Why high-performance copper alloys are a catalyst for 3D printing

Since its first introduction in 1990, 3D printing or ‘additive manufacturing’ is rapidly advancing and new applications emerge each day. One interesting evolution is the rise of copper alloys as a very promising printing material offering multiple advantages. Currently, already 25% of all 3D metal printing is copper-based and the market is expected to grow by 50% in the next five years. But what makes copper alloys so interesting for 3D printing?

Cost-efficient and sustainable manufacturing of complex parts

Compared to regular manufacturing, the advantages of additive manufacturing are well known. To start with, it allows manufacturers to produce customized parts with complex and extreme shapes without interruptions, further assembly or milling. Moreover, next to enhancing the functionality of these parts, 3D printing technology enables manufacturers to use only the material that is strictly needed, thus increasing cost and resource efficiency and saving weight in the finished product.

New copper alloys paving the way for mass production

Copper alloys are increasingly being used for various 3D printing applications, including manufacturing of heat exchangers, induction coils and rocket engines, among others. Up to now, low printing speeds – especially for complex parts – have been hindering a breakthrough. Because of its low print speed, for instance, pure copper is not ideal for 3D printing. However, the introduction of high-performing printers and more advanced copper alloys is now paving the way for profitable mass production.

Excellent material properties

Certain copper alloys allow high printing speeds thanks to quicker heat dissipation, while offering excellent mechanical characteristics. Lamifil currently offers its CuCr1Zr or ‘PowerFil’ alloy, boasting high flex life, high tensile strength, excellent conductivity and thermal resistance. Using a unique upcasting process, Lamifil produces and delivers thin CuCr1Zr alloy wires – typically 2 mm – on coil, which are pulverized to extremely small particles (< 5 mµ) by specialized metal powder manufacturers. This powder is then used by 3D printing companies to print parts. Once printed, the final copper alloy product even shows a 20% higher tensile strength than the wire material delivered on coil.

Additive manufacturing is revolutionizing the way things are being made. It holds one of the keys towards sustainable, cost-efficient, custom and resource-efficient production. The constant development of innovative and highly effective printing materials – including copper alloys – will be one of the main catalysts to accelerate further adoption and mass production.

Please contact us if you want more information on copper alloy wire for additive manufacturing.