Frequently asked questions about additive manufacturing and heat exchange

On this page you will find frequently asked questions around additive manufacturing and heat exchangers.

Additive manufacturing (AM), also referred to as 3D printing, is a new technology that enables the design and production of shapes and forms that are not possible with traditional manufacturing.

Where traditional manufacturing uses a process where several parts are joinedtogether or cut away from a solid block of material (subtractive process), additive manufacturing uses an additive process. This is where parts are built incrementally, layer by layer, and often produced as a single piece rather than many.

This new approach has allowed for profound shifts in development and resulting complex geometries can now be made with several benefits. Although believed by many, it is not possible to print everything using additive manufacturing. At Conflux we are thermal pioneers continuing to push the limits of what additive manufacturing can do for heat transfer solutions.

Additive manufacturing is often referred to as 3D printing and is a new technology that enables the design and production of shapes and forms that are not possible with traditional manufacturing. Although often seen as the same, some schools of thought separate the two. 3D printing, being a process where a product is built layer-by-layer and additive manufacturing, where a product is made by being added (additively) to which might be layer by layer but not restricted to this.

Additive Technologies include vat photopolymerisation, material extrusion, material jetting, binder jetting, powder bed fusion, directed energy deposition, and sheet lamination. At Conflux, we use a layer-by-layer build process known as Laser Bed Powder Fusion (LBPF) as our metal additive manufacturing technology. To create the desired three-dimensional object, this process uses a fibre laser to selectively melt fine metal powder to form the shape.

We have selected LBPF due to its ability to create the fine geometries and durable heat exchangers. Read more about LBPF and how we manufacture our products here.

Laser Bed Powder Fusion (LBPF) is layer-by-layer additive metal manufacturing technology that uses a fibre laser to selectively melt fine meal powder to form the desired 3D object. In this technique the laser beam passes through a system of llenses and is directed and positioned by two highly precise mirrors.

Additive manufacturing can be used across a wide variety of industries and applications.

Conflux are specialist additive manufacturers of heat exchangers developing solutions for customers in the motorsport, automotive, aerospace, defence, industrial, oil and gas, energy and microelectronics industries.

Improvements in additively manufactured heat exchanger compared to traditional manufacturing include:

Higher Thermal Exchange - Enhanced surface area density to volume ratio results in high thermal exchange performance.
Reduced Weight
- Monolithic structures result in significant weight reductions.
Reduced Size
- Higher thermal performance and monolithic parts translate to step changes in part size
Low Pressure Drop
- Optimised flow design reduces pressure drop and improves system efficiency.
Morphed Topology
- Design freedom gives flexibility in form factor; geometry can be morphed to the fit the space available.

Learn more about how we have enhanced heat exchangers by reading our case studies

Heat exchangers produced via additive manufacturing offer significant performance benefits for a wide-ranging industries and applications. Including: higher thermal exchange, reduced weight, low pressure drop and morphed topology.

Additional benefits of additive manufacturing include:

  • Faster development time from start to finish
  • No tooling required
  • Production is scalable and can be decentralised
  • Better manufacturing redundancy
  • Freedom of design with adaptive geometries
  • Higher performance with flexible packaging
  • Weight savings
  • Reduced BOM - monolithic forms lead to reduction of parts
  • Lower waste - as material is added and not cut away
  • Simplified manufacturing processes - one machine can manufacture many parts
  • Reduction in lead times - rapid prototyping in the design phase, no retooling during production
  • Reduction in inventory - print parts on demand
  • Localised manufacturing - print on site or at a skilled service bureau

Read more about additive manufacturing here

Costs for additive manufacturing also known as 3D printing can vary greatly depending on the specific requirements of the project. To discuss your requirements, speak to one of our additive manufacturing specialists.

There are many materials commercially available. Common base metals are aluminium, iron, titanium, copper, nickel, chromium, gold, silver and more.

These are often alloyed to produce materials with properties desirable for the printing process, the finished goods or both. AlSi10Mg is a commonly used aluminium alloy that Conflux utilises. Steels have many varieties, the most common of which is 316. In high end heat applications, examples include Inconel (nickel chromium) or Monel K 500 (nickel copper) super alloys.

Conflux chooses the ideal material to solve our customers heat transfer requirements. Materials are chosen to suit the environment in which the heat exchanger will interact with the working fluids and mechanical system.

Conflux primarily uses AlSi10Mg due to its superior AM printing properties. Aluminum alloys offer the best balance of thermal conductivity, weight, strength and durability and are well suited to many applications.

Stainless Steel (316) is used for higher temperature applications and where greater strength and/or resistance to corrosion is required. Conflux is actively testing and qualifying new materials for our heat exchangers.

A heat exchanger is an application that allows a process of heat exchange between two fluids at different temperatures. It is used for heating and cooling. Heat exchangers are used is almost every sector you can imagine.

At Conflux we specialise in 3D manufactured heat exchangers within the motorsport, automotive, aerospace, defence, industrial, oil and gas, energy and microelectronics industries.

A better heat exchanger is a more efficient heat exchanger. This improvement can be through performance, reduced size, reduced weight or another area. A better heat exchanger is beneficial in a lot of different applications. For example, in motorsport or aviation where high performance for minimum weight is key.

At Conflux we use additive manufacturing (3D printing) to build our heat exchangers and laser bed powder fusion (LBPF) as our additive technology. The traditional processes of heat exchangers would use a combination of fabrication, braising, welding, extrusion, machining and moulding.

Conflux are specialist in additively manufactured heat exchangers. We create a variety of applications across a number of industries. Some examples are below.

For your specific heat exchange requirements reach out to our team.

Charge air coolers
Fuel and oil heat exchangers

Automotive and motorsports
Oil/water cooler
Water charge air coolers
EV inverter cooler

LRU Electronic box cooler
Oil cooler
Hydraulics cooler

Phase change coolers
On-chip cooler
Immersion coolers

Oil and gas
Modular arrays for large scale heat exchange
Fuel and oil coolers

Multi-mega watt modular arrays
Molten salt/sodium
Hydrogen liquification

Get in touch for more information


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