3D Printed Manifolds

Manifolds are pipes that are fed gas or fluids from smaller connected pipes. They can be very complex forms and consist of many different parts. Due to their importance,  companies are looking to optimize manifolds using metal 3D printing. Modern methods such as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and topology optimization are being used to create more efficient manifolds. The design freedom enabled by 3D printing gives us more space to radically redesign the manifold of the future.

3D printed Hydraulic Manifolds

Hydraulic manifolds are crucial parts. They control the flow of fluids inside hydraulic systems. Researchers and enterprises are both looking at pressure, flow and directional control manifolds to see how they can be improved through 3D printing. Hydraulic manifolds have to be very precisely made robust parts that can last a long time. Any friction with the valves or interruptions to the flow and the system becomes less efficient. Design freedom in additive manufacturing means that an optimal flow path for fluids can be designed for each hydraulic manifold. Flow channels can also be optimized as can their internal topologies to make it easier for oil to flow through them or even let significantly more material flow through.

3D printed Intake Manifolds

In cars, intake manifolds deliver fuel and air into the combustion chamber for combustion. In theory, a perfect intake manifold would have a volumetric efficiency of a 100%, sucking in exactly the maximum amount of air at every speed. Anything that can be done to that manifold to optimize its volumetric efficiency will make the engine more efficient. Higher torque and lower fuel consumption could be reached through better airflow through the intake. To complicate matters even further, the perfect air intake manifold at 500 RPM is perhaps not very efficient at 5000 RPM. Modern methods such as CFD and FEA have meant that a research and testing lead design can lead to contemporary manifold designs that far outperform those of the past. Internal topology optimization in manifolds moreover can lead engineers to speed up or reduce airflow rates as needed. Simultaneously airflows can be redirected in novel ways by applying patterns to structures. Less turbulent smoother airflow also can be created through applying patterns to the inside of the manifold itself. A flange or pipe structure could also do duty as a heatsink while new shapes could provide for more efficient airflow.

3D printed Exhaust Manifolds

Exhaust manifolds, bring together all of the gasses from the cylinders and redirect them to the exhaust. Higher efficiency in this gas flow can increase the power output of the engine. Many of the same elements for intakes apply in exhaust manifolds as well. Additionally, weight saving and smaller parts could lead to improvements in the car as well. Guiding the airflow more efficiently through often complex piping has lead to remarkable performance improvements in racing engines. By opening up the entire design process to more efficient designs, the combustion engine itself may come to be redesigned. So far occurring in experimental automobiles and different racing classes, efficient manufacturing could make this a reality for the manufacturing of millions of the world’s combustion engines.