At Formnext 2021, Alloyed, based in Oxford, UK, showcased an additively manufactured copper cooling plate, created in collaboration with Japanese-based JX Nippon Mining & Metals (JXNMM) who provided the copper powder for the plate.
Alloyed was formed from the merger of Betatype and Oxmet Technologies in 2019, and Michael Holmes, Alloyed’s Managing Director, remarked on the company’s achievements thus far, including the additively manufactured copper cooling plate: “Formnext 2021 was the first large-scale event that we have exhibited at since the merger of Betatype and Oxmet Technologies at the end of 2019. The merger means that Alloyed offers a unique and complementary stack of technologies for the manufacture of advanced metal components by Additive Manufacturing (AM) and traditional means.”
“The company has developed and uses a proprietary computational platform and advanced materials modelling to identify the right alloy composition for any application and process,” Holmes continued. “This, coupled with Alloyed’s Engine technology specifically for AM with the capability to deliver better functioning parts faster and more cost-effectively for a wide range of applications set Alloyed apart at Formnext. The company’s turnkey solution provides technology at every scale from alloy composition, material engineering and part design through to scale for mass production. The cooling plate is a great example of what can be done when optimised AM geometry is combined with optimised AM material properties.”
The copper cooling plate is specifically designed for use in datacentres, and as a liquid cooling system, can have a significant impact on reducing energy usage compared to conventional air cooling methods. Alloyed states that AM is the ideal technology to make cooling plates as more complex geometries can be produced less expensively and with greater functionality and performance – both in terms of heat exchanged and liquid pressure dropped. The unibody nature of the additive part results in a simpler and more efficient component that outperforms traditionally assembled cold plates. Due to reduced assembly needs, the parts are also easier to install and have lower maintenance requirements.
Copper is a difficult metal to process using Additive Manufacturing due to the high thermal conductivity of the fused part (the very reason that it is an ideal material for cooling plates) and its high natural reflectivity. This led to Alloyed partnering with JXNMM to offer a comprehensive portfolio of Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB) solutions for copper and its alloys. JXNMM has developed copper powders with improved printability, allowing the production of parts with very low porosity and electrical conductivity. This is achieved through a novel surface treatment which adds an anti-oxidation effect and prevents an increase in oxygen content. For Electron Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-EB), the surface treatment inhibits powder sintering (thus increasing design flexibility) and the surface treatment can also be used to increase absorptivity in PBF-LB AM machines. The powder can reportedly achieve relative densities of >99.95% using the PBF-EB process and 99.91% using the PBF-LB process.
Enrique Alabort, co-founder of Alloyed and Head of Alloyed Japan commented, “The success of the copper cooling plate that was on show at Formnext is due to the combined expertise of Alloyed and JXNMM. The materials developed by JX allow Alloyed to use its proprietary Engine® and Architect® software to produce the high-fidelity complex geometries and lattice structures in the cooling plate. Alloyed specialises in the production of fine-featured components and can produce thin walls down to a mean thickness of 190 microns, and its expertise in design for AM allows it to extract the most value from the design freedom enabled by the process. This expertise is vividly shown in the design and production of the copper liquid cooling plate.”