Stay cool with innovative 3D-printing technology

Siobhan Doyle

Nathan Rawlings examines additive manufacturing innovations in thermal management

What do gaming CPUs, LEDs, chillers, heating pumps and electrical appliances have in common? They all need heat exchangers to cool or heat the component. Traditional manufacturing has for a long time now been only making incremental advancements in terms of efficiency, design, and functionality for heat exchangers. However, metal additive manufacturing is setting new standards through characteristics such as high surface to volume ratios paired with complexities of design previously unimagined.

Very thin walls and small features are all 3D-printable, improving the efficiency of heat exchangers while also reducing the overall size of these components. With this design freedom, designers and manufacturers are achieving startling results.

Without the limitations of traditional manufacturing, you can improve the surface-to-volume ratio, create conformal cooling ducts, integrate new functionality into parts and design components to fit any space.

Costs can also be reduced, not just in terms of the volume of material used, but by producing heat exchangers as a single printed component, rather than needing to assemble it from several components.

Taking the heat

With EOS’ 3D-printing technology, a wide portfolio of materials with high-thermal conductivity can be processed such as copper (Cu, CuCP, CuCrZr) and aluminium (AlSi10Mg, Al5X1). Other materials such as nickel alloys (IN718, IN625, Haynes 282) are also well suited for high-temperature environments. Today, metal 3D-printing is finding applications in a wide range of industries producing components such as heat exchangers, housings, communication parts, drones, three-dimensional circuit boards and inductors.

With EOS technology, additive manufacturing has allowed its customer Conflux to design internal geometries that radically increased the surface area of heat exchanger components for a given volume. The innovative design tripled the thermal heat rejection and at the same time the pressure drop is reduced by two-thirds. The new compact design, also cut the length of the heat exchanger by 55%.

A blueprint for success

In a world where innovation and technological advancement are driving the future of manufacturing, the integration of additive manufacturing has been a transformative force. Organisations are increasingly using it to enhance their capabilities, reduce costs, and push the boundaries of what is possible for both product development and production. However, navigating the complex landscape of additive manufacturing integration requires a trusted partner, a blueprint for success, and a commitment to excellence.

There is a learning curve to take with industrial 3D-printing, but the freedom that it can give to iteratively ‘design, test, tweak, repeat’ can dramatically reduce time to market, alongside the freedom to innovate without constraint. Machine manufacturers such as EOS have experience in a wide range of demanding verticals and production environments. With the launch of their new EOS M 290 1kW machine industries such as space, energy, and mobility/transportation that commonly leverage copper and copper alloys overcome challenges of their 3D-printed copper components with the powerful 1kW laser, materials and software working in concert.

“Another early adopter of our copper AM technology is our customer GBZ Mannheim,” states Rawlings, “they are a specialised manufacturer of inductors and other highly engineered components to the automotive industry. The core elements of their new copper inductor applications are now integrated in a single build - no soldering points - and the results are much higher optimisation of the cooling channels and lower power consumption during the product lifecycle,” explains Rawlings.

Thanks to additive manufacturing new innovations are possible and EOS can help you start manufacturing your first components faster than you can imagine.