Described as the preferred copper alloy used by NASA and private space flight companies for rocket thrust chamber assemblies, GRCop-42 is a copper-chromium-niobium alloy that 3D printer manufacturers must absolutely qualify to advance space applications on their industrial 3D printers.
What makes the material developed by NASA outstanding is its ability to meet the requirements of parts that need high-strength and high-conductivity, such as rocket engine combustion chambers with regenerative cooling.
The story goes that NASA developed GRCop-42 in 1987 for use in harsh environments. The alloy was created after research teams identified ways to make improvements to previously-developed copper alloys. GRCop-42 stood out due to its ability to achieve higher thermal conductivity compared to its predecessor while achieving similar strength properties. In 2017, NASA developed parameters for GRCop-42’s use in additive manufacturing at its Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama and Glenn Research Center in Ohio.
So far, contract manufacturer Sintavia was one of the first to develop a proprietary printing technology for this material. Metal 3D printing company Velo3D follows the move by qualifying this alloy for its Sapphire family of 3D printers. This means that the newly-developed material parameters can enable the fabrication of mission-critical parts with oxidation resistance and high creep strength at temperatures as high as 1400 degrees Fahrenheit (760°C).
“Our end-to-end solutions have seen extensive adoption in aerospace because of their ability to deliver part consolidation, lighter-weight systems, and unique geometries, and adding GRCop-42 to our growing list of available materials enables us to support more use cases across the aerospace industry,” said Benny Buller, Velo3D CEO and Founder. “We’ve had extensive demand for Sapphires and Sapphire XCs that can print GRCop-42 and we’ve tested it to ensure it can achieve the same high-quality builds as our other offered materials. I’m looking forward to seeing how customers unlock new use-cases for additive manufacturing with this amazing alloy.”
We can’t wait to see the feedback of contract manufacturers after using this newly qualified alloy. One of the first ones that will use the material is Knust Godwin. The Texas-based company has three systems currently in place including other alloys, such as Inconel.
“Our team is always looking for new ways to differentiate our business and because of that we were an early adopter of additive manufacturing technology, which has helped us grow our business and better serve our customers,” said Mike Corliss, Knust Godwin VP of Technology. “Additive manufacturing allows us to build parts for our customers that could not otherwise be manufactured using conventional, subtractive manufacturing. These new, powerful alloys, like GRCop-42—that provide added capabilities and benefits for our customers—allow us to expand our addressable use-cases.”
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