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Digital Manufacturing Challenge: Powering the World by an Innovative Design for CPU Heat Sinks

Gitanjali Shanbhag
By Gitanjali Shanbhag University of Waterloo
Lisa Brock
By Lisa Brock University of Waterloo

Energy and the work it can do are fundamental to powering our world. Harnessing energy through its generation or conversion, transfer and storage is often accompanied by heat. SME’s 2019 Digital Manufacturing Challenge emphasized the thermal management or temperature control of systems, processes or devices that generate, convert and transfer or store energy. The journey from entering the competition to becoming the overall winner for our innovative design has brought us immense excitement and interest to generate new ideas in this space.

It all started when we enrolled for the first offering of an additive manufacturing design course taught by our supervisor, Mihaela Vlasea, PhD. Dr. Vlasea challenged us to rethink design and fabrication through innovative materials, optimized structures and enhanced functionality. This course helped us gain a depth of knowledge in the Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) domain, including computational tools and frameworks for process selection, costing and idea generation. With this skillset, we decided to participate in the Digital Manufacturing Challenge.

Our project/submission was focused on the redesign of a heat sink for cooling central processing units (CPUs) to fit in with the competition theme of additive manufacturing for energy transfer and heat exchange. We designed a heat sink that featured an organic, branched fin design revolving around a circular base that was envisioned to be situated on top of the CPU. It was designed to be part of an assembly with a fan mounted above the heat sink to facilitate forced convection, making it an active heat sink system.

The small, lightweight design ensured efficient thermal dissipation and a small environmental footprint. The idea was to manufacture this heat sink with binder jetting DDM technology since it promotes low material waste by the virtue of reusing any unused powder. The material of choice for this heat sink was copper because of its stellar thermal properties.

Socially, the new heat sink design could improve global connectivity by providing efficient thermal management for servers and cores, ultimately reducing their energy footprint. This would have a large impact on high-performance computing industries and may help provide the computational resources needed for innovation. The proposed organic fin design for heat sinks could also be scaled up for other heat sink applications, apart from CPUs. The competition was judged on how well we justified choices of DDM processes and materials to be used, the social and environmental impact analysis, and cost-benefit analysis for using DDM.

We were recognized as overall winners for this challenge at SME’s Annual RAPID + TCT event, held in May in Detroit. We were also presented with the amazing opportunity of showcasing our project at this event through a poster session. SME’s RAPID + TCT gave us a chance to connect with students, researchers and industry personnel, including CEOs, employees and the founders of some of the top companies in the world of additive manufacturing.

For a complete overview of the Digital Manufacturing Challenge as well as previous winners/submissions, visit

SME Selects Four Academic Leaders as 2019 Distinguished Faculty Advisors

SME has selected four academic leaders to receive its 2019 Distinguished Faculty Advisor Award. This annual award, established in 2011, recognizes SME’s student chapter faculty advisors for both their service to the organization and ongoing efforts to advance manufacturing and its associated careers on their campuses and in their classrooms.

2019 Distinguished Faculty Advisors:

  • Wayne P. Hung, PhD, Associate Professor, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
  • Sagil James, PhD, Assistant Professor, California State University-Fullerton, Fullerton, Calif.
  • Simin Nasseri, PhD, Professor, Kennesaw State University, Marietta, Ga.
  • Rustin D. Webster, PhD, Assistant Professor, Purdue Polytechnic Institute, New Albany, Ind.

SME has more 70 student chapters located through the U.S. and in 16 other countries, and student chapter advisors are dedicated on-campus volunteers who work in conjunction with SME’s professional chapters to secure funding, provide continuing education opportunities, and develop and enhance the leadership skills of their student members.

As part of their recognition, recipients receive a monetary award that can be used for professional and/or student chapter development/activities. Award details are available at

Winners of SkillsUSA Additive Manufacturing Competition Announced

During SME’s RAPID + TCT Manufacturing Poster Challenge, Lisa Brock and Gitanjali Shanbhag showcased their winning Digital Manufacturing Challenge submission, “The Copper Cooler: Heat Sink for CPUs.”

During SME’s co-sponsored 2019 Additive Manufacturing Competition, held during the 55th Annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Ky., June 24-28, six teams—three high school and three college teams—received top honors for the exceptional designs they created during the three-day contest.

SME created the Additive Manufacturing Competition to attract and introduce the younger generation to emerging technologies that manufacturers have adopted over the past few years. With the support of Stratasys, the competition has grown from 13 teams since the contest began in 2015 to 47 teams that competed this year.

SME and Stratasys also partnered with FANUC to develop the 2019 challenge, which required participants to design, fabricate and apply an end-of-arm tool in a simulated, real-life manufacturing robotics scenario involving a full-production sedan assembly line. By the end of the challenge, participants demonstrated their ability to conceptualize, design, iterate and apply a 3D-printed tool, which, aided by a robot running a pre-installed program, repeatably placed an emblem on a target in the correct position and orientation.

From left: Mihaela Vlasea, PhD, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, and an advisor for SME’s Additive Manufacturing Community; Carl Dekker, Met-l-flo Inc., Sugar Grove, Ill., and chair of SME’s Direct Digital Manufacturing Tech Group; 2019 winners Lisa Brock, a master’s degree student in Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering in the Multi-Scale Additive Manufacturing Lab at the University of Waterloo, and Gitanjali Shanbhag, a doctorate student in Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering in the Multi-Scale Additive Manufacturing Lab at the University of Waterloo; and Jennifer Fielding, PhD, Air Force Research Laboratory, Liberty Township, Ohio, and the former chair of SME’s Additive Manufacturing Community.

The winning teams received gold, silver and bronze medals from SkillsUSA as well as scholarships from the SME Education Foundation (for high school participants), a one-year subscription for Tooling U-SME classes, RAPID + TCT conference passes (for postsecondary participants), Solidworks’ 3D-CAD design software and a MakerBot Mini printer (gold medal winners).

More than 6,500 career and technical education students —all SkillsUSA state contest winners—competed in 103 different hands-on trade, technical and leadership fields during the national conference.

Winning high school teams:

  • Gold Medal: Hunter Donahoe and Gabe Yeoman, Spring Valley High School, Huntington, W.Va.
  • Silver Medal: Griffin Rossberg and Spencer Richardson, Wasatch High School, Heber City, Utah
  • Bronze Medal: Jordan West and Justin Morrow, Millard North High School, Omaha, Neb.

Winning college teams:

  • Gold Medal: Donovan Gentles and Wyatt Brogden, Butte College, Oroville, Calif.
  • Silver Medal: Brandon Lund and Cody White, Texas State Technical College-Waco, Waco, Texas
  • Bronze Medal: Dylan Murphy and Makayla Yount, Catawba Valley Community College, Hickory, N.C.

To see the devices this year’s winners designed, view SME’s video about the 2019 contest, or to learn more about the competition, please go to

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