HeatSculptor aims to optimise the performance of heat exchangers by developing a new surface engineering process; Surfi‐Sculpt®, in conjunction with state‐of‐the‐art thermal modelling. In combination, these will offer significant design change opportunities to enable production of heat exchangers with increased efficiency and functionality that are cost competitive for a variety of applications. It will also develop interface software to enable simple operator use and will improve the EB production capabilities to achieve higher volume manufacturing.

The HeatSculptor project will generate an enabling manufacturing technology that will increase the performance of heat exchangers by >23%. Until now, designs have been constrained by production technologies e.g. machining or chemical etching. The Surfi-Sculpt process has the capability to rapidly create complex surface geometries that are not possible with existing techniques.

Initial Surfi-Sculpt feature heat transfer data have been published showing measured benefits over and above other surface production techniques of:

  • 61% improvement over skived surface.
  • 58% improvement over advanced moulded surface.
  • 23% improvement over micro deformed surface.

The EB technology which will enable the HeatSculptor development, Surfi-Sculpt, has the following benefits, making it preferable to the existing manufacturing processes:

  • Surface geometries that often cannot be produced by other methods
  • Capable of structuring the relevant materials
  • High speed
  • Flexible and precise
  • Clean
  • No tool, hence no tool wear
  • Flexible; changes can be made and implemented rapidly
  • No waste material
  • No damaging chemicals
  • Low level of labour necessary
  • Lower energy and operation costs

There are challenges associated with the development of Surfi-Sculpt outside the laboratory in a production setting which HeatSculptor will address. Key amongst these are the limited ability to translate a design from a CAD drawing into the machines control language. Also the limited surface area which can be processed at any one time is constrained by current electron beam deflection technology. These barriers will be addressed through innovative development in the project.

This provides an opportunity to make revolutionary changes to heat exchanger design, with expected improvements in product performance and reliability of >23% over current designs. The range of new surface geometries will not only provide an increase in surface area, but can also be designed to alter the flow over a surface, enhancing its heat transfer potential. Additionally, the process provides a flexible manufacturing route, opening up the possibility of providing differential heating and cooling as required in certain areas of the device.

For example, a higher density of surface features could be used to provide preferential cooling at a hot spot, supporting a move from traditional designs to high-value, knowledge intensive goods. The process is eminently suitable for efficient production. At the low volume end of the market, the flexibility of the process can be exploited to produce custom made surfaces on products, supporting a rapid design and innovation process. For high volume production, the speed of the process, typically 23% greater than conventional methods, is beneficial in increasing sales volumes. The process eliminates the need for etching chemicals and the generation of waste material.

Creation of the new HeatSculptor manufacturing process, in conjunction with CFD modelling will enable an innovation in heat exchanger design, resulting in a step-change in heat exchanger efficiency. These high value products, brought about through an innovative combination of design and technology are set to enhance the competitiveness of the SME partners and provide EU industry the opportunity to be the leading provider of small, lightweight, efficient thermal management systems for a range of industries (including aerospace, oil & gas and electronics) in the worldwide market place.

The benefits of combining modelling with flexible manufacturing to produce optimised heat exchange surfaces through the HeatSculptor approach go beyond the standard requirement to increase the area of the heat exchange surface.

  • Modification of the fluid flow to promote greater heat exchange by:
    • Change the location of the transition between laminar and turbulent flow regimes
    • Change the heat dissipation to drag ratio
    • Promote swirling vortices via curved features
  • Generating more efficient heat exchange by:
    • Aligning features to direct fluid flow in an optimum fashion
    • Changing the height of features across the component
    • Increasing the density of features at “hot spots” in a device
  • Producing an integrated manufacturing process by:
    • Using the same processing technology (in this case EB) to both customise the surface and carry out the welding operation on the device capsules.

One of the greatest benefits of the Surfi-Sculpt process is the flexibility to create customised surfaces. Surface patterning can be designed to allow a greater density or height of protrusions within a critical area, or allow the creation of surfaces with features angled in different directions. This allows for the manufacture of surfaces unachievable by other micro-manufacturing routes. The development within the HeatSculptor project of a fundamental understanding of ‘surface feature-performance’ relationships, through validated modelling activities, will allow the intelligent design and production of surfaces delivering required product properties and performance.

surfi-examples-1Example surfaces made using Surfi‐Sculpt; No material is added to create micro fins, thin walled honey comb, fine spikes or hooks.

For the production environment, HeatSculptor will enable the translation of the Surfi-Sculpt technology through semi-automatic machine programming which will provide effective and efficient design-to-metal coding. This will decrease the level of skill required by the operator. Also, the increased production rate achieved by the developed electron beam deflection system for increased processing area will aid in bringing the technology towards a volume manufacturing environment.

Work Packages

No. Title Partner
WP1 CFD modelling of heat exchange CEN
  • To develop design guidelines for initial heat exchange surfaces with commercial and technical benefits (net benefit of approximately 10%) over existing surface production techniques.
  • To implement the new modelling optimisation method using genetic algorithms.
  • To use the GA method to pass the initially proposed surfaces through an optimisation stage to show a >23% (allowing for 5% real world losses) improvement in performance over existing micro-deformed surfaces.
WP2 Development of surface processing for heat exchangers TWI
  • To develop design guidelines for initial heat exchange surfaces to achieve as a minimum a >23% increase in heat transfer over competing techniques such as micro-deformation, given the new Surfi-Sculpt technology available.
  • To generate and optimise up to 10 novel surfaces for heat exchange applications using Surfi-Sculpt.
  • To specify the processing equipment and interface requirements for use in a volume production environment
WP3 Integration TWI
  • To further optimise the surfaces defined in WP2 for a heat exchanger application through an iterative process involving surface manufacturing, re-modelling of the final surface and laboratory testing showing a 95% confidence level in the theoretical results.
  • To address the issues associated with the productionisation of the Surfi-Sculpt process to ensure that a net benefit (nominally >23% over competing processes) is achieved.
  • To develop the infrastructure necessary to exploit the new manufacturing process for medium to high volume production with competitive time and cost performance.
WP4 Validation of product performance CT
  • To manufacture and validate the performance of a prototype heat exchanger with a 10cm2 area using an optimised Surfi-Sculpt design.
  • To assess the viability of the proposed approach through a techno-economic study on the above heat exchanger showing a heat transfer coefficient of ≥8000 W.m-2.K-1, and that it could be produced and profitably marketed with a target price of <€10 per unit.
WP5 Exploitation AQ
  • To assess the viability of the proposed approach through a techno-economic study in-line with the performance criteria given in WP4 objectives.
  • To ensure effective dissemination of the project results.
WP6 Project management CT
  • To ensure that the project is delivered effectively and to appropriate quality standards through timely and administratively correct completion of all tasks and work packages to meet all milestones and deliverables.