Liquid Metal and 33+ tape

Discussion in 'Notebook Cosmetic Modifications and Custom Builds' started by B0B, Jun 3, 2019.

  1. B0B

    B0B Notebook Deity

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    I wanted to gather some information from experienced individuals who’ve used 33+ tape to surround their CPU die and the longevity of it.

    It’s rated up to 105c and I have machines out in the wild since Haswell with a Zero percent failure rate so far. I’ve even taken some apart as some buyers didn’t want LM and everything looked like the day it was applied minus the die etching/staining that occurs.

    Every once in awhile (including today) I get the viewer who is absolutely positive that this is a terrible method and wants to argue without looking for evidence to support their case.

    So this post is for those that want their case supported regardless of what side you’re on.
  2. TheReciever

    TheReciever D! For Dragon!

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    Super33+ tape was amongst the first methods to institute insurance in your machine.

    Now there are two-three more methods on the table that people like to endorse which all seem perfectly fine with some being better than others.

    The top option is building yourself a foam dam around the cpu die, its a pain (like all things pursuant to performance) but its well worth the trouble for everyone that has used this method.

    Next up is using transparent nail polish, a specific type though with a specific chemical that isnt reactive to Liquid Metal. Sorry I cant give more detail on that front. Anyways you put about 3 layers of the stuff around the CPU die iirc.

    Next up is simple super glue.

    Im sure others like @Falkentyne could give better detail though, iirc, he was much more educated on this subject than I.
    Rei Fukai likes this.
  3. Falkentyne

    Falkentyne Notebook Prophet

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    Super 33+ tape and nail polish are usually used to insulate the exposed or SMD resistors or traces around CPU and GPU cores.
    Super 33+ tape can also be used to help cover around the "gaps" in a LGA socket also, if applying LM on top of an IHS, but kneaded eraser is a much better option there. Foam dams can work also but it's much harder to get a foam dam to work around an un-delidded LGA socket, because you have the gaps and the retention mechanism in the way.

    Foam dams are used (especially on GPUs and on BGA CPU's, and LGA with some extra work--Kneaded eraser is a better option there though) to both stop LM runoff onto the PCB or motherboard, and also to help insulate against oxygen oxidation of liquid metal (LM exposed to air greatly accelerates gallium absorption, even nickel plated copper, which has much lower absorption rate than bare copper).

    Foam dams are essential on BGA and GPU's (where kneaded eraser won't really play well due to thickness and very low pressure heatsinks. And you don't want thick polyurethane foam either. Air conditioner foam works very well. Good dimensions for a sheet of foam are like : 24" x 13-1/2" x 1/4"
    or something like this:
    (1/4" thickness is the key, and around 20-30 ppi).
  4. br0adband

    br0adband Notebook Guru

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    I just applied Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut aka "Liquid Metal" to my ThinkPad W540 a few days ago. I used a conformal coating which is somewhat toxic to breathe so it requires adequate ventilation when it's applied but it is the recommended solution when doing such things. I know there's tons of various kinds of tapes available, and some folks do use clear nail polish but conformal coating is specifically designed for this purpose so I'd never even consider recommending anything else.

    First I cleaned off all the relevant parts (top of the i7-4930MX CPU core, top of the Nvidia Quadro K2100M GPU core, bottoms of the heatsinks as completely as possible with some isopropyl alcohol and a micro-fiber cloth - it's amazing how much previous thermal compound you'll find with a micro-fiber cloth compared to just a napkin or tissue or whatever, also highly recommended and you can wash/re-use the micro-fiber cloth anyway). I then took pieces of Scotch tape - seriously, and applied it to the tops of the CPU and GPU cores, then carefully cut off the excess so only the very tops, the flat shiny surfaces, were protected. Then I applied conformal coating, and this is what I purchased (this is not an affiliate link or anything, not attempting to make a buck from folks, it's just the direct product link):

    The "Maximum constant service temperature of 200 °C [392 °F]" means this stuff isn't going to be bothered by a piddly ~100C heat buildup (if that much) from any modern CPUs so this is really the stuff to use for this coating-for-protection activity.

    I applied one coating using the brush applicator that's part of the packaging of the conformal coating, slow easy strokes across the CPU and GPU dies. Gave it 15 minutes to dry and again adequate ventilation when doing this is an absolute must - I basically set my work space up next to a window, then I put a small desktop fan (high output, some Holmes "super fan" type thing) so the airflow blew across the motherboard and directly out the window during this whole process and I barely even smelled the conformal coating at all because of how I set things up.

    I applied a second coat the same way, gave it 15 minutes, then figured why not so I applied a third coating and another 15 minutes. The thing about the ThinkPad W540 heatsink assembly is that is is a hybrid made of copper for the actual heatpipe part of the assembly but aluminum for the rest of it, and of course Liquid Metal is quite destructive to aluminum if it makes contact with it - it renders aluminum extremely brittle and there's no going back.

    So, I then got out some more Scotch tape, applied two layers of it to the copper areas on the heatsink/pipe assembly, cut it to match the size of the CPU and GPU cores, and then I applied 3 coats of conformal coating to the entire surrounding area where the CPU and GPU cores would mate with the copper. I also blew out the fan assembly with compressed air - I had redone the cooling system only 2 months ago so there wasn't anything "stuck" to the fan blades, nothing caked on the heatsink fins, etc, it as all clean with a few quick blasts of air.

    When I was satisfied the CPU and GPU dies and the copper areas on the heatsink/pipes were as protected as I'm going to really make them, I then set to work applying the Liquid Metal and of course I was deathly afraid of applying too much pressure to the syringe and having it spurt out like it did in Linus's video on his YouTube channel. Luckily I got it right on the first attempt for both the CPU and GPU and then also to the copper areas on the heatsink/pipes. Spread it out using the included swab applicators, no issues, and once I was finally happy with everything I did one final check of it all and then I reassembled the entire laptop and did some testing (of course I did some testing prior to this as well).

    My original thermal compound was Arctic Silver 5, been using it for the past decade or so and never had reasons to complain about it, really. Running Prime95 for 10 minutes I got temps in the 95C range which of course is quite hot, and that's from an idle temp of about 41C. I knew Liquid Metal should provide me some decent drop in temps, and it did.

    Upon booting up the W540 with Liquid Metal applied, I never even heard the fan spin up, from the time I pushed the power button to the time I was at the Windows 10 desktop (about 8 seconds 'cause of my Intel 5450s enterprise class SSD, obviously). I then set about firing up Prime95 for 10 minutes, using CoreTemp to keep an eye on the temps.

    After 4 minutes I decided to stop the testing because the temps never went over 71C.

    Am I a happy camper? Damned right I am. :)

    I did more testing with wPrime to 1 million places, again, about 71C max temp. Idle temps? About 34C now, so again, a very happy camper. Played some Borderlands 2 which even in spite of being a ~7 year old game and not massively CPU or GPU dependent did tend to warm up this machine quite a bit with the AS5 on it, usually pushing about 80C with all defaults (no overclocking anything, stock clocks across the board, stock voltages, etc and I do use Intel XTU to modify things sometimes to keep the heat generation down a bit).

    With Liquid Metal now in place, setting Borderlands 2 for my native 1920x1080 resolution and then literally maxing out every graphics option the game offers - and I do have the 4K texture packs installed (even in spite of me not having a 4K display the textures are still utilized and they do make it look much better overall) - I was still never seeing more than about 71C for temps across the 4 cores (+/- 3C either way since the 4 cores of this i7-4930MX aren't perfectly matched on the heatsink assembly, maybe lapping it someday could get it a few points lower).

    Regardless, the Liquid Metal application plus the use of some of Thermal Grizzly's thermal pad material on the other pads of the heatsink/pipes assembly (on the GPU RAM chips and two or three other spots) now has this W540 running cool, and I hardly ever notice the fan when it's running compared to previously when it was quite noticeable. The Minus Pad 8 thermal pad material I used is here (again, a direct product link, no affiliate crap):

    Can't say anyone or everyone else might get such results, but I will say this: if you want some serious drops in temps, and you're willing to take your time and do things right and really do it carefully with the right materials, you can end up with some seriously great differences in the operating temps for even an older much hotter running setup like this i7-4930MX and the Quadro K2100M.

    Pretty sure our computers would thank us for it if they could. ;)

    As always, YMMV, just be careful with the application of Liquid Metal - can't stress that enough - and if you do use the conformal coating, again, adequate ventilation during the application and drying periods, that stuff is toxic and highly flammable as well. Not trying to scare anyone off, but it's amazing to me how many YouTube videos use it in their thermal compound application and instructional videos but they never - not one of them that I've ever seen - warn viewers that it's a toxic substance and adequate ventilation must be taken into consideration.

    Anyway, have fun, always...
    Mr. Fox and Falkentyne like this.
  5. Jan Prochnica

    Jan Prochnica Notebook Enthusiast

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    You have to be careful with the tape and CPUs with IHS. If heat melts it, you may end up with IHS basically glued to heatsink. It happened to me when upgrading from 7700K to 8700K, it wouldn't move even a bit, I had to bend heatsink a little to reach socket lever and release it.

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