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Liquid forging LED manufacturing process

By Damir Beciri
7 July 2012

etpl-liquid-forging-ledsResearchers from the A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) developed a new manufacturing system of next generation Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) which could dramatically improve the way small electronic devices keep cool. Named liquid forging, the new technique has taken the first leap from research laboratory towards the global market in high-powered lighting.

Many electronic parts require heat sinks to transfer the heat away since the build up heat can damage parts and cause them to lose efficiency or burn out. Liquid forging was developed by a SIMTech team led by John Yong back in 2008, and it is on its way to revolutionize production of LEDs while making them brighter and longer-lasting.

“Liquid forging is a hybrid between forging and casting”, said Chua Beng Wah, the lead researcher on the SIMTech project. “It is especially useful if you need to manufacture lighter components with intricate features like heat sinks using wrought aluminum alloys.”

The process is highly scalable allowing a single step creation of complex parts consisting out of composite materials such as copper and aluminum. Therefore, the method can be used to simultaneously create heat sinks and light fixtures. Aside significantly minimizing assembly costs, the system could enable more complex designs of heat sinks with more efficient heat dissipation.

According to the claims of the developers, the thermal conductivity of liquid-forged products beats conventional techniques such as casting by a factor of two. Another benefit of this approach is the fact it creates a product which requires less machining, partly because the process uses raw materials more efficiently. The resultant heat sink can be anodized, improving thermal performance by an additional 10–15%.

In April this year, A*STAR’s technology transfer arm, Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd (ETPL), licensed the patented technology to a leading LED thermal management firm. The agreement allows the firm to build lightweight, high-performance LED heat sinks using the liquid-forging process.

They expect that products created with this technique will hit the shelves as early as 2013, but they aren’t limiting its use only on LEDs production.

“Liquid forging is a low-cost system with the potential to compete with traditional manufacturing processes in the biomedical, aerospace and automotive industries. Amongst other things, this technique could be used to make alloy wheel trims, electronic casings or pistons”, said Philip Lim, ETPL’s Chief Executive Officer.

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