A polyimide/Kapton® heater is a type of flexible heater made using a thin and lightweight polyimide film called Kapton® that was created by the DuPont company. It is a high-performance material that is resistant to high temperatures, chemicals, and radiation, making it ideal for use in heating applications where other materials would fail.
Polyimide/Kapton® flex heaters consist of a resistive heating element, typically made of nichrome or similar material, that is sandwiched between two layers of Kapton® film. The heating element is patterned in a specific shape, such as a spiral or grid, to distribute the heat evenly across the surface of the heater. The film is then coated with a layer of adhesive on one side, allowing it to be attached to a variety of surfaces using self-fusing tapes, pressure-sensitive adhesive, or by using mechanical methods.
Polyimide/Kapton® flexible heaters can achieve temperatures of up to 392°F. Additionally, they can also handle a low-temperature threshold of -320°F. The watt density for this flexible heater can start at 2.5W/in2 and can go up to a possible 50W/in2 for certain applications.
They are commonly used in a wide range of applications, including in the aerospace, automotive, medical, and electronics industries. They are often used to maintain the temperature of electronic components, sensors, and other delicate equipment, as well as in freeze protection, food processing, and other industrial heating applications. Because of their flexibility, low profile, and high thermal efficiency, they can be easily integrated into a variety of designs and applications.
Various Polyimide/Kapton® flexible heaters are used in a wide range of applications.
Applications and Products
Some of the common applications of these flexible heaters include:
- Aerospace: Commonly used in spacecraft and satellites to maintain a stable temperature in electronics and other critical components, the heaters are also used to maintain the temperature of the propulsion system and other critical components during the launch and operation of the spacecraft.
- Medical Equipment: Used in laboratory equipment, such as incubators, ovens, and hot plates, where precise and uniform temperature control is critical, they also can be found in surgical instruments and diagnostic devices, where high-temperature resistance and chemical resistance are critical factors.
- Automotive Industry: Used in automotive applications, such as seat heaters, mirror defrosters, and engine pre-heaters, where high-temperature resistance and flexibility are critical factors.
- Electronics Industry: Used in electronics applications, such as LCD displays, touch screens, and PCBs, where thinness, lightweight, and even heating are critical factors.
- Industrial Processing: Used in various industrial processing applications, such as packaging, laminating, and welding, where high-temperature resistance, chemical resistance, and precise temperature control are critical factors.
Flexible Heaters In The Aerospace Industry
The aerospace industry uses a multitude of components, parts, and equipment for applications. From airplane instrument panels to communication equipment in unmanned spacecraft, these components and machines sometimes require the use of flexible heaters to keep parts from freezing in sub-zero temperatures, remove moisture from semiconductors and circuits, or provide thermal heat transfer solutions.
Polyimide/Kapton® flexible heaters also are excellent choices when the aerospace application requires low gassing from its materials, a small and thin heater, excellent heat transfer options, and de-icing/defogging capabilities.
Keep in mind that polyimide/Kapton® flexible heaters will have a maximum heat operating temperature of only 392°F. If you need higher temperature thresholds of 400°F to 550°F, then selecting a different material for the flexible heater would be appropriate, such as a silicon rubber heater.
These heaters are widely used in aerospace applications due to their unique properties such as high-temperature resistance, chemical resistance, and lightweight.
Ways Flexible Heaters Are Used In Aerospace Applications
- Maintaining Temperature of Critical Components: In spacecraft and satellites, polyimide/Kapton® heaters are used to maintain the temperature of critical components such as batteries, electronics, and propulsion systems. The heaters are designed to withstand the extreme temperature variations that occur during the launch and operation of the spacecraft.
- Thermal Control: Used in thermal control systems to regulate the temperature of critical components in aerospace applications, the heaters can be designed to provide precise temperature control, ensuring that the components are maintained within a specified temperature range.
- De-icing and Defrosting: Used to prevent the formation of ice and frost on the surface of aircraft and spacecraft components. The heaters can be designed to provide uniform heating across the surface of the component, preventing the formation of ice and frost that can affect the aerodynamics and performance of the aircraft or spacecraft.
- Heating of Fuel Lines and Tanks: In aerospace applications, polyimide/Kapton® heaters are used to heat the fuel lines and tanks to prevent the fuel from freezing or gelling in low-temperature environments. Heaters can be designed to provide even heating across the surface of the fuel line or tank, ensuring that the fuel remains in a liquid state.
- Space Suit Heating: Polyimide/Kapton® heaters are used to heat space suits worn by astronauts during spacewalks. The heaters can be designed to provide even heating across the surface of the suit, ensuring that the astronaut remains warm in the extremely cold temperatures of space.
Polyimide/Kapton® flexible heaters offer several benefits to the medical industry due to their unique properties such as high-temperature resistance, chemical resistance, and lightweight.
Benefits Of Flexible Heaters In The Medical Industry
Polyimide/Kapton® heaters provide several benefits to the medical industry, ensuring that medical equipment operates effectively and reliably.
- Precise Temperature Control: The heaters can provide precise temperature control, which is essential in medical equipment such as incubators, ovens, and diagnostic devices, and can be designed to maintain a constant temperature over a long period, ensuring that the medical equipment operates effectively.
- Flexibility: Polyimide/Kapton® heaters are flexible, which makes them suitable for use in medical devices that require a conformable heating element, and they can be designed to fit a specific shape or size, ensuring that they can be integrated into medical devices effectively.
- Chemical Resistance: These heaters are resistant to many chemicals, solvents, and acids, which is essential in medical applications where exposure to chemicals is common. They can withstand exposure to chemicals without degrading, ensuring that they continue to operate effectively over time.
- Uniform Heating: Polyimide/Kapton® heaters can provide even heating across the surface of the heater, which is essential in medical applications where uniform heating is critical. The heaters can be designed to distribute heat evenly, ensuring that the temperature is consistent throughout the medical equipment.
- High-Temperature Resistance: The heaters can operate at high temperatures, making them suitable for medical applications that require high-temperature resistance, and they can withstand temperatures up to 400°C (752°F), ensuring that they can operate in the most challenging environments.
As you can see, polyimide/Kapton® flexible heaters benefit a number of applications in a wide range of industries, where they are used to maintain the temperature of critical components. Knowing your design and its limitations are vital in manufacturing a flexible heater that will work in your specific application. Here at Epec, we provide custom flexible heaters in polyimide Kapton® (as well as silicone rubber heaters) for the electrical and electronics industries. We can work with you to help design a custom flex heater to fit your application’s requirements.