3D Printing Copper

People really want to 3D print metal, but while true metal printers exist, they still are expensive and out of reach of most hackers. However, even if you can afford an exotic printer or use metal-impregnated polymer, you don’t often see copper as a print material. Copper has high electrical and thermal conductivity which makes it very useful. But that thermal conductivity also makes it very difficult to print using any process that involves heating up the material and copper reflects common lasers used in the 3D printing process. However, a German company, Infinite Flex, is claiming a breakthrough that will allow printers that use a standard IR laser to produce copper parts. The material, Infinite Powder CU 01 is suitable for selective laser sintering and several other laser-based techniques.

The powder has 99.5% copper and particle sizes of between 10 and 45 microns. There are some copper alloys that reduce thermal conductivity to allow printing, but often the reason you want a copper part is for its thermal properties. A kilogram of the powder will set you back nearly $100, so it isn’t dirt cheap, but it isn’t astronomical, either.

You can add copper wire to a print, of course, but that’s not the same thing. There are also methods that work like electroplating, but they are usually quite slow.

Of course, to make the powder work you will need a metal 3D printer. We do know there are many ways to print copper.

28 thoughts on “3D Printing Copper

  1. Och i need a eficient radiator to my raspberry pi or …. x86
    in my opinion good radiator can make a silent pc with linux
    disc, cpu, memory , gpu etc. one cimney of air or water….

    1. I don’t know about x86, but I have a pi case that might as well be a block of aluminum that has bit of an extension (might as well be the casting’s own sprue cut to length) that reaches out and onto the chip. It has a fan too, but I have never seen it spin as the brick of aluminum does an excellent job at sucking all the heat out of that chip.

    1. I don’t know about Euros, but in Britain modern coins are made of steel and just plated with copper alloys, because the copper has become worth more than the face value of hte coin. So you could have hit on a counterfeiting strategy where the counterfeit coins cost – and are worth – more than the real ones :-)

  2. Can metal 3D printing start with the same metal as the base to build on? I’m wondering if this would be a way of repairing damaged or eroded part surfaces. Instead of printing the whole part, you just print the bits that aren’t there anymore.

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