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Pure copper from the 3D printer

Until now, it was not possible to completely melt pure copper with a 3D printer. However, the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS has succeeded in doing so with the help of a novel additive manufacturing system.

 

The copper can be processed with a short-wave green laser almost without defects, which is why common infrared lasers fail. This should make it possible to produce complex components from pure copper and copper alloys for the aerospace and automotive industries. Copper conducts heat and electricity extremely well, which is why it is mainly used in electric drives and as a heat exchanger and can increase their efficiency. Thanks to 3D printing, the cooling capacity of copper parts can be increased by making better use of the available installation space and thus extending the service life of the cooled components. The cooling channels are designed in such a way that gases or liquids can flow with as little pressure loss as possible.

 

But how does the concept of this 3D printer differ from conventional systems? Instead of infrared light with a wavelength of 1064 nanometers, the "TruPrint1000" uses a disk laser with high-energy green light with a wavelength of 515 nanometers. During the research process, it became apparent that infrared laser beam sources of up to 500 watts are not powerful enough to completely melt copper, according to Samira Gruber, research associate at the Fraunhofer IWS. Moreover, only 30 percent of the energy used is achieved by the copper material, since the large remainder is reflected by the metal itself. This is different with the newly used green laser with a maximum of 500 watts. The laser absorbs more than 70 percent of the energy used by the copper powder and melts completely, so that it can be used for additive manufacturing.

 

We are already looking forward to future exciting projects in this field!

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© Fraunhofer IWS Dresden

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© Fraunhofer IWS Dresden / Jürgen Jeibmann

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