One of the 3D printed examples which often come back in articles is additively manufactured heat exchangers. Why I wondered. A heat exchanger is a device that allows heat (or cold) from a fluid (liquid or gas) to pass to a second fluid without the two fluids having to mix together or come into direct contact. Heat exchangers are present in many devices and plants worldwide. The limitations of traditional manufacturing technologies, such as welding and CNC milling, often lead to high costs and complex manufacturing procedures. Thanks to additive manufacturing it is now possible to design and 3D print heat exchangers with extremely complex internal geometries, not only minimizing costs and manufacturing time but also decreasing the weight of the heat exchanger (which is for example important for the aviation industry), and optimizing the heat transfer.
The 3D printed heat exchanger of United Technologies Corp. (UTC) is, according to the website, in comparison to traditionally manufactured heat exchangers more efficient, more compact, and more reliable. Venkat Vedula, executive director of UTC’s Additive Manufacturing Center of Expertise, also mentions in the article: “Reducing weight is always important in aircraft systems but, in some cases, reducing size is more important. In this program both size and weight have been reduced by about 20 percent compared to the current.”
Another example comes from GE, famous in the AM ecosystem for their 3D printed jet engine fuel nozzles. GE’s new 3D printed heat exchanger is designed for their power generation systems. Also here you can see an intersection of the heat exchanger, revealing a bloom like geometry, which is only possible to produce with additive manufacturing.
I saw the last example of a 3D printed heat exchanger during Milan Design Week in April 2017. The series of struts inside each of the tubes increases internal surface area and disperses the flow of cooled fluid to maximize heat transfer. The outside form has been designed to increase the cooling surface area and utilize the cooling air as it passes through the device. Also, this complex geometry is only possible thanks to additive manufacturing.
Each of Tessa’s weekly picks is a curated group of 3D printed designs, based on the week’s chosen theme. If you would like to offer a theme for Tessa, or if you have your own 3D printed weekly picks you would like to see featured, please let us know by commenting below. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest weekly picks every week in your mailbox.