Comparative analysis of binder systems in copper feedstocks for metal extrusion additive manufacturing and metal injection moulding

Mahrukh Sadaf, Santiago Cano Cano, Mario Bragaglia, Stephan Schuschnigg, Christian Kukla, Clemens Holzer, Lilla Vály, Christian Kukla, Michael Kitzmantel, Francesca Nanni, Joamin Gonzalez-Gutierrez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


In the realm of material innovation, the remarkable versatility of thermoplastic-based highly filled composites emerges as a pivotal advantage for fabricating metal parts, seamlessly integrating design flexibility. This study delves into the fusion of design and manufacturing, spotlighting the convergence of material extrusion additive manufacturing (MEX) and metal injection moulding (MIM) processes through the adept utilization of three distinct in-house developed copper-feedstocks. Each feedstock had a different composition that influenced their processability; two feedstocks were for solvent and thermal debinding, and one was only for thermal debinding. The sintering was carried out under the same conditions for all produced specimens to assess the effect of binder composition on the properties of the sintered components. Structural integrity evaluations of sintered specimens encompassed 3-point bending, hardness tests, and metallography. It was possible to perform MEX with all produced filaments and MIM with the pellets of the same feedstocks and to obtain acceptable-quality specimens. Regardless of the shaping method, specimens shaped with binders containing a soluble binder survived the thermal and sintering steps. The specimens produced from the feedstock intended solely for thermal debinding experienced a nearly complete loss of shape during the debinding process. For the specimens that could be debound and sintered without defects, a relative density between ∼88 and 94 % was measured for MEX components and ∼93 and 95 % for MIM components after sintering. All sintered components showed the same diffraction peaks as pure copper powder, confirming that the reductive hydrogen atmosphere provided protection from contamination and reduced the oxides that could have appeared during thermal debinding in air. Moreover, adequate shrinkage of ∼10–18 % was observed in the sintered specimens. Vickers microhardness of the MEX and MIM sintered components were ∼32 HV and ∼36 HV, respectively. Compared to MEX, MIM-produced sintered components showed a higher maximum stress (i.e., σmax = 79 ± 3.2 MPa). These results demonstrate that the binder composition plays a crucial role in determining the success of metal MEX and MIM processes. Having the possibility to choose between MEX and MIM allows for greater design flexibility for copper parts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4433-4444
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Materials Research and Technology
Issue numberMarch-April
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright: © 2024 The Authors


  • Additive manufacturing
  • Copper
  • Debinding
  • Material extrusion (MEX)
  • Metal injection moulding (MIM)
  • Sintering

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