We specially designed a new lab experiment for Mechanical Engineering students who are required to take heat transfer courses as part of their major. The Heat Sink Experiment gives students a chance to gain practical experience with theories about heat transfer. This lesson teaches about extended surfaces and 1D steady-state conduction in finned surfaces by having students analyze, design, fabricate on a CNC mill, and test their own heat sinks. Students get a pragmatic, hands-on way to engage with engineering concepts, gain first-hand experience, and also get introduced to manufacturing processes, all of which provide an edge in the job market.
A milled aluminum heat sink mounted on a heat source in a test fixture.
In this lesson, students first analyze an example heat sink design and calculate fin effectiveness using fin geometry and aluminum’s thermal properties. Then they use Autodesk Fusion 360 to model their own heat sinks or modify one of the included heat sink example models.
An example heat sink design in Fusion 360.
Next, students fabricate their models on a CNC mill and set up the experiment. They get to see first-hand whose heat sink design is most effective and learn from each other’s successes and mistakes.
To get started with the Heat Sink Experiment, download the lesson below, which includes a PDF of instructions and all the files you’ll need. The project takes approximately two hours, but it can run longer or shorter depending on CNC mill availability.