Abstract An axisymmetric thermal non-dimensional finite element is used to study the effects of different parameters on pin fin performance. It is observed that the fin performance may be improved by selecting an appropriate orthotropic thermal conductivity ratio. The thermal interface between fin and base plate may have considerable effects on overall heat dissipation, which is minimized by using appropriate thermal interface materials (TIM); nevertheless the minimized interface resistance depends on TIM thermal conductivity and its layer thickness. Effects of these two parameters on pin fin performance are studied in somewhat more detail. The thermal efficiency of fin may further be degraded by scale deposition on its surface, therefore the effect of scale deposition on a pin fin with TIM is also studied. All these above investigations are carried out using non-dimensional FE formulation, which directly provides the dimensionless results for a class of fin problems that become too complex for a dimensionless solution in a closed form.