Fast Radius Demonstrates 2X Improved Heat Transfer in Digitally Manufactured Heat Exchangers

July 9, 2019

The heat exchanger has been around since the industrial revolution and is in nearly every industrial application where hot and cold temperatures matter: refrigerators, furnaces, AC systems, transport, oil refineries, commercial environments, hospitals and more. By taking advantage of the design freedom and high-heat resistant materials enabled by the Carbon Digital Manufacturing Platform, Carbon Production Network Partner Fast Radius is revolutionizing the antiquated design of heat exchangers, demonstrating a 2x improvement in heat-transfer performance, increased energy efficiencies, lighter weight, and lower costs.


Heat exchangers function by moving heat from one place to another, usually by fluid flow through a piece of machinery. A typical heat exchanger is made of individual metal components that are then assembled, resulting in extra labor and costs. It has a simple, rectangular architecture composed of right angles, straight lines and stacks, which are most easily manufactured using traditional techniques. However, they are not the best shapes for maximizing heat exchange in a small space. These straight, smooth passages normally have lower heat transfer compared to passages that are twisted and contoured. Unfortunately, twisted and contoured passages are cost prohibitive to produce with traditional manufacturing methods.



Through a research project led by Fast Radius Chief Science Officer Bill King at the University of Illinois, they found that digital manufacturing via the Carbon Platform was the key to making heat exchangers more efficient, lighter, less expensive, and more effective than ever before. They successfully created a new manifold (what controls the fluid flow) using the high heat-resistant Carbon Cyanate Ester (CE 221) material (Figure 1). The resulting heat exchanger uses mixing structures that cause a cold fluid to more efficiently remove heat from a hot plate.


''Taking advantage of these new geometries made possible by digital manufacturing technologies like the Carbon Platform is going to enable major advances in the manufacture of all types of machinery and appliances. Our research will help put these results in the hands of engineers around the world, who can exploit new techniques that allow for increased heat transfer.''

Bill King

Fast Radius, Chief Science Officer


Fast Radius Heat Exchanger Figure 1
Figure 1: New heat exchanger design with twisted tape mixers, built on the Carbon Platform with Carbon CE 221 material.


These digitally manufactured heat exchangers have demonstrated advantages both in terms of energy efficiency and system performance. With extended design freedom, the team was able to create heat exchangers with a range of shapes that have the ability to transfer 2x the amount of heat using smaller volumes of fluid (Figure 2). They were able to fabricate the mixers directly into the flow channels and then assemble them onto the heated plate, greatly reducing costs associated with assembly and labor. For applications that need to minimize the size of the device yet achieve the same desired result, the heat exchangers can easily be sized down due to the flexible and customizable nature of the Carbon Platform.


Fast Radius Heat Exchanger Figure 2
Figure 2: Differently shaped heat exchangers including a rectangular channel with static mixers (top), twisted tape mixers (middle), and chevron mixers (bottom).


With the global demand for heat exchangers being expected to approach US$78.16 billion by 2020, this research shows that improved heat-transfer performance will be revolutionary to engineers and manufacturing as a whole.


If you’re interested in working with Fast Radius to go beyond traditional manufacturing methods via the Carbon Platform, reach out to them at Keep up with our partners’ success stories by following Carbon on LinkedIn + Twitter and subscribing to our blog below!


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