Vectoflow chooses 3D MicroPrint technology for flow measuring probes

December 6, 2021

Additively manufactured flow probe next to 16.25 mm Euro cent coin (Courtesy 3D MicroPrint)

Micro Laser Sintering (MLS) technology from 3D MicroPrint GmbH, Chemnitz, Germany, was selected by Vectoflow GmbH, Gilching, to additively manufacture fluid dynamic measurements flow probes. Production took place on 3D MicroPrint’s DMP50GP machine, which leverages MLS – a specialised form of Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB) that produces parts at a very small scale.

In order to increase the efficiency of flowed-on products – such as aircraft engines, compressors or vehicles – the flow parameters of fluids (e.g., air, liquids) such as speed, pressure and angle of attack must be accurately measured with the aid of flow probes. After evaluating the measurement data provided by these measurement probes, geometries can be optimised or controlled in operation.

The production of measuring probes is conventionally carried out with various manufacturing technologies and, the smaller their dimensioning, the more complicated their assembly becomes. Furthermore, the miniaturisation limits the stability of the measuring probes, thereby limiting the service life. Considering traditional manufacturing solutions, there is a lack of robustness, user-friendliness and geometric flexibility.

Vectoflow specialises in the development and AM of complex flow measuring probes. While different AM technologies are available depending on the needs of its customers, the company has stated that for the best ratio of smallest building space to highest load-bearing capacity, it utilises 3D MicroPrint’s MLS technology. Compared to other available systems, the advantages are the reportedly significantly higher resolution for filigree structures, as well as the significantly lower roughness after the AM process, thereby reducing the reworking costs.

Initially, the collaboration between 3D MicroPrint and Vectoflow proved insufficient; the initial model was said to be unsuitable. Greater emphasis was then placed on the geometries within the probe, its neck and the support structure. After several design iterations, the removal of powder from the channels and the structural safety of the filigree internal structures were said to be greatly improved. This optimised technology is said to enable applications that are new to Vectoflow, including microfluidics, optimised flow properties and function integration.

Utilising MLS, Vectoflow reports that it is more easily be able to adapt the size and shape (diameter from 1 mm) of its single-part filigree flow measurement probes based on customer requirements. Based on the Bernoulli Effect, it is possible to define simply and accurately the pressure, velocity and angle of inflow of fluid flow by measuring probes. For this, the pressure distribution at the probe tip is considered, which allows the flow parameters to be determined.

The following applies: the more holes at the tip of the probe, the higher the achievable accuracy and the better the measurable angular range. The same advantages apply to high-frequency and high-temperature probes. The integration into complete devices is anticipated to enable use on systems such as UAVs and wind turbines.

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