AMS Spring 2023

Conflux Reaches for Mass Customization with New 3D Printed Heat Exchanger Line

6K SmarTech

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Conflux has specialized in making heat exchangers since its inception. Previously, the company collaborated with GKN to make its technology available in Europe. We interviewed CEO Michael Fuller, including on the 3DPOD. We also saw how the startup obtainined a series A round. The next step in Conflux’s development is the mass customization of its heat exchange products.

So far, Conflux offers individually designed heat exchangers to order. Usually for F1 teams and high-end industrial applications, these high-value heat sinks have all been unique and made specifically for their applications. That’s all well and dandy, of course, but it won’t really scale.

Now. the company has developed an annular water charge air cooler (WCAC) heat exchanger.  WCAC heat exchangers are all the rage in automobiles now because they can potentially be more efficient in engine cooling than plate or other heat exchangers. WCACs could potentially improve mileage, top speed, and reduce A/C consumption in passenger cars. In racing, they probably won’t focus too much on the A/C consumption, but would be very pleased with the other potential advantages.

Conflux’s 3D printed WCAC device is reportedly more efficient than conventionally manufactured counterparts. The annular design means that has a ring or cylindrical shape. Through Conflux Technologies´ proprietary algorithms and practices the company now says that its powder bed fusion WCAC heat exchanger outperforms conventionally manufactured ones with a:

  • 15% smaller core volume
  • 24% reduction in air-side pressure drop
  • 82% reduction in coolant pressure drop
  • 39% reduction in wet weight
  • 31% reduction in dry weight

This is all very impressive.

“Customers were commenting on both the detail of the parts, and the surface finish. They couldn’t believe the level of detail within the WCAC and how it was designed. It solidified their understanding that Conflux is a long way ahead of our competitors with what we showcased. Customers responded with amazement and disbelief as they held a part designed by our engineers embedding complex AM geometries into a production ready WCAC,” Ben Batagol, Conflux’s Head of Business Development, stated.

¨I am really excited about the product roadmap for Conflux Technology’s AM heat exchangers. The team have made significant strides developing in-house tools that deliver very high performance without compromising quality. I am really proud of everyone at Conflux for launching the next phase of our business with the WCAC product line. Conflux has aggregated our expertise in first principles calculations, core engineering design and additive manufacturing into a set of tools that can rapidly inform a solution,” said Dan Woodford, Conflux’s new Chief Product Officer.

The exchanger is also notable for its complex geometry and “micro features unachievable with traditional manufacturing.” This is exciting because it points to the team having developed unique textures and shapes to improve heat exchanger performance. Such designs could lead to more of an advantage for 3D printing in and of itself.

Conflux also states that the design and thin walls are optimized for “evolving thermal-physical properties of the working fluids throughout the heat exchanger.” This means that they can vary the design through the heat exchanger depending on what is needed at that exact point, which is easier to do with 3D printing than with another technology.

What I like most, however, is that the design is adaptable, so that it can be produced in lots of different sizes. The company also notes that, “the Conflux WCAC is designed to be configured. Conflux can deliver a test part to you quickly utilizing our rapid sizing process, based on your boundary conditions.”

This takes Conflux heat exchangers from a bespoke product, in which numerous labor hours are needed for customization to something that can very quickly be sent to a customer. The company can, therefore, generate much more cash per minute with less effort to boot. This makes the firm much more scalable and could make the difference in some cases between selecting a Conflux device and a traditionally made product. For racing, teams would find it much easier to order something to test it without exchanging any information that they’d wish to keep confidential. This kind of a development could really turbocharge Conflux´s fortunes and should be adapted by all players in this market.

In May of 2021, I asked in an article, “Should We Mass Customize Heat Exchangers?” I’m thinking that this is an emphatic “yes” from Conflux.

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