Rethinking LED heat sink design with generative design | Diabatix

January 19, 2024
Sarah da Silva Andrade

Efficiency limitations in semiconductor processes result in LEDs dissipating between 60 to 95% of their input power as heat [1]. While LED bulbs are about 75% more energy-efficient than incandescent lighting [2], their performance can be compromised in high temperatures, leading to premature failure and reduced light output. Therefore, implementing effective thermal management is essential for enhancing production costs, minimizing material usage, and extending the operating range.

Read the three benefits of adopting thermal analysis for your LED lights

The introduction of advanced thermal generative design techniques has significantly improved thermal management in LEDs. This advancement is particularly notable in the design of heat sinks for air-cooled lighting fixtures, where optimizing both natural and forced convection is vital. Let’s explore the approaches and methodologies in custom heat sink design, emphasizing how thermal management is being redefined in the LED and lighting industry.

LED light products used as a case study.

The impact of ColdStream on design optimization

The introduction of ColdStream marks a significant advancement in thermal design. It transcends the traditional, often inefficient, trial-and-error approach of conventional design cycles. ColdStream restructures this process by employing a generative design cycle, which automates and refines the design through hundreds of iterations. Each iteration is subjected to rigorous validation with Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations. This method significantly enhances the speed and accuracy of heat sink design.

The process starts with the user uploading a CAD geometry, followed by material selection, setting thermal and flow boundary conditions, and defining design targets and space. ColdStream's ability to handle a variety of materials and manufacturing processes – including 3D printing, CNC milling, die casting, and sheet metal forming – highlights its versatility in thermal management solutions.

Forced convection LED lights: conventional vs. generative design

The new era of natural convection in lighting fixtures

Efficiency in natural convection cooling lies in the design of an effective thermal resistance network. By examining detailed examples, it can be noted the benefits in heat dissipation that a well-designed thermal resistance network offers. This involves establishing a custom design that utilizes thermal generative design techniques, which is instrumental in developing heat sinks that are optimized to meet specific cooling needs.

Generative-designed LED light for natural convection

Comparing forced convection LED lighting

When it comes to forced convection LED heating, the comparison between traditional designs and those optimized using thermal topology optimization is striking. Such comparisons highlight the advantages of integrating optimization techniques into heat sink design. The goal is to achieve thermal performance gains that traditional design methodologies cannot match.

Observed temperature reduction on the LED light case study
Check the full case study here

Enhanced performance through advanced thermal design

The results of these advanced methodologies are evident in the optimized heat sink designs they produce. These designs not only exhibit superior thermal performance but also consider manufacturability. The benefits of using such advanced thermal design platforms include shorter design cycles, reduced manual engineering efforts, and the opening up of new design possibilities that were previously unavailable due to constraints in traditional methods.

Advancing thermal management in LED lighting

Integrating generative design in heat sink design represents a major advancement in thermal management within the LED lighting industry. This approach not only enhances the efficiency and performance of heat sinks but also simplifies the design process, allowing engineers to push the boundaries of innovation in thermal management.

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