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3T announces success with Pure Copper production – and an open invitation

21 October 2014 ...

The Research and Development team at 3T RPD has produced the first successful pure copper product via additive manufacturing technology.

3T Concept Heat Exchanger produced in Pure Copper

3T Concept Heat Exchanger produced in Pure Copper

This achievement represents a significant move forward in material development. Previously, the Direct Metal Laser Sintering technology has been used to produce copper alloy products but never a pure copper part.

The part illustrated is a concept heat exchanger and copper’s thermal and electrical conductivity properties make it an ideal material choice. The part is already generating interest in a range of markets including the semi-conductor industry, scientific and power generation.

The Research and Development Team at 3T overcame a number of challenges in the development of copper additive manufacturing. Copper’s reflectivity was initially an issue which required the team to modify the machine and accurately calibrate the parameter set to enable successful production. Also, as copper is one of the softer metals there were added challenges as the metal behaves differently during the process and so, for example, needs a different approach when creating the support structures compared to harder metals such as titanium.

The team is now refining the process to optimise the surface finish, and material properties and is progressing the project in order to advance the capability from the beta material stage to a fully functional production ready material.

The work has expanded 3T’s knowledge bank of scanning strategies including areas such as platform temperature, machine modifications and scanning routes.

Speaking about the team’s copper material development project, 3T’s R+D Manager, Dr Mark Beard said: “Producing pure copper parts via additive manufacturing is an industry first. Materials development is a key area for us and our R+D team is opening the door to engineers who have copper components that they know would benefit from AM and are looking for a partner to develop them with. We aren’t necessarily saying ‘here is copper – come and buy it’ we are saying ‘we have experience in producing copper parts – come and work with us’.”

The copper material development programme is one of a number of projects being undertaken at 3T. These include EU and Government funded projects, partner projects with customers and in-house projects.

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