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Based on a bi-material micro-cantilever thermal deformation principle, an uncooled infrared focal plane array (FPA) with optical readout has been developed from a substrate-based structure to a substrate-free structure. Infrared imaging of the substrate-free FPA indicates that this structure does not satisfy temperature-constant substrate conditions when the FPA unit size decreases from 200 μm to 60 μm. To evaluate the performance of the FPA, this paper puts forward an analytical model of heat transfer in the substrate-free FPA, by using a holistic approach and an electrical circuit analogy. The analytical model provides a fast and convenient way to calculate the temperature gray response and the response time of the substrate-free FPA. A substrate-free FPA with a unit size of 50 μm was fabricated. Infrared imaging experiments validate the model and indicate a noise equivalent temperature difference value of 170 mK has been achieved.