i. materialise is a Belgian company that pioneers in 3D Printing services, what sets them apart from other service providers is the variety of raw materials they can print with. Currently company can print using 19 different materials which includes the recently announced: Copper.
Anyone who wants to make 3D printed Copper products need to design their models with Minimum wall thickness (0.5 mm), minimum details (0.3 mm), and maximum printing size (88 x 63 x 125 mm). The dimensions and specifications remain the same as 3D printed silver, gold and other materials available on i.materialise website. The company has made a Design Guide to assist people with design techniques to get optimal finish and quality of the prints. The Design guide can be found here.
The 3D Printed Copper parts that i.materialise makes come in their natural reddish color and the company claims to post process these parts with polishing them magnetically and with hand. They also provide options to their customers to PU coat their parts with clear material which makes it scratch resistant. Visually these coated parts look exactly as the non-coated parts, but the coated parts will be slow to corrode but it won’t prevent oxidation in the long run as the material is very sensitive. We uploaded a model on their website and we did not see any difference in the cost of coated part and the Natural non-coated parts.
Justifying the addition of Cooper as a printing material the i.materialiseblog said “Copper is used a variety of objects: typically, wires, cables, and parts of electronic items are made of copper since this material is such a great conductor. It is also often used for tubes, door knobs, handles, and coins since it does not attract bacteria. Besides, copper is known to be found in architecture, household items, art, medals, and jewelry.”
The company also informed that these 3D Printed Copper parts would not be printed using Metal printers; they would be made using the age old lost wax techniques. In this technique a wax cast of the 3d printable model is made and covered in fine plaster. Once the plaster solidifies it is put in an oven so that the wax melts out, making a cavity inside which can be then filled with copper. Once the metal cools down and takes the shape of the wax cast it is polished and delivered to the customer.
i.materialise also has an option for customers who do not know how to made 3D Models they can connect you with a 3D Modeler. We think addition of Copper as a printing material is a great addition to the ever increasing printable material list of i.materialise. Happy 3D Printing Folks!