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As part of the SAVING project, Plunkett Associates set out to design a heat exchanger that could be built as a single part by Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) processes in aluminium, and with minimal support structures and associated post-processing.
Liquid to liquid heat exchangers commonly involve two discrete circuits of flowing liquid that transfer heat from one to another. Due to manufacturing limitations one circuit is often never wholly and uniformly surrounded by the other. This leads to inconsistent flow paths and areas of re-circulation where heat transfer activity is low and fouling can build up, further reducing efficiency.
Plunkett Associates looked at various designs based on helial flow of concentric pipes with a converging outlet and inlet at each end. The basic geometry was simulated using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software to assess the fluid flow characteristics and associated heat transfer.
Further work with project partner 3T RPD led to refinements of the design that was successfully built by DMLS with minimal support structure.