Metal 3D printing likely to offer greatest benefit to thermal parts

Written by: Justin Cunningham | Published:
Heats sinks and radiators set to benefit from AM Heats sinks and radiators are likely to find significant improvement by utilising metal 3D printing techniques

The hype behind 3D printing remains palpable, with many looking at metal-based additive manufacturing processes for thermal applications. It’s a natural fit as the bespoke and highly intricate geometry creation that’s possible means that shallow channels, creating a high surface area, can be produced.

“If I had to make a bet beyond the obvious stuff, thermal parts are where the action is going to be over the next few years,” says Marc Saunders, director of global solutions centres at Renishaw. “Heat sinks, radiators, recuperations or heat exchangers – basically anything where you have to move heat effectively, and need large surface areas. That’s what it’s brilliant for. And in thermal applications, mechanical properties are not as critical, so the qualification threshold is much lower than, for example, a structural aircraft part. It is an opportunity to get development moving faster than in the more regulated sectors.”

A boost in thermal performance means there is greater opportunity to capture heat and use it elsewhere in a system, so engines, for example, can run more efficiently.

Working with Autodesk, Newbury based 3T RPD produce a concept heat exchanger (pictured) using a radical new approach to design to demonstrate the potential of metallic additive components. The heat exchanger is both lighter and stronger than most incumbent heat exchangers, and internal structures and skin thickness were further optimised using Autodesk’s Within Enhance software.

3T RPD has also produced the first successful pure copper additive manufacturing Heat Exchanger, marking a significant move forward in material development. Previously, the Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) technology has been used to produce copper alloy products but never a pure copper part.

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