3D Systems announces copper-nickel alloy for PBF-LB

September 6, 2022

3D Systems intends to add CuNi30 to its general portfolio in Q4 2022 (Courtesy 3D Systems)
3D Systems intends to add CuNi30 to its general portfolio in Q4 2022 (Courtesy 3D Systems)

3D Systems, Rock Hill, South Carolina, USA, has announced CuNi30 – a corrosion-resistant, copper-nickel alloy for use with its DMP Flex 350 metal Additive Manufacturing machine. This material resulted from the company’s collaboration with HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding division to develop materials and process parameters for the Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB) process.

“We’re excited to announce the completion of a significant milestone in the development of a CuNi alloy with 3D Systems,” stated Dave Bolcar, VP of engineering and design for Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of HII. “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. We’re looking forward to continuing to expand our parameter development efforts with 3D Systems into other alloys of interest to our industry. These developments allow us to further expand the use of Additive Manufacturing into our platforms in ways that provide positive quality, schedule, and performance benefits to the customer.”

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

3D Systems explains that copper-nickel alloys are historically difficult to cast and this can often add costly cycles of rework and reinspection to meet quality standards, resulting in very long lead times and a limited number of capable and willing suppliers who can support the production of quality hardware. HII recognised the potential to realise significant benefits if the DMP hardware, material, and process could be qualified for their production components, and partnered with 3D Systems to make this a reality.

The development of CuNi30 has allowed Newport News Shipbuilding to use Additive Manufacturing in place of traditional casting technologies. Parts additively manufactured from CuNi30 to meet Newport News Shipbuilding’s low-volume, high-mix hardware needs are anticipated to improve its supply chain efficiency, with an anticipated 75% reduction in lead times as well as lowered inventory costs.

“3D Systems has earned a reputation as a trusted partner for advanced R&D and commercialisation of novel Additive Manufacturing materials and applications,” added Dr Michael Shepard, vice president, aerospace & defence segment, 3D Systems. “We’ve had a decades-long relationship with the US Navy which has helped drive innovation for a variety of applications including aircraft parts and submersible components. 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. 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.”

3D Systems intends to add CuNi30 to its industry-leading materials portfolio to enable the direct metal Additive Manufacturing of corrosion-resistant parts for additional industries. The material is anticipated for general availability in the fourth quarter of 2022.


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