Selective laser melting (SLM) is a promising manufacturing method which enables the production of complex structured components from base metal powders. With the development of SLM, the possibility of fabricating functional heat transfer devices such as heat pipes and heat sinks using this technique has also gained significant interest in the recent years. In this paper, the possibilities of producing microstructured surfaces using SLM to promote nucleate pool boiling heat transfer were explored. The SLM facility (SLM 250 HL by SLM Solutions GmbH) at the Future of Manufacturing Laboratory 1 of Singapore Centre for 3D Printing (SC3DP) in Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore was employed for the fabrication of the surfaces. The machine is comprised of a Gaussian distributed Yb:YAG laser with maximum power of 400 W and laser beam spot size of 80 μm which melts and fuses the AlSi10Mg base powder of distribution size 20 μm to 63 μm layer-by-layer to develop three-dimensional structures.
In total, four 1 cm × 1 cm microstructured surfaces were produced; namely micro-cavity surface, micro-fin surface, micro-sized rectangular channel (MRC) surface and micro-sized square channel (MSC) surface. Saturated pool boiling experiments were conducted on these surfaces in a water-cooled thermosyphon with FC-72 as the coolant fluid under atmospheric condition. In comparison with a plain surface, the MRC and MSC surfaces exhibited marginal improvements in the average heat transfer coefficient whilst more significant enhancements of up to 51.2% were demonstrated with the micro-cavity and micro-fin surfaces. At low heat fluxes (< 7 W/cm2), minimal differences in heat transfer performances between the microstructured surfaces and plain surface were observed. For increased heat fluxes, incremental enhancements in the heat transfer coefficients were observed for the micro-cavity and micro-fin surfaces as compared to the plain surface. The highest enhancement in the heat transfer coefficient over the plain surface was determined to be 63.5% for the micro-fin surface at the heat flux of 17.9 W/cm2 and it was also observed that the heat transfer coefficient of micro-fin surface is consistently higher that of other microstructured surfaces for the range of heat fluxes tested. In addition, higher critical heat fluxes were also achieved with all microstructured surfaces as compared to the plain surface with the highest CHF of 46.2 W/cm2 for the micro-fin and MRC surface. Visual observations suggest that the enhancement in heat transfer from the microstructured surfaces is likely to be due to the increased bubble nucleation sites created from the extended surfaces and the artificial cavities. In summary, these results indicate the promising use of SLM to produce surface features that will enhance pool boiling heat transfer.