The Navy Office of Naval Research (ONR) awarded ElectraWatch a manufacturing science program contract to identify new material processing pathways that use additive manufacturing for copper-nickel (CuNi) heat exchanger designs.

ElectraWatch was one of only five organizations, and the only non-academic bidder, to receive a contract award. The value of the contract was not disclosed.

ElectraWatch is a research, engineering and product development company based in Charlottesville, Va. Founded in 2008 and acquired by Austal USA in 2018, ElectraWatch is a wholly owned subsidiary focusing on improving aluminum testing capabilities and performing general independent research and development functions to further Austal USA's mission of excellence in advanced shipbuilding.

“I’m proud of the hard work our engineering team has done to make this contract award possible,” ElectraWatch General Manager Ryan Dunn said in a prepared statement. “We are honored that this award puts us in a position to further champion the next generation of manufacturing capabilities and to best equip the sailors who protect and support our country and our allies.”

Dr. Scott Kasen, ElectraWatch’s principal engineer, explained that the enormous heat loads of future naval vessels require advanced designs for seawater heat exchangers which may only be achievable by leveraging the design freedom afforded by additive manufacturing (AM).

“Despite the tremendous advancements in AM,” Kasen said. “Existing modalities are unable to easily process CuNi alloys which are chosen for their high thermal conductivity, demonstrated corrosion performance, and biofouling resistance in marine environments.”

To overcome the challenges of existing approaches, ElectraWatch partnered with Metallum3D to propose a novel AM capability which uses the unique combination of a bound pellet extrusion process and microwave sintering.