The German company Infinite Flex has developed a copper powder for laser-based 3D printing processes specifically for the powder bed fusion process. It is 99.5% pure copper, which is of particular interest to the additive manufacturing market, which is more used to the use of alloys. The materials manufacturer hopes to meet the needs of industries like electronics, where conductivity is an essential property.
This isn’t the first time we’ve talked about copper in additive manufacturing. It’s a difficult metal to machine when it comes to using a laser because copper has such a high reflectivity that it also absorbs some of the energy needed to build the part. For this reason, many market players have developed alternatives, such as Desktop Metal, which has opted for extrusion, or Digital Metal, which prefers binder jetting. Manufacturers like Trumpf have chosen to use a green laser to process copper, while others use alloys, reducing the purity of the material.
Infinite Flex also notes that it has worked with alloys before: “We have already used copper alloys such as CuCrZr or CuNiSiCr. However, these alloys have the disadvantage that they have significantly lower conductivity properties than pure copper. CuCrZr, for example, achieves an electrical conductivity of at best 70% of the pure copper value, with CuNiSiCr the conductivity of 24 MS/m is even only about 40% of the pure copper value.” Faced with these inconclusive results, the company wanted to develop a new material.
Properties of copper powder
The material, called INFINITE POWDER CU 01, has a copper content of 95.5% and was developed for SLM, LMD and DDM processes. According to the German company, however, it is mainly used on laser melting systems such as those developed by EOS or Trumpf. Its elongation at break, also known as fracture strand, ie its ability to elongate under tension at break, is 24%, while its electrical conductivity is greater than 52 MS/m. The material enables the construction of parts with a layer thickness of 30 microns and a porosity of less than 0.1%.
This new material would therefore be ideal for the production of heat exchangers, but also for electronic applications
and electrical fields, which often require high thermal and electrical conductivity. Thanks to additive manufacturing, more complex and resistant parts can be created. However, a kilo of powder costs 85 euros, which leaves little room for error. You can find more information about this copper powder HERE.
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*Cover photo credit: Infinite Flex