January/February 2016 - page 51

& M
February 2016
for the required heatsink design, it also offers two double-row SMD
connectors with 440 pins for numerous high-speed interfaces. In
addition, COM Express is optimized for the high-performance inter-
faces of standard PCs and meets even the most extreme ruggedness
requirements thanks to its stable connection to the application-spe-
cific carrier board. Therefore, COM Express is often the preferred
solution for high-end embedded designs with custom interface sets
where the standard feature set of Mini-ITX motherboards is inade-
quate or application space limited.
Individual system designs always present the embedded design engi-
neer with some challenging questions: Is my system design really
suitable for the chosen processor? Will I be able to operate the system
long-term and without overheating, or will the application bring the
system down when it comes to load peaks? It is key to ensure that
the design does not overheat the processor, as this would shorten the
service life or lead to extremely premature failures. Fortunately, there
are now not one but two factors that make it easier for developers
to balance hardware design, processor and application requirements.
The first factor is the configurable TDP of the processor. The second
factor is the availability of fanless cooling solutions that are a good
fit for the computer module and processor. They make it possible to
optimize the design step by step to the requirements of a given hard-
ware design and application. The new SoC processors are configurable
from 12W to 35W. If the application is prone to overheating the system
in certain scenarios, it is possible to minimize the hotspot at certain
points by limiting the maximum heat output so that the system always
remains within the permitted thermal range. Another option is to play
with heatsink variants, provided different cooling concepts are offered
for an identical footprint. Since the PICMG COM Express specifica-
tions allow designers to limit the height of the heatspreader it is possi-
ble to develop heatsink solutions with an identical footprint that offer
different options. These can range from simple embedded heatsinks
with fins to heatsinks with a housing connection, high-performance
coolers with combined heatpipe and heatspreader technology, or inte-
grated active coolers.
The availability of configurable TDP together with starter kits that
offer flexible heatsink variants will enable system developers to suc-
ceed more quickly than with trial & error attempts at system design
and housing. The new AMD R-Series processor generation makes ther-
mal design a lot easier. However, OEM developers will continue to face
questions that require direct access to the expertise of module suppliers.
It is then a real advantage if the manufacturer has defined a transparent
process that guarantees personal support, making it unnecessary to go
from pillar to post and explain issues again each time.
Figure 4. Patented congatec cooling solutions with particularly flat
heatpipes ensure that the conga‑TX3 module stays cool even when
powered with 35W.
* Threaded stand-off
* Heatpipe chip
* Heat absorber
* Cooling fins
* Equalizing coil springs
* Phase change material
* Heatpipe CPU
* Heatspreader block
1...,41,42,43,44,45,46,47,48,49,50 52,53,54,55,56,57,58
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