- A heat transfer device is a device that transfers heat between two fluids.
- They can be found in everything, from rocket engines to air conditioners, as they are versatile and have many applications.
- Conflux Technology is a big player in the space- producing compact, and efficient heat exchanger designs.
- Their technology is based on a geometry that can only have been made by additive manufacturing.
- A high surface area heat exchanger with low weight and low-pressure drop is possible thanks to optimized fluid pathways and 3D surfaces features.
- These performance benefits were realized in a short development time, which was supported by Computational Fluid Dynamics modeling. Multiple variants can be produced simultaneously without the need to think about tooling.
3D technology is rapidly growing, and today there are hundreds of printing industrial applications. Unfortunately, many people still don’t understand 3D printing even with the massive growth.
One of the challenges that 3D printing service providers face is the lack of knowledge from the global community. Today we look at the 3D printed heat exchanger to help you understand more about this technology. Let’s get started.
What Is a Heat Exchanger?
3D printing for heat exchangers offers lots of benefits for manufacturers. For instance, it allows them to design models that are lightweight, small in size, and perform excellently. However, before we talk more about its benefits, let’s first understand what a heat exchanger is.
It’s simply a device used to regulate temperature. It’s included among the integral parts of industrial equipment. A car radiator is an example of a heat exchanger. It is also used in ships and planes to improve their performance.
Again, it is used in appliances that have air conditioning or cooling systems, such as refrigerators.
These devices have several uses. As such, it brings differences in designs. Most come with a coil or plate design. Coil exchangers usually use coil tubes to separate fluids such that one fluid flows inside the tube while the other outside.
Plate ones, on the other hand, use thin metal plates to separate the fluids. Also, bear in mind that the fluid flows in opposite directions to make the device more efficient.
Is 3D Printing Suitable for Heat Exchangers?
Yes. The old way of producing these devices is involving and time-consuming. Manufacturers have to take various steps, including forming and welding. Plus, the result is models that aren’t that efficient and effective when matched against a consumer’s performance requirements.
Thankfully, a 3D-printed exchanger addresses all these limitations. Manufacturers are now embracing this new technology that saves time, improves design, and increases the efficiency of exchangers.
Benefits of 3D Printing for Heat Exchangers
Better Performance Thanks to Complex Geometries
This printing shapes complex things and makes them better and more functional. As such, manufacturers of heat exchangers can take advantage of this to create thin walls measuring only 200 microns. And they can make small flow channels inside the exchanger. The result will be a device that allows efficient heat transfer inside its surface. Note that exchangers with a larger surface area allow more room for heat to be removed. Thus, this significantly improves the performance.
Lightweight and Small Size
Manufacturers nowadays design exchangers with tube shells, rectangular or rectilinear designs. However, these unique shapes make it hard to fit them into a device. Thankfully, 3D printing offers an effective solution to this. Using this technology, engineers can design small and light exchangers with even better performance. This printing allows manufacturers to create new shapes and features. As such, it makes the device smaller. The compact shape allows it to fit perfectly into tight spaces.
Ease of Production
The traditional methods for designing heat exchangers feature a series of steps like forming, brazing and welding. Not only are these steps time-consuming, but they are also costly. Fortunately, manufacturers can take advantage of the 3D printing technology to produce an exchanger directly. Doing so reduces the operations, thus saving both time and money.
Since a 3D exchanger is designed on a single operation, it eliminates seams and joints, which could potentially cause leaks. The straightforward production removes potential flaws and faults, improving the quality. Therefore, you can expect your exchanger to last for many years.
What Are Some Examples of 3D Printed Heat Exchangers?
Well, you will mostly find these devices in the motorsports, energy, and aerospace industries. Here are some examples;
Although it is still a new type, it’s gaining lots of praise due to its superior performance. Its internal shape is a bit complex, which improves the efficiency of this device.
Conflux Technology is a company based in Australia. It deals with the printing of thermal and fluid components using 3D technology. The components produced are then used in motorsport, automotive, and aerospace industries.
By using 3D printing technology, this company has developed a unique, high-quality exchanger known as the Conflux Core. It features complex geometries inside such that the surface area is increased. As a result, tripling the thermal heat rejection.
This new design is 22% lighter and 55mm smaller compared to the original Formula 1 benchmark. Also, thanks to 3D printing, the production time was reduced to only six months. Again, this printing allowed the manufacturer to consolidate different components into one part. Thus, this simplified design uses less material during production, which saves on material costs.
Engineers that use the Conflux Core benefit from part consolidation, which means less time is needed for assembly, and it also reduces faulty points from seams and joints.
GE’s Heat Exchanger
It is mostly used in applications that require power generations. The exchanger is still under research. But GE promises to design a device that is more thermally efficient and features an increased operating temperature. To make this possible, the GE team draws its inspiration from the human lungs.
The device has a network of various channels that take hot air from a gas turbine. This network is then joined with another that has colder working fluid flowing in the opposite direction. While these fluids do not mix, they are close to one another, allowing excellent heat exchange.
This model could see power plants withstand temperatures of up to 1650 degrees, which is a lot higher than what the current type can handle.
The GE team concluded that the 3D printing technology could help design such an effective device. This model will be made from a sturdy nickel that can resist cracks and is specifically designed for this purpose by the GE researchers.
Combining the freedom of 3D technology and the strength offered by a superalloy significantly boosts the performance of the exchanger.
3D printing for heat exchangers offers various perks. Other than design flexibility, it allows manufacturers to create quality models with excellent performance. Plus, as it is flexible, engineers can design a smaller and lighter exchanger that fits in tight spaces.