Picture of Soldering underneath chips
I recently had to design a device that used a chip with a heatsink underneath the body of the chip. This heatsink had to be both electrically and thermally connected to the PCB.

Typically these devices (see picture) are soldered to PCBs using reflow techniques, where solder paste is stencilled to the board, robots place the chips and a special oven heats the device till the solder paste melts. Other devices with the same problem include driver chips and high power LEDs.

I originally tried using silver heatsink compound however although it was pretty good thermally it didn't make a reliable electrical connection, the cct malfunctioned with vibration and the magic smoke escaped...leading to much swearing and frustration.

After some experimentation I came up with this method to solder underneath these types of devices for hand prototyping without needing a reflow oven.
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Step 1: Prepare thermal vias

Picture of Prepare thermal vias
poke thick wire in.jpg
wires underneath.jpg
Your PCB should have a copper area underneath the chip heatsink for electrical and thermal connection.
First drill small holes (as many as can fit) under where the chip heatsink goes.

Next poke through copper wire through the holes (second picture). Try to use wire as thick as the holes will allow. You need a tight fit. I just used the leads from a diode....they were just right....and made of copper (plated with tin).

Second time around I'd poke the wires from the bottom just enough to poke out, but not too far (third pic).

Step 2: Solder the top and bottom of the thermal via

Picture of Solder the top and bottom of the thermal via
solder bottom.jpg
Now solder the top and bottom of the poked through wires.....try to use as little as possible on the top, where the chip will be installed to make the next step easier.

Trim the top wires as close as possible to the PCB without destroying any trackwork. Leave about 2-3mm of wire poking out from the bottom need to be able to connect the heat from the soldering iron to something when it comes time to attach the chip.
cgrrty1 year ago
stormwlf1 year ago
Cool concept thanks for the info!
wierd idiot6 years ago
I just have to ask this. Why was the name of the chip wiped?
I have been told by many professors at school (Electrical Engineering major), that once you start making things others will use, removing chip identifiers is the best way to protect your design from people who will try to reverse engineer it.
Sad isn't it? That people do such things like being a copy cat.:(
And it makes the harvester's job harder.
rgbphil (author)  wierd idiot6 years ago
nothing mysterious, I just wanted to have an uncluttered picture to emphasize the process not the circuit. Its a LTC3477 switch mode controller in case you're interested.
danlab6 years ago
Yay, someone else who calls it the magic smoke! I hate putting the magic smoke back in after it escapes.
drewish8 years ago
"Sorry about the blurry pics, my camera only just does macro." I think you'll find that adding more light and holding the camera still will do the trick.
yea ither crop the image or hold it farther away and zoom
jridley drewish7 years ago
And if it really is true that the camera won't focus that close, then don't get that close, just crop the image down.
sumguysr8 years ago
very good idea and an excelent instructable. but wouldnt it be easier to just put the solder paste on the heatsink and put the whole thing on a hot plate. I'll try to remember to post a link tommorow I'm too tired right now.
rgbphil (author)  sumguysr8 years ago
yep.....I looked at the PCB on hotplate method, but was a little concerned about the control of heat. Worried I'd cook the chip basically. With this method, the soldering iron is on the component no longer than the normal amount of time for soldering a through hold component, so presumably less time to hurt the electronics. If you had a plated through board, with vias placed under the chip, you could avoid the process of putting wires/sanding etc....however this instructable is primarily for hand prototyping, where you etch and drill the boards yourself.
If you can see the solder paste melting into shiny pools of molten solder, you can use that to prevent overheating - just remove the heat when it makes the transition. People have been doing this with toaster ovens for years - I've done literally hundreds of boards this way. Just don't use the oven for food anymore. Actually, a regular toaster oven has hotspots, and you can get uneven results if you try to do larger boards in them. Nowadays, I use a cheap tabletop convection oven, and it works fantastically well. The maximum temp. on broil is just above the reflow temperature.
chips that have no exposed leads are meant to be soldered in reflow ovens and can take the heat. pretty much all smd components can take the heat.
Myself8 years ago
I'm not sure the copper in the vias is important over such a short distance. Why not just drill the holes, apply paste and affix the chip to the topside, heat from the bottom, and let the paste fill the vias?
rgbphil (author)  Myself8 years ago
I tried that as well.....the paste doesn't wet the holes, and you end up with solder forming on the bottom side only and a hole filled with flux. I guess the surface tension of the flux has something to do with that. If you made the holes big enough, say 3mm or used a very thin tip and managed to get the soldering iron tip to touch the topside through the hole, then that would work. For larger components that would be fine, but the little chips are too small. Essentially the copper in the vias extends the soldering iron tip.
Myself rgbphil8 years ago
I think your problem is the flux, because the technique I suggested is precisely the one used by Schmartboard to hand-solder BGAs.

Maybe it has something to do with their vias already being plated through? Hmm.
rgbphil (author)  Myself8 years ago fact using plated through vias is good practice under heat generating components (or near them) to better whisk away the heat. Look at some high end LED integrated driver boards. They have the LEDs surrounded by thermal vias, and these are recommended in the datasheets. Nice link.....would be pretty scary doing a BGA even using a reflow oven. This instructable is not for that sort of thing, just for flat plate heatsinks on components. As an aside, in my design I blew the chip a couple of times whilst getting the design right. With the plugged vias, it makes it easy to unsolder the chip to put a new one in.
theRIAA8 years ago
i didn't know that sandpaper was a verb...
That's why I just look at the pretty pictures.