Think of additive manufacturing and you probably think of plastic components. But this needn’t be the case any longer. Now it is possible to produce 3D printed products made from 100 percent copper - creating new opportunities in extremely demanding markets.
Back in 2013, Protiq began using an innovative copper/zinc alloy in additive manufacturing. Now the German company has taken it a step further and is printing in 100 percent pure copper. Something that takes additive manufacturing to a whole new level, creating opportunities to print efficient inductors and heat exchangers.
- We always try to meet the needs of the market and live by the motto 'When it can't be done, do it. If you don't do it, it doesn't exist". Being able to print in copper opens up completely new applications and markets for additive manufacturing," says Stefan de Groot, Technical Manager and Project Manager for Additive Manufacturing at Protiq.
Why is 3D printing in copper so unique? Well, until now it has only been possible to use alloys with a low copper content in additive manufacturing. Something that has been somewhat problematic. Pure copper has a much higher conductivity - both electrically and thermally - than alloys that have traditionally been used in additive processes.
In short, a lower copper content means lower conductivity - which in turn limits the range of applications.
- Our innovation means that additive manufacturing can now very well meet the demands of customers in electronics, machine tools, automotive and electromagnetic induction," says Stefan de Groot.
The ability to use other materials than merely polymers, vastly increases the potential for additive manufacturing. As well as copper/zinc alloy and pure copper, Protiq can also 3D print with Zamak 5, a zinc-based alloy standard material for casting zinc in large quantities.
- Protiq is the first supplier in the world to have developed a process for additive manufacturing of Zamak 5. 3D printing with Zamak 5 reduces the usual long production times and high costs associated with zinc casting. This means that prototypes and small production runs can be produced at comparably low prices," says Stefan de Groot.
The innovative copper designs from Protiq – along with some 60 other innovations - can be seen at Subcontractor InnoDex during Elmia Subcontractor, 9-12 November. And don't miss Stefan de Groot speaking under the title "Zamak, Brass, Copper - High Tech Metals for industrial 3D printing" in this year's Elmia Subcontractor digital programme.
Subcontractor InnoDex is the arena for all product developers, engineers and designers in the industry - an extraordinary arena of knowledge and inspiration, with exhibitions and presentations of new materials, innovative technologies and creative processes.
Several products, 3D-printed from exciting materials, with new applications will be on display at Subcontractor InnoDex, including magnets for electric motors, loudspeakers from Node-Audio and 3D-printed batteries. Among many others.