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3D Printing Creates Better Heat Exchangers
➙Think 3D printing is just a fad? Your building could soon be
powered by mechanical systems
that are fabricated using this new technol-
ogy. The University of Maryland, through
a partnership with 3D Systems and the
DOE’s Building Technologies Office, is
using 3D printing to create heat exchang-
ers. This next-generation device weighs
20% less, performs 20% more efficiently
and can be manufactured more quickly
compared to current designs.
Manufacturers have relied on tube-fin
heat exchangers for decades. Alterna-
tive designs have been proposed, but
the complexity has made it difficult to
commercialize them economically with
traditional processes. However, a compli-
cated design costs no more than a simple
one when using 3D printing.
3D Systems’ direct metal printing pro-
cess allowed researchers to use unconven-
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10 BUILDINGS 05.16
tional, variable shapes that increase the
heat exchanger’s efficiency. University
of Maryland researchers were also able
to speed up the design process, needing
weeks rather than months to generate
a prototype. This efficiency enabled the
team to test new designs earlier and
Because the heat exchanger can now be
printed in a single, continuous piece, the
exchanger’s design will have better resis-
tance against pressure or leakage. This
singular fabrication with proven materials
also ensures very little waste material is
The University of Maryland’s new 1k W
miniaturized air-to-refrigerant heat exchanger prototype paves the way for new
designs that will help reduce the nearly 7
quads of energy used annually for HVACR
in the U. S. A 10k W prototype will also be
fabricated and both prototypes will be
tested and demonstrated in a 3-ton heat
pump. The research team expects the new
heat exchangers will be in commercial
production within five years.