Additive manufacturing (AM) processes allow for complex geometries to be developed in a cost- and time-efficient manner in small-scale productions. The unique functionality of AM offers an ideal collaboration between specific applications of human variability and thermal management. This research investigates the intersection of AM, human variability and thermal management in the development of a military helmet heat exchanger. A primary aim of this research was to establish the effectiveness of AM components in thermal applications based on material composition. Using additively manufactured heat pipe holders, the thermal properties of a passive evaporative cooler are tested for performance capability with various heat pipes over two environmental conditions.

This study conducted a proof-of-concept design for a passive helmet heat exchanger, incorporating AM components as both the heat pipe holders and the cushioning material targeting internal head temperatures of ≤ 35°C. Copper heat pipes from 3 manufactures with three lengths were analytically simulated and experimentally tested for their effectiveness in the helmet design. A total of 12 heat pipes were tested with 2 heat pipes per holder in a lateral configuration inside a thermal environmental chamber. Two 25-hour tests in an environmental chamber were conducted evaluating temperature (25°C, 45°C) and relative humidity (25%, 50%) for the six types of heat pipes and compared against the analytical models of the helmet heat exchangers.

Many of the heat pipes tested were good conduits for moving the heat from the head to the evaporative wicking material. All heat pipes had Coefficients of Performance under 3.5 when tested with the lateral system. Comparisons of the analytical and experimental models show the need for the design to incorporate a re-wetting reservoir. This work on a 2-dimensional system establishes the basis for design improvements and integration of the heat pipes and additively manufactured parts with a 3-dimensional helmet.

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