General Atomics ASI Extends Partnership with 3D Printed Heat Exchanger Firm Conflux


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General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI), an affiliate of nuclear energy/defense contractor General Atomics, has signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) with longtime partner Conflux, an Australian company that specializes in metal 3D printed heat exchangers. GA-ASI and Conflux signed the MOU at AVALON 2023, the Australian International Airshow and Aerospace & Defense Exhibition.

Most recently, the two companies collaborated on a Fuel Oil Heat Exchanger (FOHE) for the SkyGuardian and SeaGurdian, two variants of the MQ-9B drone produced by GA-ASI. Last month, GA-ASI also announced a partnership with Divergent Technologies — the parent company of Czinger Vehicles and a massively-funded startup working on electric supercars made with additive manufacturing (AM) — whereby Divergent will print drone components for GA-ASI.

Image courtesy of Conflux

In a press release announcing its latest MOU with Conflux, Ken Loving, GA-ASI’s VP for the Indo-Pacific region, commented, “We continue to work closely with Conflux on the design and manufacture of FOHE for our aircraft. Through this new MOU, we will establish a clear path to production for the heat exchanger components used by multiple GA-ASI production lines.”

Abe Masoud, Conflux’s Business Development Manager — North America, added, “Our continued partnership with General Atomics is a milestone for the commercialization of additively manufactured heat exchangers within the aerospace and defense markets, carrying the significant weight and performance benefits offered by these technologies towards production.”

Image courtesy of General Atomics

One of the main advantages to Conflux’s technology, in addition to its geometric optimization, is that the company can tailor its heat exchangers specifically to the size required for a manufacturer’s needs. Thus, a company like General Atomics, for instance, with a presence in a variety of different industries — all of them requiring heat exchangers — could presumably streamline its heat exchanger design process across those different industries, enhancing the potential for synergy between its separate market segments.

On the same subject of synergy, surveillance vehicles are highly relevant to the nuclear energy side of General Atomics’ operations in other ways, as well. As global policymakers seem increasingly serious about making next-generation nuclear power an even more integral part of the energy transition, there is a parallel need for innovation related to automated inspection systems. Drones have been seen as a particularly promising weapon in that arsenal, so components like Conflux’s cartridge heat exchangers are critical to ensuring the stability of supply chains related to every aspect of the electrification of the power grid.

Finally, there is clearly potential here for Divergent and Conflux to work together as well, if they’re not already doing so. In that sense, the same way that investors could be the key coordinators of relationships between AM startups and the federal government procurement supply chain, legacy manufacturers could end up being most valuable over the next decade as hubs for synthesizing the capabilities of emerging advanced manufacturing outfits.

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