What Are Thin Film Precision Surface Mount Resistors and Their Advantages?
Resistors are an electrical component that may be implemented within an electrical system in order to divide voltages, alter signal levels, or generally impede current flow. As a passive component, resistors are highly utilized across many electrical networks and electronic circuits, protecting many of the devices and systems that we rely on. Precision resistors are a specific type of resistor component that utilizes advancements in thin film materials and deposition technology, allowing resistors to be produced for much cheaper and allowing them to be used in a wide variety of applications.
Over the past decade, precision thin film resistors that were considered high-end and expensive have now become commonly found in stock and are often produced by a wide range of electronics manufacturers. As compared to thick film chips, thin film resistors have seen huge increases in their electrical performance, most notably in regards to tolerance and TCR. Currently, production surface mount chip resistors can be made with tolerances at 0.01% and a TCR rating of 1 ppm per degree Celsius. With such dramatic improvements, precision thin film resistors are quickly catching up to the performance of components such as bulk metal foil technology. Despite this gap, such thin film resistors are still highly desirable due to their low cost as compared to components with similar capabilities and tolerances.
While such resistors have become very powerful and cheap in recent years, such precision thin film resistors are not without their downsides. Nichrome is often the most popularly used element for thin film resistors, and this material is at risk of corrosion from moisture which can lead to both resistance shifts and failure. Corrosion due to moisture is caused by the oxidation of the thin film element, leading to a loss of conductivity and a shift to positive resistances. To solve this problem, manufacturers may use moisture barriers that can protect the thin film materials, thus preventing a shift of resistance.
Another problem that thin film resistors face is their energy handling during short pulses. When subject to pulses that are one second or longer, many thin film resistors exhibit handling that is on par with thick film chip resistors. With a pulse that is under one second, however, such resistors feature major decreases in their ability to handle such forces. Despite this issue, most precision thin film resistors are not utilized in many applications in which there is a need for measurement, monitoring, or controlling systems with high accuracy. Because of this, such precision thin film resistors do not require pulse handling, and thus it is not much of an issue. Nevertheless, when implementing a thin film resistor for such applications, other pulse limiting resistors can be utilized alongside the thin film resistor to accommodate for its inability to handle short pulses.
Despite their shortcomings, precision thin film resistors have come a long way from their original capabilities, allowing for consumers to procure high quality resistors that were once very rare and expensive. As moisture and short pulses can inhibit the ability of the resistor, it is recommended that one utilizes moisture protection or other pulse limiting resistors to ensure that operations and systems run smoothly, safely, and efficiently.
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