about the consulting project subscription plan, call 781-769-2800, email ats-hq@qats.com, or visit www.qats.com.