6 Heat Sink Types: Which One is Best for Your Project?
Whether you’re designing computers, LED lighting, or other electronics, you need to think about heat sinks. Heat sinks absorb and dissipate the heat from these devices, helping to keep them cool. Today we’ll talk about some different types of heat sinks, how they’re made, and their applications. Generally, heat sinks are grouped by the manufacturing process used to create them, i.e. extruded, machined, etc. We will discuss 6 below. But, first, it’s important to understand that all heat sinks fall into two categories.
The Two Major Heat Sink CategoriesAll heat sinks can be broken down into two major categories… active and passive. What is the difference between active and passive heat sinks?
Active Heat SinksThese generally have a fan or blower of some kind. The most common type is a ball bearing motor fan. These provide excellent performance, but they consist of moving parts and are on the expensive side.
Passive Heat SinksThese have no mechanical components. They only use the convection process to dissipate thermal energy. Because they have no moving parts, they are more reliable. But they should still have continuous air flow across their fins.
It’s also important to keep in mind that heat sinks can be made from different materials. There are two materials generally used to make heat sinks.
Heat Sink Materials: Aluminum vs. CopperHeat sinks are usually made from aluminum or copper. Each has its own advantages. Let’s talk about the main differences between them.
Aluminum Heat SinksAluminum is the most common material for heat sinks. In particular, extruded aluminum heat sinks fit the needs of most projects. The metal is lightweight and has relatively good thermal conductivity.
Copper Heat SinksCopper has even better thermal conductivity than aluminum. It’s drawbacks, though, are weight and cost. The metal is sometimes used where the importance of thermal conductivity outweighs weight savings.
When discussing the different types of heat sinks, we generally classify them based on their manufacturing process.