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Green Laser Advances Pure Copper Additive Manufacturing Process

Sep 10, 2020

The use of 3D printers to make complex-shaped plastic parts has gradually become a daily technology and is no longer challenging. But when the material becomes copper, the situation is different. So far, it has not been possible to completely melt this low melting point metal and use infrared lasers to make complex components layer by layer.

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But now, the Fraunhofer Institute for Materials and Beam Technology (IWS) in Dresden, Germany is using a new type of additive manufacturing system that uses a short-wave green laser to perform almost defect-free metal Processing. IWS said the system is expected to give birth to new manufacturing methods that were previously impossible with pure copper. Complex parts made of pure copper and copper alloys can be used in the aerospace and automotive industries to improve the efficiency of motors and heat exchangers.

This new laser beam melting system uses a high-energy green disc laser with a wavelength of 515 nm instead of infrared light with a wavelength of 1064 nm. Previous experiments have repeatedly shown that the efficiency of a 500-watt infrared laser beam source is not enough to completely melt copper. Only 30% of the energy can reach the copper material, and the rest is reflected by the metal. The new green laser with a maximum power of 500 watts offers a different solution: here, the copper powder absorbs more than 70% of the energy used and melts completely.

Since copper has very good thermal and electrical conductivity, if copper can also be processed in additive manufacturing, that would be a major improvement. Elena Lopez said: "Parts made of pure copper and copper alloys play an important role in the aerospace, electronics and automotive industries, for example, electric drives or heat exchangers."

Today, many copper parts can be machined, forged or cast. However, the realization of additive manufacturing technology provides new options for the production of highly complex geometric figures, which is impossible in traditional manufacturing.