AM 4 Industry, an Austria-based Collective Research Network (CORNET), has published a handbook detailing the design and simulation of AM cooling channels for industrial tooling. The manual acts as an operational guide for OpenFoam, an open-source software platform used to simulate computational fluid dynamics (CFD).
AM 4 Industry
AM 4 Industry is a large-scale project headed by Ecoplus Plastics and Mechatronics Cluster in Austria. The initiative aims to detail guidelines for individuals and companies concerned with various industrial additive manufacturing applications, enabling them to make informed decisions on AM production implementation. Participants in the project have now begun to publish manuals acting as guides for their respective additive manufacturing applications.
3D printed cooling channels
This particular manual focuses on the simulation of 3D printed cooling channels using the open-source CFD platform, OpenFoam. Production tools require cooling channels within them to counteract the process of creep, or heat deformation, which results in a loss of precision and potential failure over time. Providing a guideline for simulation engineers, students, and researchers helps users design complex cooling channel geometries which can result in increased tool durability, performance, and output.
The authors of the manual chose to work with OpenFoam due to its adaptability – it can be used for various applications. There are a number of AM simulation platforms available on the market, but many of them cannot be used for cooling channel simulations. OpenFoam is written in C++, therefore it can be altered using software code and solvers to deviate from its intended purpose of simulating fluid flow problems.
The manual in question combined OpenFoam with the chtMultiRegion solver, which allowed the team to study the thermodynamic interactions between solids and liquids, as well as generate an application-oriented design for complex internal 3D printed cooling channels. The work can now be used to give engineers “an application-oriented introduction to OpenFoam, as well as an overview of how to work with it,” according to AM 4 Industry.
The handbook is titled “Introduction to OpenFoam and chtMultiRegion using an application-oriented example”. It is co-authored by Thomas Mitterlehner, Eva Kobler and Georg Steinbichler from the Institute of Polymer Injection Moulding and Process Automation, Johannes Kepler University.
3D printed cooling channels have applications that reach far beyond just production tooling. Dutch Superbike manufacturer Electric Superbike Twente has previously collaborated with K3D, a 3D metal printing company, to 3D print a new cooling shell for its electric bike motors. Elsewhere, R&D focused GE Research has used 3D printing to manufacture an ultra-efficient, low-emission heat exchanger for power generation equipment as part of a $2.5M project.
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Featured image shows Johannes Kepler University Linz campus. Photo via Johannes Kepler University.