A pure copper fin feature added to a copper tube using the new process.
A pure copper fin feature added to a copper tube using the new process.

Optomec has developed a pure copper additive manufacturing (AM) process using the company’s LENS directed energy deposition (DED) systems.

‘Pure copper is a big challenge for DED systems because of its high reflectance.’ said Tom Cobbs, product manager for Optomec LENS systems. ‘The infrared wavelengths on most standard, laser-based AM systems are not readily absorbed by copper, making it difficult to establish a melt pool as the laser energy is reflected back into the source, causing all kinds of havoc.’

According to Cobbs, the new process is virtually immune to any back reflection, so the laser can operate at full power on reflective surfaces and includes process parameters to account for thermal conductivity differences and large changes in absorption.

Optomec says that pure copper 3D printed parts are suitable for heat exchangers in a variety of industrial applications in industries such as aerospace and chemical processing. The new copper process can also be used with alloys of copper such as bronze, brass and cupronickel.

‘Copper is so critical because it enables the addition of high thermally-conductive features like cooling fins, the addition of soft metal sealing surfaces and high electrically-conductive surfaces for power transmission,’ added Cobbs.

This story uses material from Optomec, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.