What are PTC heaters?

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By Jason Herndon | Sep 28, 2017
Self regulating PTC heaters

Has your heater ever stopped functioning when you needed it the most? Have you heard of car seats overheating or having hot spots? For decades, we have been relying on fixed resistance heaters for most of our needs. Safety remains an underlying concern when a single point sensor ‘assumes’ the temperature of the entire heater. Despite the various issues that have plagued traditional heaters, we continue to deploy them widely across industries. However, GM Nameplate now has the answer to overcome all of these challenges - PTC heating - a technology that puts safety in the front seat.

With this post, we are kicking off a new four-part blog series to answer your burning questions - the what, why, where and how of PTC heaters.

Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC) heaters are self-regulating heaters that run open-loop without any external diagnostic controls. While traditional fixed-resistance heaters employ wires and coils to generate heat, PTC heaters use conductive inks printed on thin, flexible polymer-based substrates. Scoring high on reliability and efficiency, they are ideal for products that require safer, faster and more uniform heating. The properties of the material allow the PTC heater to act as its own sensor, eliminating the need for any external feedback controls. As a result, the heater inherently eliminates the risk of overheating.

PTC heaters utilize Positive Temperature Coefficient materials i.e. materials that exhibit a positive resistance change in response to the increase in temperature. As the temperature increases, the electrical resistance of the material also increases, thus limiting the current flow. Simply put, the material allows current to pass when it’s cold, and restricts current to flow as the threshold temperature increases.

PTC heaters draw full power initially to quickly heat up and reach the optimum temperature. As the heat increases, the power consumption simultaneously drops. This dynamic heating system is not only effective, but also time and energy efficient. PTC heaters can be designed to operate anywhere between -40°C and 70°C (-40°F and 158°F). The threshold temperature is customized during the design phase. Heaters with multiple temperature zones are achievable and watt density can be changed through simple modifications.

With a striking blend of performance and functionality, conductive inks are truly scripting the success story of printed electronics, such as PTC heaters. They give you the freedom to design intricate heating patterns. They are also abrasion resistant, cost-effective, and allow ease of production for large volumes. With PTC heaters, carbon conductive inks are screen printed on polymer-based substrates. While polyester is primarily used, other substrate materials can also be utilized. The PTC conductive inks can endure repeated cycles of heating and cooling. The printed circuits are sealed with an adhesive laminate to prevent the ingress of moisture as well as mechanical abrasion. The sealed construction can withstand extreme external conditions and the rigors of heavy usage.

PTC heating technology, a term synonymous with safety, utilizes best-in-class technology that surpasses the available options in the market today. In our next blog, we will elaborate on the benefits of PTC heaters versus traditional heaters. Until then, you can learn more by visiting our capabilities page here