3D Printing Copper
By Al Williams
People really want to 3D print metal, but while true metal printers exist, they still are expensive and out of reach of most hackers. However, even if you can afford an exotic printer or use metal-impregnated polymer, you don’t often see copper as a print material. Copper has high electrical and thermal conductivity which makes it very useful. But that thermal conductivity also makes it very difficult to print using any process that involves heating up the material and copper reflects common lasers used in the 3D printing process. However, a German company, Infinite Flex, is claiming a breakthrough that will allow printers that use a standard IR laser to produce copper parts. The material, Infinite Powder CU 01 is suitable for selective laser sintering and several other laser-based techniques.
The powder has 99.5% copper and particle sizes of between 10 and 45 microns. There are some copper alloys that reduce thermal conductivity to allow printing, but often the reason you want a copper part is for its thermal properties. A kilogram of the power will set you back nearly $100, so it isn’t dirt cheap, but it isn’t astronomical, either.
You can add copper wire to a print, of course, but that’s not the same thing. There are also methods that work like electroplating, but they are usually quite slow.
Of course, to make the powder work you will need a metal 3D printer. We do know there are many ways to print copper.
January 21, 2022 at 04:00AM
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