Adhesiveless Thermofoil Heaters Warm Aerospace Engineers’ Hearts
A decade after we began using our proprietary Adhesiveless Lamination Technology (ALT) to create thin, flexible and incredibly durable thermofoil heaters, the technology has found a foothold in the commercial and government aerospace markets. Our heaters, which also have applications in the medical and semiconductor industries, offer clear advantages to the space industry that can’t be found in any comparable technology.
Structurally similar to our flat cables and flexible circuits, with etched metal tracings between two sheets or strips of polyimide material, thermofoil heaters are ideal for applications that require complex shapes and contours, as well as those with tight space and weight constraints. The difference from cables is that cables use resistive alloys such as nickel, causing them to heat up when a current is applied.
While others offer products that may look similar, Fralock’s ALT bonds the two polyimide layers to each other, essentially making them one, with the heating element fully and firmly encapsulated. The adhesives used to hold together the most similar competing products render them fragile, vulnerable to radiation and high heat, and prone to gas pockets that can lead to cracking, further delamination and failure. Designs made with commonly used adhesives like PTFE are also prone to failure due to circuit “swimming,” with traces moving too close to each other and causing a short circuit or “hot spot”.
Our heaters, by contrast, can be folded or even crumpled without performance being affected. And they’ve been radiation-tested up to a gigarad — a level of radiation that turns PTFE to dust — without failure. They can also tolerate temperatures from -269 to 220 degrees Celsius (-452 to 428 degrees Fahrenheit).
With the circuits completely encapsulated, we can pack in tighter, denser circuits for reduced size, increased power or a combination thereof, while the elimination of adhesive material also reduces thickness and weight by about 30 percent.
Fralock’s heaters are more efficient, thinner, lighter and far more durable than any comparable product on the market, and the space industry — which cares even more about those qualities than most — has taken notice.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center published a specification based on our technology in early 2016, introducing the first standards for adhesiveless thermofoil heaters to its Qualified Parts List (Specification S-311-P-841), and the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is working on its own specification. Among other uses, JPL hopes to put our heaters on space telescopes and space vehicles, as well as the joints and knuckles of its Mars 2020 rover. This is an application where previous heaters have had a potentially crippling tendency to come apart or fall off.
Boeing, which already uses our heaters in a number of applications, also published a specification based on our technology in 2015.
For additional information about us or to begin discussions on your project, click our Quote Request, or call 1-800-FRALOCK (372-5625)