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Thermal Management Solutions for General Illumination Applications with Additive Manufacturing

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Thermal management is critical for the performance and reliability of solid-state and LED devices used in general illumination. LED lighting performance and life rely on effective thermal management to keep the LED source below a ceiling temperature, typically 85-105°C. LED lighting systems traditionally use aluminum heat sinks to draw heat away from the LED sources. Today the aluminum heat sink is one of the most expensive components in a lighting product, which also makes the lighting fixture heavy. LED lighting products are facing price pressures, and manufacturers are exploring ways to reduce manufacturing costs. If polymer-based composite heat sinks with suitable thermal properties or metal heat sinks can be additively manufactured, it could help lighting fixture manufacturers reduce costs. Through additive manufacturing, heat sinks can be made at a reduced cost and lower weight, and can be customized to increase visual appeal. During the past several years, the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has explored the design and 3D printing of heat sinks for LED fixtures. The study to be presented investigated additively manufactured heat sink solutions for a common lighting product known as an MR-16, which has a requirement to dissipate a high thermal load compared to the heat sink volume to maintain the operating temperature of the LED sources below 105°C. Additively manufactured heat sinks were fabricated using different technologies, materials, print parameters, and post-processing methods, and then were evaluated and compared to traditionally fabricated, commercially available MR-16 heat sinks for their ability to control the LED operating and junction temperatures. This presentation will share the knowledge gathered from this research investigation on the thermal performance of 3D-printed heat sinks and will discuss some aspects of designing and 3D printing heat sinks for illumination applications, as well as the lessons learned.

Learning Objectives:

  • Upon completion, participants will be able to understand a potential new industry application and the industry requirements based on thermal performance for additive manufacturing.
  • Upon completion, participants will be able to understand the effects of printing technology, materials, and post-processing on the thermal performance of additive-manufactured heat sinks and thermal management components.
  • Indika Perera, PhD
    Lecturer, Research Scientist
    Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Nadarajah Narendran, PhD
    Professor, Director of Research
    Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute