New 3D printable hybrid material lowers the reflectivity of copper powder and enables more dense printed parts

The graphene coating significantly lowered the reflectivity of the copper powder.

Despite the numerous advantages of copper, one of the main constraints for operators who process this material is its high laser reflectance rate which makes it difficult for the laser to continuously and regularly melt pure copper powder, resulting this way in issues such as interface failure and internal holes.

As we saw in a recent dossier of 3D ADEPT Mag, to address this issue, some metal 3D printer manufacturers have integrated into their platforms build parameters, scanning and processing parameters that can reduce this reflectivity issue. Another solution might be to leverage a dedicated 3D printable material.

The solution has been explored by researchers at Uppsala University, in collaboration with Swedish graphene materials company Graphmatech. To demonstrate the printability of copper for laser additive manufacturing, the team of scientists used Graphmatech’s patented graphene technology to coat copper powder, the ultimate goal being to reduce the material’s reflectivity and achieve more dense printed parts.

“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.

According to Taher, the graphene incorporated also survived the printing process to positively impact the density of the printed copper-graphene parts, significantly reducing their porosity.

Copper powder was coated using Graphmatech’s patented graphene technology. Credit: Simon Tidén / Uppsala University

“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 Jansson from the research group at Ångström Laboratory, Uppsala University.

The Swiss company has already made significant areas for improvement in other graphene-metal composites and coated powders for additive manufacturing. Due to the potential for graphene in enhancing the processability of powders and the properties of printed parts, the main sectors that would benefit from this solution are the e-mobility, electronics and defence industries.

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