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Designing 3-D Printed Heat Exchangers in a Senior-level Thermal Systems Course

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Division Technical Session 9

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Gregory J. Michna South Dakota State University

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Gregory Michna is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at South Dakota State University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006, held positions as a Lecturer at Iowa State University and as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and joined the faculty at SDSU in 2009. He teaches courses in thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, and energy systems.

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Todd Letcher South Dakota State University

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Todd Letcher is an Assistant Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at South Dakota State University. His research focuses of on additive manufacturing.

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A senior-level technical elective course for Mechanical Engineering students from the authors’ university is Design of Thermal Systems. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to a systems approach to the design, modeling, and simulation of thermal systems. In the Fall 2017 semester the authors introduced a new design project to the course – one in which students were asked to design and simulate the performance of an air-to-water heat exchanger to be made through an additive manufacturing process.

The students worked in groups to design the heat exchangers. The instructor expected that students would take advantage of the additive manufacturing method, which allows for more complicated geometries to be realized than traditional manufacturing, to integrate heat transfer enhancement structures such as vortex generators into their designs. However, the student designs were very similar to conventionally manufactured heat exchangers. Because of the very low thermal conductivity of the plastic material, fin efficiency and wall thermal resistance became primary considerations in the design, which gave students a much better understanding of these concepts.

After completion of the project, the heat exchangers were manufactured on the small, inexpensive 3D printers housed in the department and were tested in a wind tunnel constructed for the purpose. The team with the best performing design was announced to the class. The “contest” aspect of the project and the knowledge that their designs would be manufactured served as motivation for the students. Student survey results showed this project both increased student’s enthusiasm for the course and improved their achievement of the student learning outcomes for the course.

Michna, G. J., & Letcher, T. (2018, June), Designing 3-D Printed Heat Exchangers in a Senior-level Thermal Systems Course Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30274

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