October 1, 2019

What are Machined Aluminum Heat Sinks?

There are two types of machined aluminum heat sinks. Most of them are heat sinks that have been produced through some other means, such as aluminum extrusion, and then require secondary processing (post production) to make it meet the customer’s specific needs, and then to be cut and pressed. This secondary processing typically includes machining of some sort.

Machined heat sink design

Another type of machined aluminum heat sink is one that is crafted from a solid block of aluminum using precision CNC machining to create the design.

Pros and Cons of Machined Aluminum Heat Sinks

Many heat sink designs require machining in order to make sure that they deal with the heat management challenge that they were designed to address. Because precision CNC machining can create more complex shapes (geometries) than can be produced using other heat sink design methods, this provides some big design advantages:

  • More efficient heat transfer
  • Machined heat sink design that needs to fit a specific profile within an electronic device
  • Designs can be changed based on testing results in a lab or in the field

But machined aluminum heat sinks do have some drawbacks, especially when they are cut from solid blocks of premium grade aluminum billet:

  • Generates more waste – Cutting the design out of a solid block chips away the aluminum that is not needed and might be wasted
  • Take more time to produce – Machined aluminum heat sinks take longer to produce than using other methods such as aluminum extrusion and pressed folded fin heat sinks
  • More expensive – Because more steps are involved in the production process, and machined aluminum heat sinks take more time to produce, they are more expensive than heat sinks produced using other methods.

Custom Heat Management Solutions

Since the focus on most electronic device design is on creating products with a smaller profile, as well as making them lighter, this creates unique problems for managing heat within these devices. The solution often ends up being a custom designed heat management solution. Some examples of these types of solutions include:

  • High precision heat sinks with unusual shapes, contours, cut-outs and holes
  • Electronic housings or casings such as extruded aluminum power supplies
  • RF/EMI shielding

Specialized Post Process Machining

Depending on the role of the newly produced aluminum heat sink, there may be some post production machining necessary. This may involve using friction stir welding to create a heat sink with a larger profile, providing anodizing, plating, powder coating, and many other post-machining processes to perfect the heat sink design.

Ideal for Rapid Prototyping

Machined aluminum heat sinks, especially those cut from a solid block of premium aluminum billet, are ideal for creating test products for rapid prototyping for heat transfer in electronics. They can be manufactured fast, tested, and have the design tweaked on the fly before you finalize the heat management solution design for mass production.

Why Getec is Best for Machined Aluminum Heat Sink Designs

For most companies, machined heat sinks are very costly and take a long time to produce, but because we are an aluminum extrusion manufacturer, we have considerable resources available for rapid prototyping and production. This allows us to create custom designed thermal management solutions for your specialized needs at a better price than our competition. This includes work for short run projects that many of our competitors will not take on.

Tell us about your thermal solutions manufacturing challenge by giving us a call at 888-999-8499, contact us online, or send us an email at sales@getecna.com. One of our heat sink design experts can take a look at your situation and determine if a machined heat sink is right for you.