COP28 Highlights: Exploring the Future of HVAC Industry with 3D Printing for Sustainability


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Source: Energy Now

Charles R. Goulding and Preeti Sulibhavi discuss the recent COP28 climate conference and how the HVAC industry can help reach energy efficiency goals with 3D printing.

The recently concluded COP28 climate conference in Dubai resulted in a multinational consensus on some major policy goals. The first agreement included the major oil companies with a commitment to reduce methane from oil fields and natural gas production and distribution emissions. The second agreement is to be signed by 120 countries and bring renewable generation to at least 11,000 gigawatts by 2030. The third commitment is to double the annual increase in energy efficiency improvements from 2 percent per year to 4 percent per year. Energy efficiency is sometimes referred to as the “First Fuel” since it results in actual energy and emission reductions.

The COP28 attendees recognize that the largest component of building energy consumption is HVAC. The large HVAC energy efficiency reduction hoped for at COP28 is clearly a reach goal. For the HVAC industry to achieve this goal will require an advanced level of new generative product design where 3D printing can make a major contribution. Some of the major US HVAC OEM equipment manufacturers are endeavoring to create HVAC products that are more energy-efficient than today’s product offerings.

Trane

Trane is working closely with Oak Ridge National Lab, or ORNL, in Tennessee. Their joint focus is on how to employ 3D printing technologies to create HVAC components that are more energy-efficient. ORNL is a major pioneer in the world of 3D printing and asserts that this technology has the potential to completely transform how we manufacture heat exchangers, components for air flow, and other parts by permitting more complex geometries. Through the use of 3D printing optimizations, Trane and ORNL have already achieved a reduction of over 20% in emissions from the design of a heat exchanger.

Carrier

Since the spinout from United Technologies, Carrier has been aligning itself strategically to become a key global player in the HVAC supplier market. The most significant developments in 2023 include the acquisition of Viessmann, the widely recognized European heat pump manufacturer, in April of that year for a sum exceeding US$13 billion. Additionally, in December 2023, they sold off their sizable Global Access safety-related business segment to Honeywell for US$4.95 billion. This sale commanded a higher price than was expected, which strengthens Carrier’s focus on the HVAC market.

JCI’s Ms. Mankameyer poses in front of 3D printed fume hood at Purdue University [Source: Johnson Controls]

Johnson Controls Inc.

Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI) has a global energy business with expertise in building controls. Once a building has energy-efficient equipment installed, the next step is controls that further optimize efficiency across all energy consumption.

JCI is supporting efforts at Purdue University to utilize 3D printing to reduce emissions. Researchers at Purdue have developed an innovative 3D printed venturi flow controller that can be quickly custom-designed and printed for HVAC systems in commercial buildings. By optimizing these controllers for specific applications, significant energy savings can be achieved. JCI is providing Purdue with industry expertise and funding to further develop this technology.

JCI is also utilizing 3D printing for creating custom HVAC ducting right at construction sites. By leveraging mobile 3D printers, installers can print optimized ductwork tailored for that building’s layout rather than relying on generic duct configurations. This custom ductwork further improves HVAC efficiency.

Through collaborations with universities and implementing advanced manufacturing techniques like 3D printing, JCI is striving to reach the ambitious energy efficiency goals set out at COP28. Their expertise in building controls paired with innovations in component design will help drive the HVAC industry forward.

In addition, JCI has partnered with Elevate Systems to design and develop a field retrofit kit for a grease bleeder valve to capture grease that escapes from HVAC systems. The concept was to design 3D models of the prototypes, print them in-house and then after approval, proceed with production units. This kit is now a production asset for field retrofits for JCI systems.

Danfoss

Danfoss, a major global HVAC equipment supplier, confirmed its support for HVAC cooling energy commitments at COP28. As a leading supplier of Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs), Danfoss optimizes fan speeds for chillers, rooftop units, and other motors, thereby significantly reducing energy usage. The company also offers Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) technology that effectively lowers residential building energy consumption. Danfoss is currently tapping into 3D printing to create custom enclosures, brackets, and clamps for its product range.

At the same event, 63 countries made the commitment to reduce cooling-related emissions by 68% come 2050, a target achievable through energy efficiency, clean refrigerants, and renewable electricity.

Despite this positive movement, the commitments are still insufficient for achieving net zero emissions and limiting warming to 1.5°C, as per the IEA’s standards. Thus, while COP28 has shifted momentum towards the right direction, much larger strides are necessary.

The Research & Development Tax Credit

The now permanent Research & Development Tax Credit (R&D) Tax Credit is available for companies developing new or improved products, processes or software.

3D printing can help boost a company’s R&D Tax Credits. Wages for technical employees creating, testing and revising 3D printed prototypes may be included as a percentage of eligible time spent for the R&D Tax Credit. When 3D printing is used to refine a process, the time invested in integrating 3D printing hardware and software is also considered a qualifying activity. Moreover, when utilized for modeling and pre-production, the costs of filaments consumed during the development process might be eligible for recovery.

Take note that whenever 3D printing is used, whether for prototype creation, testing or final production, it serves as a strong indication that activities eligible for R&D Credit are underway. Any companies employing this technology are advised to explore the possibilities of leveraging R&D Tax Credits.

Conclusion

COP28 enjoyed a record attendance of 84,000 global participants this year. The HVAC industry was front and center and has tremendous opportunities to utilize 3D printing technology to reach its ambitious energy efficiency goals by creating new energy-efficient equipment designs.

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“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”


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