Low-Cost, Energy-Efficient Production of Copper Parts

At Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, mechanical engineer Christopher Williams heads the effort to further advance 3D printing with copper, a widely used conductor in electronics. Williams is using a process called binder jetting in which an inkjet printer selectively jets glue into a bed of copper powder, layer-by-layer. The printed copper product is then taken to a furnace to fuse the particles together. He is addressing a major challenge in the 3-D copper printing process, which is to eliminate the porosity that develops in the part during the process. These microscopic pockets of air weaken the finished product. Williams's goal is to create an additive manufacturing process for copper that would be practical for widespread use.