Automotive heat exchangers are an application ripe for reinvention through additive manufacturing. And the opportunity is huge. A Research and Markets report has valued it at nearly $US12 billion globally in 2013 , with the market predicted to grow at 6 per cent a year (CAGR) to $US 18 billion in 2020.
The heat exchanger industry has been effectively stagnant for the past 20 years, limited in practice by the limits of traditional, subtracting manufacturing methods. With powder bed fusion technology, new shapes and forms that would dramatically decrease the weight while, at the same time, increase the overall performance of the heat exchanger are now achievable.
The design freedom offered by layer by layer printing and the ability to decrease the weight of high value components are key factor for adoption of AM as industrial production method.
“We’re able to achieve structural efficiencies so that we have light weight, we’ve got surface area density efficiencies because of the geometric freedoms so we’ve got good thermal exchange and our fluid pathways allow us to achieve a good compromise between pumping losses and thermal exchange,” Fuller, founder of Conflux Technology, said in an interview [2,3,4]. “So you can have this high surface area density to fluid volume ratio, which is quite a key fundamental with heat exchangers.”
Beyond prototyping, the aim is to print fully functional replacement parts on or near site in lead times of max 48h, and minimise scheduling errors that could catastrophically affect project management due to approximate prediction of wear.
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