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Plunkett Associates uses 3D printing to build high performance heat sinks – 3ders.org (blog)

by • January 14, 2016 • No Comments

Jan 15, 2016 | By Benedict
There can be no doubt which 3D printing remains a hot trend in modern manufacturing—literally and figuratively, since 3D printing devices must apply worthwhile heat to their plastic filament or metal powders in order to produce a red-hot 3D print. Sometimes, yet, the technology must be utilized to keep things cool, as was the case with a few unquestionably engineered, DMLS-produced heat-sinks created by British manufacturing tremendous Plunkett Associates.

Plunkett Associates, accomplished 10 years ago by material, tooling and production guru Tim Plunkett, has not long ago utilized its affluence of additive manufacturing tremendousise to produce a range of excellent quality heat-sinks—components utilized to conduct heat away of delicate electronic components. The revamped 3D printed components possess complicated internal architectures, which may not be replicated using other manufacturing systemes.
For most manufacturers of electronic products, effortless convection of buoyancy driven air-flows remains the preferred method for cooling electronic components. This method is bargain-priced, easy to maintain and creates no noise or electro-magnetic interference. The drawback? Natural convection is limited in its scope, with medium to high power outputs tending to overwhelm the easy cooling system. Plunkett Associates, dissatisfied with this limitation, wanted to create convection cooling go further, and set of redesigning a key part of the system: its heat-sink.
What are heat-sinks and how do they work? Heat-sinks help to guarantee a long service life of an electronic components and prevent early product failure. Made of high thermal conductivity material such as aluminum or copper, these essential parts conduct heat of the electronic component towards the extremes of their own sizeable surface areas. When the heat reaches these extremes, it can be convected to the air flowing overhead.


Designing an effective heat-sink can be a tricky task. Manufacturers require to maximize air flow and surface area, whilst minimizing pressure losses and costs. As part of the Technology Strategy Board funded SAVINGs project, Plunkett Associates turned to the Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) system in order to engineer the ideal heat-sink geometry. The company produced a range of 3D printed designs based on the unique characteristics of the DMLS system. Each heat-sink was initial produced in virtual form and simulated using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software, in order to assess efficacy.
Once virtual testing was fish, the top five heat-sinks were and so created by 3T RPD using DMLS and physically tested to confirm the accuracy of the virtual tests. All five models showed a worthwhile improvement over a standard extruded heat-sink.
The good results of the heat-sink project demonstrates yet another important industrial application of 3D printing technology. Red-hot additive manufacturing techniques may soon be the primary means of cooling electronic components.

Posted in 3D Printing Application

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