Nov 1, 2016 | By Alec

Reading this title, you might think ‘but surely copper is already 3D printable?’ And you wouldn’t technically be wrong. Copper-based filaments, usually mixtures of copper and PLA, are already available in a few different formats, while copper is also frequently used with the 3D printed lost wax molding technique. But the problem is that copper quickly loses its very appealing properties, including its excellent conductivity, when 3D printed as pure as possible.

However, a team of Japanese researchers from the Daihen company and the National Institute of Technology Research Institute (Osaka Prefecture) have now come up with a metal 3D printing alternative. Using a copper alloy powder and a conventional M2 metal 3D printer, they have developed a new copper 3D printing technique that relies on 3D laminate shaping to produce 3D shapes. This is the first technique to make the direct 3D printing of copper alloys widely possible.

As the Japanese researchers explain, the practical advantages are obvious. Copper is extremely conductive and an excellent thermal conductor at the same time, while 3D printing that same material also greatly shortens to high-mix low-volume production times of copper. They are therefore envisioning extensive, value-adding copper 3D printing in sectors like aerospace, automotive and medical.

At the same time, creating laminated lasers with 3D printing is difficult due to laser reflectance. Using a regular M2 3D printer with a 400W laser, however, they have now made it possible to 3D print laminate layers of copper using a new patented technique. This 3D laminate shaping approach has several advantages, namely that it manufacturers single piece structures, significantly reduces development times, and provides users with immense production flexibility. “It allows users to respond to demands for small-volume and custom production, and further reduces the need for mold storage and inventory,” they say.

Numerous applications are possible, and the Japanese engineers are currently looking at objects that require immense conductivity features, such as high current water-cooled torches. In fact, initial results show high cooling properties and size and weight reductions as well. Many similar applications can also be achieved, in part thanks to the technique’s ability to arbitrarily change the properties of the molded product. “If you want to focus on electrical conductivity, it can be maximized using up to 90% pure copper, while pure copper tensile strength can also be inserted into the objects,” they say. It’s a breakthrough that can change copper tool manufacturing as we know it.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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Hades wrote at 11/4/2016 12:34:32 PM:

"Reading this title, you might think ‘but surely copper is already 3D printable?’" Yes and it has been for years... with powdered copper SLM!.. Another quality article from 3ders mentioning the wonders of loaded PLA as the only method of AM coppers...

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