February 15th, 2011

Microcool Thermal Tape T411 and T412

Microcool T411 T412

Introduction

Microcool? Anyone? No? Okay then… I was contacted by a Microcool rep about reviewing their heatsink adhesive, and never to turn down a free product; I accepted.

About Microcool

Microcool was founded in 2003 and specialises in designing and developing component heat control products for computers. It made its debut on the international market with the first high-performance Northbridge cooler: NorthPole. Over a short period of time, the chipset coolers produced by Microcool have become a real reference point and have gained widespread approval amongst the specialist press and customers alike.

Microcool aims to cater for even the most demanding users. It operates in the constantly evolving IT market, where rapid technological growth and competition between companies in the sector mean that the market offers a wide range of electronic components which always need suitable, efficient cooling systems.

Microcool seizes this challenge by proposing unique products, paying particular attention to the choice of materials and the components that make up its end products, and to design, combining compatibility with heat control standards and optimisation.

Specs

T411

T412

Colour

Silver

Grey

Carrier

Aluminium Mesh

Expanded Aluminium

Thickness (mm)

0.28

0.23

Lap Shear Adhesion (psi)

14

70

Thermal Impedance @ <1 psi C-in2/W

1

0.25

THERMATTACH® T411 - tape consists of a high bond strength pressure-sensitive adhesive with an expanded aluminium mesh carrier layer. The mesh carrier allows the tape to conform to curved surfaces of plastic molded IC packages, providing a high adhesive strength attachment for heat sinks. The high performance silicone PSA allows adhesion to silicone-contaminated plastics and other low energy surfaces. T411 is ideal for fixing large coolers where bonding strength is fundamental. It is particularly indicated to install heavy copper coolers on the BGA memories of the video cards or in general for the perfect adhesion of aluminium or copper coolers on chips encapsulated in plastic packaging, such as chipsets or processors, which due to their slightly concave surfaces and the presence of silicone products on the surface, make other tapes ineffective.

THERMATTACH® T412 – tape consists of a high bond strength, pressure-sensitive acrylic adhesive, loaded with titanium diboride and applied to an expanded aluminium carrier. The combination of filler, expanded metal and embossed surface enhances both tape conformability and thermal performance. T412 is ideal for use where you want to obtain excellent heat sinking by fixing the small to medium size coolers in aluminium or copper to components such as: MOSFET, PLL or BGA chips.

Silicon contraceptives

Microcool T411 T412
Click to enlarge

Microcool were kind enough to send not only their two Thermattach products, T411 and T412, but also two heatsinks with adhesive backing and some protective rubbers just in case things get hot.

Microcool T411 T412
Click to enlarge

The protective rubbers are actually chip shrouds stopping you from damaging your precious core when you are trying to mount a huge heatsink. They even out the pressure meaning that you won’t chip the edges of well… your chip.

Microcool T411 T412
Click to enlarge

The self-adhesive heatsinks are just that. They are a reasonably large aluminium heatsink with a peel off adhesive pad on the bottom. This allows you to peel and stick the heatsink wherever there is too much heat, or where you want something to be cooled. The adhesive is different from both the two tapes that we received.

Microcool T411 T412
T411 left and T412 right

The tapes that we got are actually manufactured by Chomerics, a large multinational manufacturer. It would appear that Microcool simply buy a roll of the tape and then sell it off, with a small profit, in smaller pieces. Whilst this sounds bad, it actually works for the customers benefit as they absorb the cost of buying a huge roll, and you just pay for the amount that you need.

We got two sheets of tape that are just smaller than a sheet of A5 in size (130x180mm). While to the untrained eye, these just look like adhesive tapes, a lot more thought goes into them. For example, the T411 is designed to attach plastic to the heatsink. This is obviously aimed at southbridges that are simply just a plastic package.

The T412 on the other hand is designed for metal to metal. It’s thinner and less adhesive.

The reason why T411 is thicker is due to the shape of plastic encapsulated components. They are normally concave so that the middle of the surface is lower than the edges. This means that a thin tape wouldn’t make contact with the centre of the surface and the heatsink, reducing both heat transfer and strength of adhesive bond. The thicker tape allows for variations in surface, filling in the holes allowing for optimum heat transfer. However, the heat has a longer transfer path and hence there is more thermal resistance. Compared to T412, T411 has more adhesive power allowing for heavier heatsinks to be used. It is basically an aluminium mesh with glue on both sides, it’s quite stiff but you can cut it easily with scissors.

The T412 isn’t designed for use with plastic components, and doesn’t need to be as thick. Metal surfaced components, e.g. northbridge or even your CPU, are manufactured to a lower tolerance (i.e. flatter). This allows for a thinner tape, with decreases the distance the heat has to move, and therefore decreases thermal resistance which can only be a good thing. T412 is a mixture of glue and aluminium. The surfaces are embossed to remove air bubbles when you are installing it.

Installation

The tapes themselves aren’t that sticky to the touch. This is because they only stick well to their designed surface.

As there is no manual included, I had to have a look at the Microcool site to find out the correct way to install.

After a little reading I was ready to go.

First of all, I decided to attach a heatsink to a Northbridge which didn’t have the usual metal heatspreader on top. The tape for this is T412. As the surface of the object you are sticking the tape to changed, and due to them being SLIGHTLY concave, it’s a good idea to cut the piece of tape to be slightly smaller than the actual chip itself.

Microcool T411 T412
Click to enlarge
Microcool T411 T412
Click to enlarge
Microcool T411 T412
Click to enlarge
Microcool T411 T412
Click to enlarge

After doing this, you peel off the clear side of T412 or either side of T411 and stick the tape into place. Then remove the other side, and stick your heatsink on, applying a reasonable amount of pressure for a short time.

I found that T412 was reasonably sticky, but not the strength that I would like to have seen, but T411 was much better. When attaching to plastic encapsulated chips, the T411 was perfect, and provided that you use a reasonably sized heatsink, it’ll hold for years. In fact I could lift the entire board with the heatsink. T411 also works well with metal surfaced chips too, allowing you to use the stickier tape when needed.

These tapes aren’t strong enough to hold a large heatsink (e.g. for your CPU) but will be more than capable for a northbridge heatsink.

Microcool T411 T412
Click to enlarge
Microcool T411 T412
Click to enlarge

The protective rubbers are only needed if you are using a naked chip. They can be used with any heatsink and any chip. Users of older AMD chips will love these things as they protect your core when you are installing a new heatsink.

To make comparison easier, here is my simplified table:

T411

T412

Strong adhesive strength

Medium adhesive strength

Designed for plastic

Designed for metal

Thick

Thin

Medium thermal transfer rate

High thermal transfer rate

The Microcool site says that you should choose the stickier T411 version over the T412 as the risk of the heatsink failing off overrides the increase thermal transfer rate. However, if you have a heatsink that can be securely mounted with T412 then use that instead to get lower temperatures.

After using the tapes for a few days, an official temperature test was not taken. This was because the chips are inherantly cooler than before as they now have a heatsink on them, regardless of whether the tape is super conductive or otherwise. Each and every heatsink that the tape was used on warm after usage. In fact, placing one of the included self-adhesive heatsinks on my x1650 PCI-e AGP bridge chips allowed for a slightly higher overclock and the card itself was a LOT more stable.

Conclusion

These tapes are awesome. Ever thought that the little heatsinks that you have lying around could be put to better use? Well now all you have to do is cut some of Microcool’s tape to the correct size, and stick it on. The tapes are also perfect for RAM heatsinks on graphics cards once you’ve used them once too.

There are so many uses for these tapes that it’s hard to give them a low score.

Pros Cons
Allows any heatsink to be used T412 not sticky enough
No included instructions (website only)

I’d like to thank Microcool for providing us with the tapes.

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