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New-Age Cooling System
Takes Shape At Embry-Riddle



Liquid-based cooling systems for car batteries may soon be a thing of the past. What’s going to replace them? Self-contained, cost-effective, 3D printed heat sinks with no moving components and no power requirements. That’s what researchers at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University are looking to create. And with the Composer Filament Maker in their lab, they’re closer than ever to making their vision a reality.

Founded in 1925 as an ambitious venture by barnstormer John Paul Riddle and entrepreneur T. Higbee Embry, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has always had a reputation for inspiring innovation. It consistently ranks among America’s top aviation schools, and offers numerous future-oriented programs in aviation, applied science, engineering, computers, business, and more.

At Embry-Riddle’s Mechanical Engineering Department, Associate Professor Sandra Boetcher and her students are busy exploring ways to replace complex battery cooling systems in electric cars with 3D printed lightweight and energy-efficient heat sinks made of phase-change materials (PCM).

Spools with PCM

“3devo’s filament maker allows us to easily shift between materials, without the limitation of complex polymers holding us back. We have mixed various materials together such as phase-change materials mixed with HDPE and PLA.”
– Sandra Boetcher, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Casting PCM in a new mold

With the ability to absorb heat while maintaining their temperature, phase-change materials (PCM) unlock exciting possibilities in cooling system design. But there’s one catch – it’s difficult to contain PCM, especially when temperatures rise beyond a certain point.

In the past, Boetcher and her researchers have tried to tackle this challenge by sealing the PCM inside an aluminum casing, thus designing a basic self-contained cold plate that can directly be placed on car batteries. Later, however, they came up with a better idea.

“How do you contain PCM? That’s such a problem. And I started to see solutions through shape stabilized PCM,” Boetcher shared. “That’s when we realized we could mix the phase-change material with plastic.”

The concept was simple enough – mix PCM and plastic to create filament that could later be used to 3D print heat sinks. This way, the PCM itself gets shape-stabilized and becomes less flammable at the same time.

Implementing this concept didn’t turn out to be that simple, though. The researchers originally used different filament extruder, from a leading desktop extrusion company. But all they could manage was 20% of PCM in their filament. Plus, they couldn’t control the quality or diameter of their filament or customize it nearly as much as they would’ve liked.



The solution: A machine that could do it all.

What Boetcher’s team needed from their ideal filament extruder was the ability to produce high-quality filament with perfect diameter control, even when working with a mix of non-typical materials. Plus, because they were in the initial phases of their research, they also needed the freedom to experiment and customize. And just as important was the cost factor. Their new filament maker had to remain affordable even while offering all the capabilities they needed.

The 3devo Composer Filament Maker checked all these boxes and then some. It became a part of the Embry-Riddle campus in June 2018, and has made nothing but great impressions ever since!

Embry Riddle


With the help of the Composer Filament Maker, Boetcher’s team has been able to mix PCM with high-density polyethylene (HDPE) in ratios that weren’t possible before. Their new filament has 60% PCM – 3X higher than what they could manage with their previous extruder.

The quality of their new filament has also improved by leaps and bounds. Plus, the intuitive features and interface of the Composer Filament Maker have made it remarkably easy for the researchers to try out new material mixes and PCM-plastic ratios. They’re currently working on increasing PCM levels in their filament even further, and are also considering plastics other than HDPE to increase the strength of their filament. They’re also toying with the idea of using this filament to create matrix-like heat exchangers instead of solid 3D printed blocks.

The fun has just begun, and we’re sure we’ll be hearing about some exciting new innovations from Embry-Riddle soon. For now, it’s a privilege just to be a part of their journey, and to contribute to the future of heat regulation in such a fundamental way.


Curious to learn more about Embry-Riddle’s applications?

Check out the full case study here.



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Bringing Accessible Innovation
To Mission Areas


3devo products have become powerful tools in the development of research projects. By proving a total concept recycling solution at fingertips reach, it facilitates central testing areas for experimentation.

Searching For a Total-Concept Recycling Solution

Dutch Defense and Research Institute, TNO, had been looking for a solution for recycling plastic waste.  They came to 3devo because it met their need for a total-concept recycling solution. After realizing the best location for their recycling efforts, TNO sent their 3devo unit to mission area Camp Castor, in Mali. The set-up in Mali consists of the Shredder, which grinds plastic waste such as bottles and caps into small granulates, and a filament maker, which melts the granulates into filament suitable for 3d printers.


MINUSMA 3devo ministry of defence mali
Portable Experimentation

What appealed to TNO the most about 3devo, was the fact that these were not stationary factory machines, but rather desktop models that offered the convenience of portability. Prior to the use of the 3devo extruder, sustainable experimentation could only take place in laboratories. Now having the right tools, they have taken research into their own hands on base.  The desktop-sized devices have allowed Dutch soldiers to be self-sufficient in taking charge over their own recycling projects.


“We purposefully wanted to go to a mission area, so that we could experience what problems would arise in practice”

Bart Zwiep, Innovation Manager at TNO


Bart has been an advocate for incorporating 3d printing within the field.  Having these technologies enables the camp to react faster to the constantly changing environment of live missions.


MINUSMA 3devo ministry of defence mali


For some time now the Dutch Military has been using 3D printers as a solution for immediate fixes. It was only last June 2018, when 3devo machines were introduced to assist them with repurposing the amount of plastic they have consumed – which has helped them tremendously. On average, approximately 5 water bottles are used each day per person. That might not seem like much, but that equates up to 300 kilos of plastic waste per day. Even though Camp Castor produces about 300 kilos of plastic waste a day, their end goal is to recycle a large portion of it. Prior to the addition of 3devo,  the waste would be transported and incinerated. But now, because of the tools, they are able to process the raw material into filament compatible with 3D printers.

Sustainability Taking a Role in Innovation

In Castor, the plastic waste stream is typically clean plastic bottles.  This type of plastic and the condition it’s in is considered to be easy to recycle. The initial step of recycling, especially for the use of 3D printing, is experimenting. Starting off small, the first 3D prints with recycled materials have been simple items such as iPad holders and miniature chairs. These prints might seem trivial, but it has only been the first couple of steps of testing before jumping into larger projects. Recycling is always thought about but hardly ever pushed, but after using 3devo as a solution, recycling projects have been implemented instantly. Having this set-up has allowed sustainability to play a huge role in innovation.


MINUSMA 3devo ministry of defence mali


Eventually, after testing and experimenting the goal is to scale up, process more plastics, make more raw materials, and produce more essentials with 3d printers for camps. The dream will be to print out larger table and chairs and the broken parts will be able to be repurposed. By printing defective or missing parts in a mission area, they will no longer have to wait for spare parts to arrive all the way from the Netherlands – which can sometimes take up to a couple of months. This will significantly increase operational readiness with the materials they already have – with a sustainable twist.


More info about the added value of 3D printing?
Check this story from the Defense newspaper.

Or this video clip of 3devo machines
in action at Camp Castor.

You can also read more about this topic in
STERKER!, Dutch defense magazine, where
3devo’s applications in Mali are further reported.
Magazine #4 – December 2018 edition


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