Fast Radius Demonstrates 2X Improved Heat Transfer in 3D Printed Heat Exchangers

Background: Heat Exchangers

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.

Going Beyond Traditional Manufacturing

Through a research project led by Fast Radius Chief Science Officer Bill King at the University of Illinois, they found that 3D printing with the Carbon Digital Light Synthesis (Carbon DLS) process 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) 3D printing 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 additive manufacturing technologies like the Carbon DLS process 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 KingChief Science Officer, Fast Radius

Fast Radius's new heat exchanger design with twisted tape mixers and made with Carbon CE 221 material
Figure 1: New heat exchanger design with twisted tape mixers, made from Carbon CE 221 material.

These additive 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 DLS process.

Differently shaped heat exchangers including a rectangular channel with static mixers, twisted tape mixers, and chevron mixers.
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 DLS process, reach out to them at

Fast Radius heat exchanger made with Carbon CE 221 material