Holo Added “Pure” Copper to Its Additive Manufacturing PortfolioApril 28, 2021 by Seth Price
Holo announced that they can produce 99.99% pure copper parts via 3D printing.
Holo’s patented PureForm process has high resolution and lower cost compared to other additive manufacturing techniques. Hal Zarem, CEO of Holo, stated in a press release, “most companies developing additive technology are focused on selling their printers. We are lowering the barriers to adoption by offering additive manufactured parts to our customers.”
A Holo furnace full of 3D-printed copper parts. Image used courtesy of Holo
Holo is a spinout from Autodesk, the creators of AutoCAD software. AutoCAD is widely used for mechanical drawing, design, and prototyping. AutoCAD models can be used by automated machine tools, such as 3D printers and CNC machines, to generate parts. In 2017, Holo was formed because of the close relationship between AutoCAD models and 3D printing. Holo specializes in additive manufacturing technology and the materials science research required to make them competitive.
Previous Copper in Additive Manufacturing
Copper is one of the largest materials markets in the world. It has been used in weapons, jewelry, and tools for ages (literally since the “bronze age”), primarily as castings. In modern times, copper is used in the electronics and plumbing industries. Manufacturing methods have expanded to include stamping, drawing, plating, extruding, rolling, and others.
The high electrical and thermal conductivity of copper makes it desirable in the electronics industry. The high electrical conductivity makes copper suitable for low-loss wires and connectors. Copper’s high thermal conductivity helps keep sensitive semiconductor chips cool by conducting heat away from them.
Holo boasts their PureForm copper is 99.99% pure. Image used courtesy of Holo
Traditional copper manufacturing methods yield quasi-isotropic materials, meaning they roughly conduct heat and electricity nearly equally in all directions. However, there are limited geometries possible through these manufacturing methods.
Additive manufacturing can yield many new geometries, but there is some variation in materials properties between layers. While a single layer may have high electrical and thermal properties throughout, stacked layers (found in additive manufacturing) often have much lower electrical and thermal conductivity between layers. The material is non-isotropic.
The proprietary PureForm process has nearly-isotropic materials properties. This means a part produced by Holo using this process will have physical, electrical, and thermal properties matching bulk copper. By doing so, new connectors, antennas, conductors, and interconnects can be designed—some of which would be impossible to manufacture with traditional techniques—with little loss in performance.
Thin copper part produced using the PureForm platform. Image used courtesy of Holo
The high thermal conductivity can be used for cooling electronics and other substances. Thin copper grids and fins can conduct heat away from a hot surface. Thin copper tubes can be used as small heat exchangers, where a fluid is pumped or blown through the tubes to transfer waste heat away from sensitive parts. The additive manufacturing process means new heat sinks and heat exchanger designs are possible at a lower cost than bending and soldering copper sheets from past designs.
Now that Holo has perfected this process with copper, their next challenge will be to work with stainless steel alloys. They are currently developing a similar process for stainless steel, which may be suitable for customized medical implants.