An Overview of Alpha Data Product Ruggedization

Cooling Options - Forced Air or Conduction Cooling

Ever increasing logic complexity and higher switching speeds in FPGAs require more power and produce more heat. Thermal management presents an ever increasing challenge to keep the board cool.

To tackle these challenges Alpha Data has developed cooling solutions for selected products.

Alpha Data provides six levels of cooling for selected products:

Product Cooling Options

Convection Cooling - Passive Cooling of the board

Where the boards dissipate heat into the surrounding air. To be effective there needs to be sufficient air flow across the board so that the dissipated heat is carried away from the board. Convection cooling can be improved by having a larger surface area to dissipate heat from and/or increased air flow around the board.

Forced Air Cooling - Active Cooling of the board

Photo of ADC-EMC Cooling Fan

Where there is insufficient air flow through the system the FPGA boards may not be able to dissipate sufficient heat to continue correct operation. By adding fans on or in close proximity to the FPGAs the airflow can be increased across the board, allowing a greater amount of heat to be dissipated from the components under duress.


Heatsinks - Improve thermal conduction away from the Components

Photo of ADM-VPX3-7V2 with conduction cooled heatsink

If directed air flow over the FPGAs is insufficient to keep them cool, then adding additional surface area to dissipate the heat from is the next stage. Alpha Data has developed selected products with the capability of having heatsinks bolted onto them.

The heatsinks have direct contact with the FPGAs (thermal paste) allowing a greater flow of heat from the FPGA. The heatsinks themselves provide a much greater surface area over which the heat can be dissipated.

When you need more cooling then a heatsink may be added to the underside of the board (especially if active devices are fitted there).


NB: Adding the heatsink is only one aspect, the airflow has to be sufficient to allow the heatsink to dissipate sufficient heat to minimise the component junction temperatures.

Conduction Cooling

As well as providing a heatsink to improve air cooling some products are designed to utilise conduction cooling. Here the excess heat is conducted into the host metalwork via the boards heatsink.

Designed to comply with VITA 20 these copper strips allow the board to be bolted directly onto cooling bars on the carrier.

Photo of ADM-XRC-5T1 showing cooling bars

There are two types of contact bars:

These copper strips match up with the cooling bars on the carrier. Creating the conduction path for extracting heat from the board.


Due to Alpha Data FPGA boards allowing the user to plug in a variety of I/O modules the FPGA cards cannot meet all the requirements for the Vita 20 standard. As stated in the standard they will require a modification to the faceplate rib of the carrier.

This reduces the contact area and so reduces the cooling capability for the system.

Alpha Data cards which are designed to have no front panel I/O shall be fully complaint to the standard for conduction cooling.

If you have any questions please contact Alpha Data Support

For more information on the operating conditions for the different cooling options go to the Alpha Data Environmental Specification Page or read the Alpha Data Environment Specification.

Additional Information

Alpha Data are working in conjunction with WaveTherm, a supplier of thermo-mechanical products and design solutions, in the design of the latest range of our VPX products. See the Alpha Data VPX Overview page for further details on our VPX range of products.

See the VITA VPX webpage for further details on the OpenVPX standard.





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