3D Printed Copper CuNi2SiCr
3D printed copper parts open up a huge number of opportunities for design engineers. Until now if you wanted to prototype or produce a copper part then your most likely option was CNC machining.
We use a low alloyed copper material CUNi2SiCR, which has the following properties:
- High thermal conductivity
- High electrical conductivity
- Good mechanical properties
- Good corrosion resistance
It means that you can prototype or produce copper parts for harsh environments where you would not normally use this pure copper.
Designing the impossible
The biggest advantage of 3D printing for copper is that you can now develop geometries that cannot be achieved using CNC machining, such as honeycomb structures to save weight and other precise internal features such as channels.
From an environmental perspective it also produces less waste as material is added during production rather than removed.
- 1 to 50+ parts
- Shipped in 1 to 7 working days
Direct Metal Laser Sintering
Protolabs is one of the first European digital manufacturing companies to invest in copper 3D printing. Using a technology called direct metal laser sintering it can take us as little as two days to build fully functional metal prototypes. Using this technology, the final part is generally accepted to be as good as wrought alternatives as the material is more than 99% dense.
The process begins by sintering each layer with a laser aimed onto a bed of the metallic powder. After a cross section layer of powder is micro-welded the build platform shifts down and a recoater blade moves across across it to deposit the next layer of powder to gradually build the part.
The thickness of each layer is 20 microns (µm), which is thinner than other suppliers produce. It means that you get a smoother surface for your copper parts from us than from other 3D printers.
Copper parts – 3D printing or CNC machining?
While it is now possible to design parts that were previously unthought of, there are some applications that are still better suited to CNC machining rather than 3D printing. There is no one rule when it comes to selecting the best technology for you, it depends on the project and the application.
If your demand for parts is likely to be in the high hundreds or more, then CNC machining may be your better option. Also, while you can design more geometries using 3D printing opening up new possibilities, the tolerances are finer when you use CNC machining.
We are fortunate at Protolabs in that we offer the best of both technologies for prototyping or producing parts from copper, so our application engineers can give you unbiased advice on the best approach for your next project.