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Size comparison of BJT transistor packages: TO-3 (top), TO-126, TO-92, SOT-23 (bottom) Transistorer (cropped).jpg
Size comparison of BJT transistor packages: TO-3 (top), TO-126, TO-92, SOT-23 (bottom)

In electronics, TO-3 is a designation for a standardized metal semiconductor package used for power semiconductors, including transistors, silicon controlled rectifiers, and, integrated circuits. TO stands for "Transistor Outline" and relates to a series of technical drawings produced by JEDEC. [1]

A semiconductor package is a metal, plastic, glass, or ceramic casing containing one or more discrete semiconductor devices or integrated circuits. Individual components are fabricated on semiconductor wafers before being diced into die, tested, and packaged. The package provides a means for connecting the package to the external environment, such as printed circuit board, via leads such as lands, balls, or pins; and protection against threats such as mechanical impact, chemical contamination, and light exposure. Additionally, it helps dissipate heat produced by the device, with or without the aid of a heat spreader. There are thousands of package types in use. Some are defined by international, national, or industry standards, while others are particular to an individual manufacturer.

Transistor semiconductor device used to amplify and switch electronic signals and electrical power

A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify or switch electronic signals and electrical power. It is composed of semiconductor material usually with at least three terminals for connection to an external circuit. A voltage or current applied to one pair of the transistor's terminals controls the current through another pair of terminals. Because the controlled (output) power can be higher than the controlling (input) power, a transistor can amplify a signal. Today, some transistors are packaged individually, but many more are found embedded in integrated circuits.

Silicon controlled rectifier semiconductor electronic device with three p-n junctions, mainly used in devices where the control of high power is demanded

A silicon controlled rectifier or semiconductor controlled rectifier is a four-layer solid-state current-controlling device. The principle of four-layer p–n–p–n switching was developed by Moll, Tanenbaum, Goldey and Holonyak of Bell Laboratories in 1956. The practical demonstration of silicon controlled switching and detailed theoretical behavior of a device in agreement with the experimental results was presented by Dr Ian M. Mackintosh of Bell Laboratories in January 1958. The name "silicon controlled rectifier" is General Electric's trade name for a type of thyristor. The SCR was developed by a team of power engineers led by Gordon Hall and commercialized by Frank W. "Bill" Gutzwiller in 1957.


The TO-3 case has a flat surface which can be attached to a heatsink, normally via a thermally conductive but electrically insulating washer. Its package usually have two leads, the case being the third connection, though devices with more leads are used. The TO-3 case has two mounting holes, with the centers spaced 1.186 inches (30.1 mm) apart. [2] The design originated at Motorola around 1955. The lead spacing was originally intended to allow plugging the device into a then-common tube socket. [3]

Motorola, Inc. was an American multinational telecommunications company founded on September 25, 1928, based in Schaumburg, Illinois. After having lost $4.3 billion from 2007 to 2009, the company was divided into two independent public companies, Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions on January 4, 2011. Motorola Solutions is generally considered to be the direct successor to Motorola, as the reorganization was structured with Motorola Mobility being spun off. Motorola Mobility was sold to Google in 2012, and acquired by Lenovo in 2014.

Tube socket Electrical connection part of electronic tubes

Tube sockets are electrical sockets into which vacuum tubes can be plugged, holding them in place and providing terminals, which can be soldered into the circuit, for each of the pins. Sockets are designed to allow tubes to be inserted in only one orientation. They were used in most tube electronic equipment to allow easy removal and replacement. When tube equipment was common, retailers such as drug stores had vacuum tube testers, and sold replacement tubes. Some Nixie tubes were also designed to use sockets.

Typical applications

Typical TO-3 mounting profile, with insulator from chassis TO-3 mounting.png
Typical TO-3 mounting profile, with insulator from chassis

The metal package can be attached to a heat sink, making it suitable for devices dissipating several watts of heat. Thermal compound is used to improve heat transfer between the device case and the heat sink. Since the device case is one of the electrical connections, an insulator may be required to electrically isolate the component from the heatsink. Insulating washers may be made of mica or other materials with good thermal conductivity.

Mica phyllosilicate minerals

The mica group of sheet silicate (phyllosilicate) minerals includes several closely related materials having nearly perfect basal cleavage. All are monoclinic, with a tendency towards pseudohexagonal crystals, and are similar in chemical composition. The nearly perfect cleavage, which is the most prominent characteristic of mica, is explained by the hexagonal sheet-like arrangement of its atoms.

The thermal conductivity of a material is a measure of its ability to conduct heat. It is commonly denoted by , , or .

The case is used with high-power and high-current devices, on the order of a few tens of amperes current and up to a hundred watts of heat dissipation. The case surfaces are metal for good heat conductivity and durability. The metal-to-metal and metal-to-glass joints provide hermetic seals that protect the semiconductor from liquids and gases.

A hermetic seal is any type of sealing that makes a given object airtight. The term originally applied to airtight glass containers, but as technology advanced it applied to a larger category of materials, including rubber and plastics. Hermetic seals are essential to the correct and safe functionality of many electronic and healthcare products. Used technically, it is stated in conjunction with a specific test method and conditions of use.

Compared with equivalent plastic packages, the TO-3 is more costly. The spacing and dimensions of the case leads make it unsuitable for higher frequency (radio frequency) devices.


Inside of a MJ1000 Darlington transistor in TO-3 package Darlington transistor MJ1000.jpg
Inside of a MJ1000 Darlington transistor in TO-3 package

The semiconductor die component is mounted on a raised platform on a metal plate with the metal can crimped on top of it, providing high heat conductivity and durability. The leads pass through the metal base plate and are sealed with glass. The metal case is connected to the internal device and the leads are connected to the die with bonding wires.

Common components that use the TO-3 package

KT819GM NPN power transistor (Soviet 2N3055 copy) in TO-3 package KT819GM (1).jpg
КТ819ГМ NPN power transistor (Soviet 2N3055 copy) in TO-3 package

Common voltage regulators:

LM317 adjustable linear voltage regulator

The LM317 is a popular adjustable positive linear voltage regulator. It was designed by Robert C Dobkin in 1976 while he worked at National Semiconductor.


78xx is a family of self-contained fixed linear voltage regulator integrated circuits. The 78xx family is commonly used in electronic circuits requiring a regulated power supply due to their ease-of-use and low cost.

Common transistors:


The 2N3055 is a silicon NPN power transistor intended for general purpose applications. It was introduced in the early 1960s by RCA using a hometaxial power transistor process, transitioned to an epitaxial base in the mid-1970s. Its numbering follows the JEDEC standard. It is a transistor type of enduring popularity.

See also

Related Research Articles

Dual in-line package

In microelectronics, a dual in-line package, or dual in-line pin package (DIPP) is an electronic component package with a rectangular housing and two parallel rows of electrical connecting pins. The package may be through-hole mounted to a printed circuit board (PCB) or inserted in a socket. The dual-inline format was invented by Don Forbes, Rex Rice and Bryant Rogers at Fairchild R&D in 1964, when the restricted number of leads available on circular transistor-style packages became a limitation in the use of integrated circuits. Increasingly complex circuits required more signal and power supply leads ; eventually microprocessors and similar complex devices required more leads than could be put on a DIP package, leading to development of higher-density packages. Furthermore, square and rectangular packages made it easier to route printed-circuit traces beneath the packages.

In electronics, a linear regulator is a system used to maintain a steady voltage. The resistance of the regulator varies in accordance with the load resulting in a constant output voltage. The regulating device is made to act like a variable resistor, continuously adjusting a voltage divider network to maintain a constant output voltage and continually dissipating the difference between the input and regulated voltages as waste heat. By contrast, a switching regulator uses an active device that switches on and off to maintain an average value of output. Because the regulated voltage of a linear regulator must always be lower than input voltage, efficiency is limited and the input voltage must be high enough to always allow the active device to drop some voltage.

A power semiconductor device is a semiconductor device used as a switch or rectifier in power electronics. Such a device is also called a power device or, when used in an integrated circuit, a power IC.

Electronic component basic discrete device or physical entity in an electronic system used to affect electrons or their associated fields

An electronic component is any basic discrete device or physical entity in an electronic system used to affect electrons or their associated fields. Electronic components are mostly industrial products, available in a singular form and are not to be confused with electrical elements, which are conceptual abstractions representing idealized electronic components.


The TO-92 is a widely used style of semiconductor package mainly used for transistors. The case is often made of epoxy or plastic, and offers compact size at a very low cost.


The TO-220 is a style of electronic package used for high-powered, through-hole components. The "TO" designation stands for "transistor outline". TO-220 packages have three leads. Similar packages with two, four, five or seven leads are also manufactured. A notable characteristic is a metal tab with a hole, used in mounting the case to a heatsink, allowing the component to dissipate more heat than one constructed in a TO-92 case. Common TO-220-packaged components include discrete semiconductors such as transistors and silicon-controlled rectifiers, as well as integrated circuits.


The 2N3904 is a common NPN bipolar junction transistor used for general-purpose low-power amplifying or switching applications. The type was registered by Motorola Semiconductor in the mid-1960s, together with the complementary PNP type 2N3906, and represented a significant performance/cost improvement, with the plastic TO-92 case replacing metal cans. It is designed for low current and power, medium voltage, and can operate at moderately high speeds. This transistor is low-cost, widely available and sufficiently robust to be of use by experimenters and electronics hobbyists. When looking at the flat side with the leads pointed downward, the three wires emerging from the bottom are connected to, from left to right, the emitter, the base and the collector. Some manufacturers mark "EBC" on the molded part, but all are required to have those connections for a part which is a "2N3904".


The 2N2222 is a common NPN bipolar junction transistor (BJT) used for general purpose low-power amplifying or switching applications. It is designed for low to medium current, low power, medium voltage, and can operate at moderately high speeds. It was originally made in the TO-18 metal can as shown in the picture.

BC548 general-purpose NPN bipolar junction transistor

The BC548 is a general-purpose NPN bipolar junction transistor commonly used in European and American electronic equipment. It is notably often the first type of bipolar transistor hobbyists encounter and is often featured in designs in hobby electronics magazines where a general-purpose transistor is required. The BC548 is low in cost and widely available.

Multi-leaded power package

The multi-leaded power package is a style of electronic component package, commonly used for high power integrated circuits, especially for monolithic audio amplifiers. It was derived from single in-line package. The difference is the lead arrangement; multi-leaded power packages usually have the lead bent to zig-zag pattern. Multi-leaded power packages commonly have more than three leads; nine-, thirteen- and fifteen-lead units are common, units with five or seven leads with TO-220 style are also manufactured. A notable characteristic is a metal tab with a hole, used in mounting the case to a heatsink. The physical view of multi-leaded power packages are simply stretched TO-220 packages. Components made in multi-leaded power packages can handle more power than those constructed in TO-220 cases, or even TO3 cases with thermal resistance no less than 1.5 C/W.

In electronics, TO-18 is a designation for a style of transistor metal case. The case is more expensive than the similarly sized plastic TO-92 package. The name is from JEDEC, signifying Transistor Outline Package, Case Style 18.

Thermal resistance is a heat property and a measurement of a temperature difference by which an object or material resists a heat flow. Thermal resistance is the reciprocal of thermal conductance.

Failure of electronic components Ways electronic elements fail and prevention measures

Electronic components have a wide range of failure modes. These can be classified in various ways, such as by time or cause. Failures can be caused by excess temperature, excess current or voltage, ionizing radiation, mechanical shock, stress or impact, and many other causes. In semiconductor devices, problems in the device package may cause failures due to contamination, mechanical stress of the device, or open or short circuits.


TO-126 is a type of semiconductor package for devices with three pins, such as transistors. The package is rectangular with a hole in the middle to allow for easy mounting to a board or a heat sink.


  1. "JEDEC TO-3 package specification" (PDF). JEDEC . Archived from the original (PDF) on June 18, 2017.
  2. Mounting Considerations for TO-3 Package , page 3.