Jan 5, 2018 | By Tess

Two researchers from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand have used 3D printing to develop “high-performance heat exchangers” which could impact the design, production, and efficiency of electronic devices, vehicles, and more.

The duo, consisting of Professor Conan Fee and Dr. Tim Huber, was recently recognized for its innovative research and was awarded a prize as part of the University of Canterbury’s annual Tech Jumpstart competition. The competition awards up to $20,000 over six months to five notable research projects with commercial potential.

Researchers Dr. Tim Huber (left) and Professor Conan Fee (right)

The heat exchangers developed by the research team reportedly have the benefit of being customizable and adaptable thanks to additive manufacturing and can therefore open up new possibilities in virtually all applications where heat exchangers are used.

If you’re familiar with electronic basics, you’ll know that heat exchangers are an essential part of many electronics—from vehicles, to laptops, to air conditioning units—so an improvement in their design and production would have wide reaching effects.

In simple terms, the New Zealand researchers have proposed a method for 3D printing heat exchangers that can be smaller than existing systems and customizable in terms of shape. This flexibility, they say, could mean increasingly lightweight, cheap, and efficient electronic devices.

Additionally, the researchers say their 3D printed heat exchangers could allow for smaller electronics and heating systems, more fuel-efficient vehicles, and better ventilated laptops. (If you’re used to your laptop whirring furiously after a few hours of use, this might be a particularly appealing benefit.)

“[The project] will facilitate the development of some promising technology that is expected to improve the efficiency of devices meant for heating or cooling,” said Professor Fee, the head of the University of Canterbury’s School of Product Design.

“That includes smaller and lighter devices for electronics, giving racing cars a competitive advantage, provide for lighter aerospace vehicles, and smaller, more attractive heat pumps in homes amongst other things.”

“The growth of 3D printing for new applications is exponential and it is stimulating a huge set of opportunities for new designs that were not previously possible,” he added. “Our 3D printed porous heat exchangers are an example of something that cannot be made by conventional technologies but is now possible, expanding our thinking and potentially growing innovation in New Zealand.”

The 3D printed heat exchanger project was realized through a collaboration between the New Zealand university’s various departments and brought together the fields of chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry, physics, and mathematics.

With the additional funding of the award the researchers won, they say they will further develop the project and ramp up their 3D printing use with the production of stainless steel and titanium heat exchanger parts.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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