Miniaturization and increasing power densities put pressure on thermal management design and ultimately on purchasers tasked with sourcing the final solution, says Sager Electronics’ Aldo Guarino
Heat is the most common culprit in electronic system failure, accounting for 55 per cent of failure occurrences. Sourcing adequate thermal management is therefore vital, yet demands a pragmatic approach from both design engineers and purchasers.
Thermal management is affected by many trends currently influencing the electronics market as a whole. Increasing power densities, product miniaturization and stringent industry standards are all driving development in the thermal management space. Devices now require more power, efficiency and performance in increasingly small footprints. Controlling temperatures in these tiny environments helps optimize performance and improve device longevity. This means that thermal management must be a strategic, design-in consideration, rather than an afterthought.
The basic technologies available to manage temperature have not drastically changed over the past few years. Nearly 38 per cent of the market is made up of the fan and blower, heat sink and extrusion and heat pipe categories. These technologies have been around for decades, but suppliers are constantly enhancing their solutions to increase efficiency in smaller packages.
Research suggests the thermal management market is approaching a $3 billion industry in North America and nearly $15 billion globally by 2019. The verticals that will lead growth include lighting, consumer electronics, medical and office equipment. Pricing and lead times are currently tight, yet stable. Unsurprisingly, obsolescence can be a challenge, with smaller, more efficient products driving out older products and new products being introduced frequently. The distribution channel is a great resource for OEMs to manage this process. With their eye on multiple suppliers and product lines, distributors can keep OEMs abreast of obsolescence and recommend replacement alternatives.
Although the mechanics of temperature regulation have not changed and the market is relatively stable, that doesn’t mean thermal management components are basic commodities. Rather, due to many products’ increasing vulnerabilities to heat, thermal management should be considered a strategic design-in purchase.
Engineers should look for partners that have the product depth and knowledge to help them design the best solutions for their application. Sager Electronics aims to oblige by placing an emphasis on thermal management and building in value added services as part of its distribution strategy. Sager’s power systems division provides expertise and value-added services, supporting both design engineers and purchasing agents with a high-touch account service model.
Looking to the future, Sager views the thermal management market as being adjacent to its power offering. Thermal management is a mission-critical technical consideration, so there is tremendous potential to build a specialization and offer expertise to customers. Purchasers especially benefit from this model, where the distributor serves as a cohesive advisor, from design through production, supporting the purchase of solutions that aid device lifespan and reliability.