Heating and cooling is a great field for Computational Engineering and industrial 3D printing, as the performance of a heat exchanger is greatly influenced by the surface areas of the heat dissipating structures. At the same time, complex heat exchangers are beyond the realm of what today’s simulation tools can handle (at least without using supercomputers). So they are ideal targets for rapid iteration and real-world feedback of the produced result.
We have designed many heat exchangers algorithmically in the past. In the end, even the Aerospike rocket engine is mostly a giant heat exchanger, using the cryogenic fuel and oxidizer to keep the combustion chamber from melting.
This object is a liquid-liquid heat exchanger designed for Additive Manufacturing. The hot fluid enters the geometry through the bottom central pipe. It travels upwards (with respect to the print orientation) towards the central outlet at the top. In between the single large pipe splits into many smaller pipes, that separate out to allow the coolant to flow between them. The coolant enters from the upper volute and is distributed into the space that hold the small pipes of hot fluid. A spiral along the centre line holds the small pipes in place and increases the flow path length of the coolant as it flows downwards. The small pipes also have a swirl in order to increase the contact length between coolant (mainly counter-flowing) and the hot fluid. The coolant is pushed out into the lower distributers, exiting the geometry through the bottom volute.
The part was generated completely through Computational Engineering. Our computational model is written in object-oriented (C#) computer code, that automatically produces the entire geometry within minutes. This algorithm consists of separate modules, e.g. for the volutes, the internal piping, the outer walls, the flanges, the cooling ribs, that “negotiate” the final result. Every module includes an initial set of parameters and rules (engineering knowledge) that can be easily fine-tuned and expanded in the future. Computational Engineering drastically reduces the time for every iteration while enabling complex surface geometry with excellent cooling properties.
This part has been designed for a SLM-based 3D-printing process. The algorithm which generated the geometry takes certain printer constraints such as minimal wall thicknesses and overhang angles into account. For instance, the volutes are hexagonally shaped and auto-create thin struts to support them in place. The part is 20cm in diameter and 30cm in height, making it a good fit for printers like the EOS M400. In these digital rendering, the heat exchanger is shown in multi-material form. We can also regenerate for a single material, ideally either a copper alloy or aluminium.
Contact us, if you want to design a heat exchanger — or if you just want to get access to this geometry to benchmark your printer.