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Optomec Develops a Pure Copper Additive Manufacturing Process

The process could benefit designers of heat exchangers and other components with thermally-conductive features.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M–Optomec has developed a pure copper additive manufacturing process using its LENS directed energy deposition (DED) systems. The company said in a press release that the establishment of a directed energy deposition (DED) process for pure copper is particularly important to designers of heat exchangers for industrial applications in the aerospace and chemical processing industries. Optomec ( is a privately-held global supplier of production-grade additive manufacturing equipment and software.

“Pure copper is a big challenge for DED systems because of its high reflectance,” said Tom Cobbs, product manager for Optomec LENS systems, in a prepared statement. “The infrared wavelengths on most standard, laser-based AM systems are not readily absorbed by copper, making it difficult to establish a melt pool as the laser energy is reflected back into the source, causing all kinds of havoc.

“Our laser-based solution is virtually immune to any back reflection, so the laser can operate at full power on reflective surfaces without any difficulty. Optomec engineers have developed process parameters to account for thermal conductivity differences, as well as big changes in absorption, and have demonstrated efficient DED builds with pure copper.“

The Optomec copper process is also applicable to alloys of copper, such as bronze, brass, and cupronickel.

“We see this as a major milestone for LENS and DED additive manufacturing because working with copper is essential for many of our customers,” Cobbs added. “Copper is so critical because it enables the addition of high thermally-conductive features like cooling fins, the addition of soft metal sealing surfaces, and high electrically-conductive surfaces for power transmission.”

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