The challenge for material and process developers is that copper has high conductivity and ductility, but reflects the laser wavelength used in standard systems almost like a mirror. At the same time, the high thermal conductivity of copper ensures that the coupled energy is quickly dissipated. This results in a very narrow process window. These characteristics make conventional 3D printing of pure copper impossible. So far, one solution has been to use different copper alloys, but these tests have all been at the expense of conductivity and other properties such as corrosion resistance. Another approach has so far been to modify the manufacturing process, which has resulted in a reduction in component quality. For example, the component has a higher porosity if the laser beam only melts the material and does not completely melt it. A third approach is to use other laser sources. There is no commercial implementation of this yet.
At the Formnext trade fair (Frankfurt, November 13-16) Heraeus will present its new development and show 3D-printed highly conductive copper components. The materials and process specialist will show further technological highlights that are relevant for the areas of mobility, electronics, robotics and hydraulics, medicine and aerospace. The focus will be on additive manufacturing with special materials from the amorphous metals, refractory metals, precious metals, and lightweight alloys such as scalmalloy.