The latest material released for the Desktop Metal Studio System is 99.9% pure copper. Copper has uses in many industries and the customization that comes with additive manufacturing is sure to bring about innovation. The electrical and thermal conductivity of pure copper combined with the design freedom of 3D printing should open up possibilities that were inconceivable in the past.
What makes copper special?
The two main advantages of copper are its thermal conductivity and electrical conductivity. Due to its position in the periodic table, electrons within copper move around very easily. This allows electrical current to move with little resistance and heat energy to flow quickly. The copper alliance has some informative graphics to help explain exactly what is happening. This makes copper useful for a variety of applications. Most commonly, copper is found in electrical wires, pots and pans, induction motors, and piping. With advances in additive manufacturing, copper’s applications are expanding.
What is different about Desktop Metal’s copper material?
Desktop Metal’s copper material is different from other metal 3D printing solutions. The copper on the Studio System is 99.9% pure copper. Copper printed on the Studio System has an IACS value of 85.2%, meaning its electrical conductivity is 85.2% that of pure annealed copper. The powder used in the Bound Metal Deposition rods is sourced from the well-established Metal Injection Molding industry. Other metal 3D printers rely on copper alloys, most commonly a chromium zirconium copper blend known as CuCr1Zr. With a copper alloy, the strengths of copper cannot be fully realized and some applications are not feasible. The Studio System fills this gap with its 99.9% copper. This purity was confirmed through Inductively Couples Plasma Spectroscopy (ICP) and combustion analysis of sintered parts by Desktop Metal. The purity of printed parts expands the applications for the Studio System to new industries, including:
- Induction coils
- Heat Exchangers
- Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM)
- Heat sinks
- Bus Bars
Example: Heat Exchanger
The part above was printed on the Studio System. This part is a heat exchanger used to transfer heat from one place to another. A hot fluid travelling through internal channels would transfer its heat through the copper heat exchanger to the outside world. This part is special due to the geometry of the internal channels. Additive manufacturing allows for cooling channels that conform to the shape of the part to be created. These conformal cooling channels help make the heat exchanger more efficient and are impossible to manufacture through traditional means. The conformal cooling channels are visible in the rendering below.
The animation below helps to demonstrate how the gas travels through the heat exchanger.
How does copper compare to other Desktop Metal materials?
As with the H13 and 4140 metals offered on the Studio System, Zirconium getters are required in the sintering cycle. The zirconium getters help keep the sintering environment clean and result in more consistent parts. The sintering cycle also relies on an external gas supply to meet the mass-flow requirements of the furnace. However, the copper sintering environment will not require the pure argon gas that H13 and 4140 require. Instead, a high argon forming gas can be used during sintering.
Where is additional information available?
Application Engineer, Manufacturing Solutions
Computer Aided Technology, LLC