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This has been asked, or brushed by before, but not really answered, for instance, here: SMD LED footprint

I still don't know what the 3rd footprint pad for some SMD LEDs (like the Vishay VSMG10850; the red bit in the image) is for, do I need to add one on the board, and if so, do I leave it unconnected, connect it to the GND for instance, or what?

enter image description here

Some of the explanations mentioned it might be for heat dissipation. If so, how should it be connected to anything larger than the small pad for actually dissipating some of the heat? Another guess is that it has to do with just mechanical attachment to the board, especially for automated layout hardware.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ And the VSMG footprint above as it didn't work inline: imgur.com/6bL1BNH \$\endgroup\$
    – k_ride
    Mar 11, 2020 at 11:29

2 Answers 2

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The shown pads are the area you need for soldering. The pads don't have to be exactly that size, but the openings in the soldermask should have the given sizes and positions.

The "third pad" on many LEDs is so that you can connect the LED to a large surface for cooling - you use a copper area on your PCB as a heat sink.

Whether the third pin may be connected to ground or not depends on how it is connected inside the LED. You must check the datasheet. In some LEDs, the thermal pin is connected to the cathode - you can connect it to ground if the cathode is grounded. In other LEDs, the thermal pin is electrically neutral (not connected electrically) so you can connect the thermal pin to any convenient large copper area.

In the case of your VSMG10850, the third pin is given as "reinforcing pin," which I take to mean it is mechanical only. The datasheet says it is "non-electrode" so it has no electrical connection. As it is mechanical only, it won't work as a heat sink so there's no advantage to connecting it to a large copper area.

Relevant section of the datasheet:

enter image description here

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! I don't know how I missed the "reinforcing pin" part :) I've been looking at that for too long. \$\endgroup\$
    – k_ride
    Mar 11, 2020 at 12:25
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The datasheet says it is a reinforcing pin. So it is just a extra mounting pad for soldering the LED so it does not fall off from mechanical stress so easily.

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