3D Printed Heat Spreader Could Improve Efficiency of Electronics

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The low-hanging fruit for decarbonization has long been improving the efficiency of existing systems, hence the justification for LED lights and ENERGY STAR certified appliances. While such minor moves are subject to the risk of Jevons Paradox, in which greater efficiency leads to yet more resource use, it is also in energy improvement that immediate gains, as well as corporate and social buy-in, can be achieved. And, thanks to additive manufacturing (AM), there are plenty of new areas that can made more efficient when it comes to energy use.

Demonstrating one of the many applications where AM can achieve this effect is a recent project by the University of Wolverhampton and Diamond Hard Surfaces Ltd, a materials technology company. The pair used 3D printing to create heat spread spreaders that can improve the dissipation of heat for any number of uses. Unlike heat sinks, heat spreaders play a vital role in dissipating heat from critical components like electronics and CPUs. However, the conventional subtractive manufacturing methods significantly constrain the geometrical design possibilities of these essential components.

A 3D printed multi-material copper part made by University of Wolverhampton and University of Bristol.

Diamond Hard Surfaces Ltd joined forces with the University’s AM research spinout, Additive Analytics, to design 3D printed heat spreaders that promise enhanced thermal management capabilities. By combining the coating solutions from Diamond Hard Surfaces with the geometric complexity allowed with 3D printing, the team aims to optimize surface area-to-volume ratios, enabling more effective heat exchange.

The research initiative will utilize Diamond Hard Surfaces’ patented processes and industry-specific knowledge alongside Additive Analytics’ proprietary data-driven material development and laser processing techniques. Their goal is to produce next-generation heat spreader devices that could transform embedded electronic performance across several sectors, including aerospace, alternative energy, chemical processing, and motorsport.

Chris H Walker, CEO at Diamond Hard Surfaces, said of the partnership, “We are very excited to have the opportunity to work with the University of Wolverhampton and Additive Analytics; two of the leading players worldwide in the field of additive manufacturing using copper-based materials. We are hoping this will lead to a number of new and innovative products and services which will benefit both our existing and new customers for thermal management devices.”

Professor Arun Arjunan, director of the ECMS and Centre for Engineering Innovation and Research at the University of Wolverhampton, highlighted the project’s potential impact: “This partnership represents a significant step forward in the field of additive manufacturing and thermal management. By combining our expertise in advanced materials and 3D printing technologies, we aim to develop innovative solutions that meet the growing demand for efficient thermal management systems across various industries.”

As innovative as this individual project is, the impact it could have when paired with any number of similar initiatives could result in truly efficient systems. One can only imagine.

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