Cooler Master Talks Notebook Cooling

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Cooler Master is well known to consumers in the custom desktop world, producing cases, coolers, power supplies, and peripherals. However, that’s only the consumer-facing side of their business. Cooler Master is actually two companies, with the larger of the two focused on industrial and OEM thermal solutions. They work in any industry that has thermal needs, not just computers.

These industries vary widely, from smartphones to refrigerators and construction equipment. Cooler Master’s role in thermal solutions can be complete, where they work with a customer to fully develop a solution. It may also be a consulting role, where they work with the customer to joint develop a solution. The company’s cooling solutions may not say “Cooler Master” anywhere on the product, even if they were fully developed by Cooler Master.

Cooler Master and Notebook Cooling Development

P1400007NotebookReview had the opportunity to visit Cooler Master’s headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan with TAITRA. We toured their offices, demo rooms, and development labs. We interviewed Cooler Master’s business director, Jacqueline Wang, on the company’s role in notebook cooling development.

NBR: Can you talk to us a bit about what notebook makers are looking for in thermal design?

Wang: “For system design, customers will look for innovation in the material itself. But material innovation would normally take a longer time. So you can use a different material for the case to resolve some of the thermal challenge.”

NBR: Like using a metal case to act as a heatsink?

Wang: “Yes. But, the cost can be an issue. And the surface treatment will cost a lot, compared to plastic or other materials. That [metal case solution] may only serve the higher-end customers.”

NBR: How does using a metal case for the notebook make it easier to cool?

Wang: “With our thermal module, we just need to take care of the heat movement and transfer, but we don’t need to remove the heat. So we move the heat from the heat from the heat source to the case, and the case will take care of itself. Because with the case, we don’t have a space issue.”

NBR: What are the challenges when using a non-metal case for a notebook?

Wang: “For non-metal [case] customers, we need to provide higher end performance from the thermal module. That’s why we design special heatpipes and vapor chambers. The chemical reaction is a way to grow new wick structure of vapor chamber and heat pipe.”

P1400015NBR: So with the very thin notebook designs, it’s just a matter of getting the heat away from the components?

Wang: “That’s correct. For the component innovation itself, we can vary the structure [of the heatpipe], and we can also experiment with the liquid inside. Normally we only use pure water, but it’s very limited. But we can also use other chemicals, like alcohol.”

NBR: Would you describe how your experience in other industries makes it into the computer world?

Wang: “We’re always considering how to leverage our products, our technology, in a telecom space, in an industrial space, into IT. But the challenge is different. IT, home appliances, IoT products, [you] always have a space challenge. But in the industrial world, you don’t have a space challenge”

NBR: How do you help notebook makers with their notebook thermal design challenges?

Wang: “We design the thermal module for them, based on the constraint they give to us. We run simulation for most projects, but for new technology adoption we need to do more correlation cross module and system in both the customer testing platform and ours.”

NBR: Do notebook makers design the notebook’s circuit boards before they design the cooling system?

Wang: “The PCB design and the thermal design goes hand in hand. The notebook makers will also take some reference design from Intel.”

NBR: How does Cooler Master stand in the value chain between the notebook makers and the chip makers?

Wang: “As a technology provider, we don’t just work with the system vendor, we also need to work with the chip maker. We need to help those chip makers to predict possible thermal and mechanical challenges. We work with them to provide a [thermal] solution. You can see more and more collaboration across the value chain. So it’s not always one direction – we have to work with the upstream vendors.”

NBR: That means you have to know the thermal profile from the chip maker as well?

Wang: “Yes. We even have to provide some samples for the chip maker to simulate if their design is good enough. We provide a lot of input to help them revision their products. They don’t really have the same interest as the system maker. That’s why we bridge the gap.”

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