3D printed copper alloy could replace casting for marine

3D Systems has developed a new corrosion-resistant, copper-nickel alloy suitable for laser powder bed fusion additive manufacturing (AM).

CuNi30 can be used with the company’s DMP Flex 350 metal 3D printer, it said.

This reportedly follows work with the Newport News Shipbuilding division of HII, the largest shipbuilder in the US, to find ways to replace traditional casting with AM. According to 3D Systems, metal 3D printing parts using CuNi30 could improve supply chain efficiency and reduce lead times by 75%.

Copper-nickel alloys are suitable for salt water, petroleum, and acidic environments due to the material’s corrosion resistance and anti-microbial and anti-algae properties, the company said. CuNi30 is often used to manufacture pipe fittings and valves for the marine, offshore oil and gas, and chemical and nuclear industries. These types of alloys also possess stable mechanical, physical, and thermal properties (from 400°C down to -270°C) which make them suitable for cryogenic applications.

However, CuNi alloys are historically difficult to cast, leading to long lead times, 3D Systems said.

“Our latest project with Newport News Shipbuilding yielded a copper-nickel alloy specifically designed for AM that results in better part density and mechanical properties as compared to traditional casting,” said Dr Michael Shepard, vice president, 3D Systems. “We look forward to seeing how direct metal printing and CuNi30 will be able to accelerate Newport News Shipbuilding’s production workflows and its innovation pipeline.”

“Earlier this year we completed a multi-year effort with 3D Systems related to the research and development of a corrosion performance design guide for direct metal printing of a nickel-based alloy,” said Dave Bolcar, vice president of engineering and design for Newport News Shipbuilding.  “We’re looking forward to continuing to expand our parameter development efforts with 3D Systems into other alloys of interest to our industry.

Plans are for CuNi30 to be generally availability in Q4 2022.