Thermal Solutions: Cooling options for NVIDIA® Jetson™ Xavier NX projects

June 2, 2020 Rob Callaghan, Director of Technical Services, Connect Tech Inc.

After long-awaiting the release of the new NVIDIA® Jetson™ Xavier NX module, production units are now available for purchase. Similar to the Jetson™ Nano, the new Jetson™ Xavier NX module is sold without an integrated thermal transfer plate. Now that you’re ready to begin your project, what cooling option is right for your Jetson™ Xavier NX project?

Selecting the appropriate thermal product for your project will depend on whether you require heat dissipation in other areas, and how much air flow is anticipated within the final product.   

The performance capabilities of the compact Jetson™ Xavier NX make it perfect for high-performance AI systems, delivering an unprecedented 14 TOPS in 10 W and 21 TOPS in 15W.  In order to ensure optimal module performance, you’ll have to remove the majority of that heat. Since Jetson™ Xavier NX will predominately be used in small form factor products, designing for thermal can create significant challenges.

A critical pathway for system design is to understand how air is flowing through the system. Understanding cooling and venting options is a great start, but engaging with a thermal engineer can be hugely helpful for complex projects.

There are three commercially available heat sinks for the Jetson™ Xavier NX module that are flexible for any use-case you may have.

Active Heat Sink

The Active Heat Sink is best used within closed box systems that have no natural air flow.  Any heat produced by the module during operation is dissipated through fins and expelled by a fan. 

Passive Heat Sink

If your project is anticipated to receive sufficient air flow, a Passive Heat Sink option is likely appropriate. Any heat produced by the module is dissipated through convection with the help of optimized fin placement. 

Thermal Transfer Plate

If your product has enough material to properly dissipate heat from the entire system and you’ve arranged alternative heatsinking, a heat plate for the module could be a great option. The thermal transfer plate aids in cooling while providing damage protection for the module.

To ensure space requirements are met, download the available 3D models for each heat sink to ensure a perfect fit. If readily available thermal solutions for Xavier NX projects don’t work, consider a custom thermal solution that is tailored to your project.

About the Author

Rob Callaghan is the Director of Technical Services at Connect Tech Inc. He has over 11 years of experience as a lead designer and project manager on numerous high-speed digital design and embedded products developed by Connect Tech. Rob received an Honors Bachelor of Engineering in Systems and Computing Engineering from the University of Guelph in Canada. He is an IEEE member, and a Licensed Professional Engineer.

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