A few weeks ago, we added a brand new material to our material portfolio: Copper. This was an exciting new addition for us, adding more depth to our line-up of metals. We’ve seen a lot of positive feedback from our community, as well as a lot of questions. So, here’s a quick FAQ that covers all the basics you need to know about Copper!
How big an object can I order in Copper?
The maximum bounding box is 89 x 89 x 100 mm
How accurate will the physical object be to my 3D model?
Geometry may vary between 3D models and printed parts by ±0.125mm in any dimension
How do you 3D print copper?
3D models are transformed into copper objects through lost wax casting. First, the 3D model is printed in a high resolution wax material. Plaster is poured over the 3D printed wax which creates a mold when the wax melts out of the plaster. The mold is then filled with molten copper and left to cool and solidify. Breaking the plaster mold reveals a solid copper part which is cleaned and polished to remove any sharp scraps leaving a natural buffed shiny finish. Additional hand polishing is also available to give parts a mirror like shine.
What properties make copper unique?
Copper has good thermal and electrical conductivity. It heats quickly and evenly, making it good for applications in heat exchangers and it’s one of the most efficient metals in conducting electricity. The surface of any copper object will begin to oxidize once it comes in contact with air or other chemicals. This oxidation will alter the surface appearance as a brown, green, and/or blue patina develops on the surface of the part. However, this oxidation will stop at the surface, creating a boundary layer which prevents corrosion from penetrating the surface of the part. The oxidation process cannot be prevented but it can be accelerated by exposing the part to various chemicals depending on the desired patina color. Some people may not want to decorative items to oxidize, while others prefer the look of the patina.
Is this material infused with other metals?
No, this material is 100% copper.
Will a design that’s printable in copper, be printable in other Shapeways cast metals?
Yes, Gold, Silver, Brass, Bronze, Platinum, Gold Plated Brass, and Rhodium Plated Brass all have the same design guidelines. Interlocking parts are the only exception which are currently only printable in Silver, Brass, and Bronze.
What finishes are available?
Copper is available in a Natural finish, as well as a Polished finish if you’re looking for a smoother, shinier surface.