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US-based composite and metal 3D printer provider Markforged, has released a pure copper material option for use with the Metal X 3D printer.
By enabling copper 3D printing on the Metal X system, already compatible with a number of metal materials, Markforged aims to drive new manufacturing and supply chain efficiencies for customers. According to the company, customers now have the potential of reducing lead times and part costs, compared to traditional manufacturing processes for manufacturing parts with the commonly used metal.
“Copper powers our world. It’s everywhere. It builds our cars, enables phones, and keeps electrical equipment running,” comments Greg Mark, Markforged CEO and Founder. “Copper has traditionally been an expensive and challenging material to machine and incompatible for 3D printing in a pure form with other techniques.”
“Now, we’ve made it easier and cheaper to produce. Markforged 3D printed Copper will be a game-changer for the automotive and electronics industries, and it will open the door to innovation across many more.”
3D printing in copper
Copper as a material provides a number of benefits to manufacturers seeking to produce parts with the metal. The material is well known for its high thermal and electrical conductivity, as well as its malleability and ductility, making it suitable for a number of applications; it is used widely in circuitry, electric wiring, and architecture.
When processed with additive manufacturing, the usual benefits of the technology carry over, i.e. more geometric freedom, less wastage, lower cost for short-run parts, but processing the material has proved challenging to many metal methods. Recent developments have been made however, for example, Optomec recently updated its LENS 3D printing technology, developing process parameters for the production of pure copper parts. The Virtual Foundry also provides a copper material for FDM 3D printing technology under its flagship line of materials, called Filamet.
Copper 3D printing has also seen applications in space. Researchers from NASA have developed and 3D printed a new copper-based alloy for use in rocket propulsion components. 3D printed copper has also been used to manufacture the combustion chamber for Launcher’s E-2 rocket engine – reportedly the largest liquid rocket engine combustion chamber 3D printed in a single part.
Markforged’s customers in automotive
Automotive is one industry that will benefit from Markforged’s copper 3D printing capabilities, according to the company, as the metal is commonly used within the sector. “Every automotive factory in the world uses copper for welding,” Greg Mark added. “With our 3D printed parts, automotive manufacturers can print the parts they need on demand instead of holding significant inventory and will be able to design new kinds of welding shanks that were never before possible.”
Markforged states that its 3D printers are deployed at nine high-valued auto manufacturers around the world. Partnering with one of these customers, Markforged was able to conduct in-depth weld testing using copper, to determine the benefits of 3D printing with the metal. The results showed that copper production on the Metal X reduced the automotive client’s part lead times by 12x and part costs by 6x, while still retaining the same resistance as traditionally manufactured spot welding shanks.
“Complex production parts are required to weld tight spots of the car body. They cost thousands of dollars to make and can have months-long lead times. But Markforged is changing all of that by enabling manufacturers to produce parts in-house so they get them faster and for significantly lower costs,” concluded Greg Mark.
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