Researchers at Uppsala University, in collaboration with Swedish graphene materials company Graphmatech, have reported a potential breakthrough in the printability of copper for laser additive manufacturing (AM), significantly lowering the reflectivity of copper powder to achieve more dense printed parts.
Additive manufacturing of metals can help produce customized and complex designs on demand and offer more sustainable manufacturing with reduced waste and lower material requirements. However, some metals, including pure copper, have proven a challenge due to their high reflectivity. At the wavelengths commonly used in laser powder bed fusion (the dominant technology in metal AM), only a small part of the energy is absorbed by the material, resulting in low density printed parts. This is what the team set out to address.
“By modifying the surface of the copper powder using Graphmatech’s patented graphene technology, we successfully reduced the reflectance by up to 67%”, explains Graphmatech CEO Dr. Mamoun Taher. The graphene incorporated also survived the printing process to positively impact the density of the printed copper-graphene parts, significantly reducing their porosity.
“The new process developed to coat metal powder with graphene opens up very interesting perspectives for the design of new materials in various applications”, states Professor Ulf Jansson from Uppsala University.
“This 3D printable hybrid material has the potential to add value in a range of sectors such as e-mobility, electronics and defense,” adds Dr. Taher.
Graphmatech is now actively working to scale up this technology.