Innovating through the expertise of local players
Since 2018, the Jean Féger Scientific and Technical Center (CSTJF) has been conducting research on the 3D printing of heat exchangers* in close collaboration with its regional partners. This research strategy not only showcases expertise and local action, but also significantly reduces the costs generated by studies on additive manufacturing (AM).
Through a series of numerical tests, the R&D teams at the CSTJF and their partners are working on a new generation of heat exchangers, whose shape is the result of mathematical formulas to improve heat exchange: minimal surfaces starting with the Schwarz Diamond (Schwarz D) surface.
The CSTJF has an “innovation Booster” in Pau to lead this project and which operates in “maker” mode, using FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) printers to rapidly prototype PLA (Poly Lactic Acid, biosourced and bio-compostable materials) to iterate and validate the heat exchanger design.
The teams also relied on the specific competencies of their local partners:
- Chloé (a university department working on flow in porous media, funded by Total) to produce the design and create the entire exchanger based on mathematical Schwarz D formulas, using the Matlab and Comsol software applications;
- The IUT in Tarbes, to print the exchanger using laser sintering on a “powder bed”. This produces a Polyamid exchanger to validate the homogeneity of the numerical model — a crucial step before the more costly manufacturing of the metal exchanger;
- The ENIT (The National Engineers’ School in Tarbes), for the aluminum printing that gives better heat transfer;
- The Pau IUT (UPPA) – Heat and Energy engineering to run tests on a test bed.
Such partnerships contribute to modernizing heat exchangers through 3D printing and to reduce the weight while maximizing efficiency. If the tests prove conclusive, Total would be able to use less energy and thereby reduce its CO2 emissions.
*A heat exchanger is a system whereby heat energy from one fluid is transferred to another without them mixing.
3D printings made at the CSTJF Booster
Polyamide heat exchanger model, cross-sectional view
Aluminum heat exchanger in its printing chamber