Copper 3D printing solution with graphene
Reflective copper uses graphene coating to increase density Metal Tech News – February 17, 2021
Last updated 2/16/2021 at 5:08pm
Researchers at Uppsala University, in collaboration with Swedish graphene materials company Graphmatech, have demonstrated a potential breakthrough in the printability of copper for laser additive manufacturing, significantly lowering the reflectivity challenge of copper powders.
As 3D metal printing has seen a rapid acceptance across a range of industries due to its ability to produce customized and complex designs on demand, some metals have proven difficult in the manufacturing process caused by the unique properties of the material.
At wavelengths commonly used in laser powder bed fusion – the dominant technology used in metal printing – pure copper simply reflects most of the energy during printing, resulting in low density printed parts.
A great conductor of electricity and heat, malleable, and with natural disinfecting capabilities, copper is one of the most commonly used materials in the world and a top prospect for the versatility of 3D metal printing.
Copper, however, also reflects upwards of 95% of the infrared light given off by a 3D printer laser, resulting in the low density, or loosely packed molecules, which create fragile components.
Adding a bit of graphene, a 2D carbon material that shares many of copper's most desired traits is a huge step toward solving that problem.
"By modifying the surface of the copper powder using Graphmatech's patented graphene technology, we successfully reduced the reflectance by up to 67%," said Graphmatech CEO Mamoun Taher. "This 3D printable hybrid material has the potential to add value in a range of sectors such as e-mobility, electronics and defense."
The graphene incorporated also survived the printing process to positively impact the density of the printed copper-graphene parts, significantly reducing porosity.
"The new process developed to coat metal powder with graphene opens up very interesting perspectives for the design of new materials in various applications," said Professor Ulf Jansson of Uppsala University.
Graphmatech, which has already made significant advances in other graphene-metal composites and coated powders for additive manufacturing, is now attempting to scale up the graphene-coated copper technology for mass production.