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BMW 3-Series (E90 E92) Forum > E90 / E92 / E93 3-series Powertrain and Drivetrain Discussions > N54 Turbo Engine / Drivetrain / Exhaust Modifications - 335i > Helix Innovations in Intercooler Design



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      06-28-2012, 01:18 PM   #1
Helix Wildebeest
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Recently other tuner shops have attempted to imitate the Helix Stepped Core Intercooler’s (SCI) unique design and success. Given the large inquiry about what positions an intercooler as the best offering, I figured I would take this time to talk about the science and innovation put into the Helix SCI. Placing the stepped intercooler core design aside, Helix built in other innovations that are BMW/Mini intercooler market first.

Many of you have heard the terms “Tube & Fin” and “Bar & Plate”. Both of these terms refer to intercooler construction. These intercooler construction methods make up the majority of intercoolers offered to the BMW market. Each has their Pros & Cons with weight, air flow, thermal reserve, thermal conductivity, ect. Below is a picture of a Bar & Plate (top) and Tube & Fin (bottom) intercooler.



The image below describes the charge row airflow characteristics of two construction types; however the Bar & Plate image is a bit exaggerated.



The image below describes the efficiency associated with orifice inlet design. Tube & Fin inlet design has an efficiency of on .53. The Bar & Plate inlet design has an efficiency of .80. Take notice of the inlet design with a .98 efficiency rating.



The image below was taken by a customer of an intercooler that attempted to imitate the SCI design. Notice the wide flat plates between the charge rows and the sharp 90 degree transition into the charge row. This construction is consistent with a Bar & Plate design and is rated at only .80 air flow efficiency.


Below is an image of an intercooler from a tuner shop that also imitated the Helix SCI. Looking inside you can see that the construction is Tube & Fin. Notice how the charge rows protrude into the end tank air space. This inlet design efficiency is rated at a dismal .53.

The Helix intercooler is constructed from a Bar & Plate design, but Helix designed and invested in an innovative custom extruded header bar. The Helix header bar is half round and serves as a bell mouth/velocity stack into each charge row on the ambient side as well as charge row inlet and outlet. This transition is rated at .98 efficient. The Helix Stepped Core Intercooler is the only intercooler that offers these innovations. This is one more innovation that allows the Helix intercooler to outperform imitators and other offerings.




The lesson is: You really do get what you pay for.

Last edited by Helix Wildebeest; 06-30-2012 at 10:10 AM.
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      06-28-2012, 01:50 PM   #2
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Thank you for this write up! I have been researching different intercoolers for a couple months now, and have been leaning toward Helix. Definitely sold after reading this!
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      06-28-2012, 01:52 PM   #3
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There's a lot more to an intercooler than just how efficiently air enters the face of the intercooler.

You could just combine all the best parts of each intercooler and make a HUGE intercooler that has staggered densely packed finpacks and think your good to go, but as soon as you look at what it did to your WGDC especially on a car that's already pushing the turbos to the limits you'll realize your intercooler is great at cooling, but is detrimental to overall peak performance.

Intercoolers are a science that require multiple angles of attack. The endtanks are a CRUCIAL part of the design as well. Now I'm not saying the Helix isn't great, I'm just saying this one feature on the Helix doesn't make it above and beyond the rest.

PS: Helix didn't invent the stepped core lol, a local race team has been building stepped cores for their track cars probably well before Helix was even around.
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      06-28-2012, 02:12 PM   #4
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Glad I went with the Authentic N54 Stepped Intercooler

Was only a matter of time until this thread got posted, especially since copy-company "X" become a vendor recently

Last edited by benzy89; 06-28-2012 at 02:22 PM.
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      06-28-2012, 02:15 PM   #5
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Who still uses tube & fin intercoolers lol.
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      06-28-2012, 02:18 PM   #6
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      06-28-2012, 02:20 PM   #7
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      06-28-2012, 02:51 PM   #8
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Looks like sales are down for Helix...
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      06-28-2012, 02:58 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diggy Diggy View Post
Looks like sales are down for Helix...
Or maybe they want to address some common misconceptions about IC design.
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      06-28-2012, 03:04 PM   #10
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Looks like sales are down for Helix...
I remember when I used to be stupid
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      06-28-2012, 03:12 PM   #11
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Are there supposed to be pics in your OP? They're not working for me.
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      06-28-2012, 03:17 PM   #12
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...

Last edited by Thomas@GIAC; 07-02-2012 at 01:33 PM.
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      06-28-2012, 03:20 PM   #13
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Are there supposed to be pics in your OP? They're not working for me.
They work for me. Good post!
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      06-28-2012, 03:50 PM   #14
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We are assembling a test rig for other intercooler in addition to our. The rig will sample temp in/out, pressure in/out, ambient temp/pressure, RPM and road speed. The intercooler inlets and outlets will be measured at the charge pipes with equal sampling areas. This information will be trended and entered into our calculator which we will make available. The calculator will take into account pressure drop from air temperature reduction (Ideal Gas Law: PV=nRT). The delta will be air flow inefficiencies. The calculator will also measure average charge air to ambient delta T as well as inlet to outlet delta T. We welcome challengers. Below is a picture of the calculator. The data entered into the calculator is NOT our intercooler results. Stay tuned.

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      06-28-2012, 04:32 PM   #15
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I have a Wagner intercooler, and a friend has a Helix. There is no temperature difference in logs when we run agains each other (without methanol). Maybe 1 Celsius more IAT for me but I run 2psi higher boost.
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      06-28-2012, 04:52 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shiv@vishnu View Post
Or maybe they want to address some common misconceptions about IC design.
Shiv runs a Helix FMIC on his 6xxhp single turbo shop car. Helix must be doing something right.
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      06-28-2012, 09:21 PM   #17
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Awesome post, if there was an alternative FMIC I would go with for sure it would be a Helix, no doubt

Also, choice of an FMIC a person must also consider the volume size over stock.

I think the Helix brand is at 93% increase of volume


Edit: I am now for the Cobb N54 FMIC
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      06-28-2012, 10:00 PM   #18
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I love threads like this. I'm surprised you don't have an offset and staggered fin pack. Maybe you do and it's the angle of the picture.

Here is a picture of our fin pack. Offset and staggered.



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      06-28-2012, 10:34 PM   #19
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This "test" is about to piss lots of people off
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      06-28-2012, 10:36 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ETS Michael View Post
I love threads like this. I'm surprised you don't have an offset and staggered fin pack. Maybe you do and it's the angle of the picture.

Here is a picture of our fin pack. Offset and staggered.

Haha yeah, I was trying to see if the fins are staggered or not in the pic couldn't really tell, they seem straight through with some random stagger. Regardless though... on a core that size I wouldn't want a stagger anyway.

With a more efficient core you can use a smaller core size to have similar cooling and less pressure drop in comparison to larger cores. I'm guessing this is the basis of your 5" design.
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      06-29-2012, 04:29 AM   #21
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Yes it's a staggered offset fin pack, look at the top and 3rd row above and below the area where the sunlight is coming through. The pic was taken at a weird angle to show the bullnose bars not the fins! As far as total core size goes the Helix isn't that big and has similar/less overall core volume than the 6.5">thicker stock height intercoolers.

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I love threads like this. I'm surprised you don't have an offset and staggered fin pack. Maybe you do and it's the angle of the picture
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      06-29-2012, 04:46 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpaRTan8 View Post
We are assembling a test rig for other intercooler in addition to our. The rig will sample temp in/out, pressure in/out, ambient temp/pressure, RPM and road speed. The intercooler inlets and outlets will be measured at the charge pipes with equal sampling areas. This information will be trended and entered into our calculator which we will make available. The calculator will take into account pressure drop from air temperature reduction (Ideal Gas Law: PV=nRT).
Hopefully you will also log and publish the wastegate ducty cycle (WGDC).
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