3D printing a metallic coating of antimicrobial copper to fight the spread of COVID-19

Join us online for a live demo of the 3D coating process in action

What is ACTIVAT3D copper?

ACTIVAT3D copper is antimicrobial copper that can be rapidly deployed using SPEE3D technology. 

New algorithms allow SPEE3D printers to coat existing metal parts with copper. This is more efficient than printing solid copper parts from scratch.

Australian NATA accredited clinical trial specialty laboratory, 360Biolabs, tested the effect of ACTIVAT3D copper on live SARS-CoV-2 in their Physical Containment 3 (PC3) laboratory. The results showed that 96% of the virus is killed in two hours and 99.2% of the virus killed in 5 hours, while stainless steel showed no reduction in the same time frame. Stainless steel is currently the material typically used in hygiene environments.


How copper 'contact kills'

While the exact mechanism by which copper kills bacteria is still being studied, the laboratory data is compelling - on copper surfaces, bacteria and viruses die.

    1. When a microbe lands on a copper surface, the copper releases ions, which are electrically charged particles.
    2. Copper ions react with moisture and oxygen to produce reactive oxygen.
    3. Copper ions and reactive oxygen rupture the outer membranes and destroy the whole cell, including the DNA or RNA inside.

Because their DNA and RNA are destroyed, it also means a bacteria or virus can’t mutate and become resistant to the copper, or pass on genes (like for antibiotic resistance) to other microbes.

How it can be used

ACTIVAT3D copper can be used to coat surfaces that are commonly touched such as door handles, push plates and railings. It can also be used to print solid copper parts the fastest way possible.

The use of copper antimicrobial surfaces can have a positive impact in hospitals and several other areas. In the current COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals, aged care facilities, airports, public transport, essential workplaces and prisons are the priority.


Image source:

Why 3D print copper?

While copper is very common in electrical applications, it’s not widely available in construction applications such as door fixtures. Copper parts are difficult to produce using traditional methods and thus 3D printing may be the only tool available to rapidly deploy copper. Unfortunately, other copper 3D printing methods such as Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) are slow and expensive. SPEE3D technology makes it fast and affordable.

Case studies

The SPEE3D team developed a process to coat a stainless-steel door touch plate and other handles in just 5 minutes.

The digital print files were then sent to participating partners around the globe, allowing the simultaneous installation of newly-coated parts. In a matter of days, copper fixtures were installed in buildings at Charles Darwin University (CDU) in Darwin, Swinburne University in Melbourne, the University of Delaware in the USA.

Charles Darwin University, Australia

Charles Darwin University (CDU) partnered with SPEE3D to form the Advanced Manufacturing Alliance. Through collaboration, the Alliance aims to engage with industry partners, trades and academics to develop real-world applications, create industry procedures and standards and drive material development.

CDU Director of Research and Innovation Dr Steve Rogers said the results were promising and he was excited that this innovative technology could help reduce the survival of the virus on high traffic surfaces. “Using the LightSPEE3D 3D printer on our campus the SPEE3D team have been able to trial this innovative engineering solution,” Dr Rogers said. “Working with our facilities staff they installed the first door plate on one of our building in late March. The results suggest that it is very possible to copper coat further items using the LightSPEE3D machine to help reduce the survival of the virus on surfaces.”

ACTIVAT3D Copper Installed at Charles Darwin University

ACTIVAT3D copper push plate at Swinburne University

ACTIVAT3D Copper Installed at Swinburne University, Melbourne

Swinburne University, Australia

“Swinburne University of Technology in Partnership with SPEE3D quickly responded to the current situation and manufactured ACTIVAT3D copper push plates in a short timeframe. Using LightSPEE3D printer in our Factory of the Future we have successfully coated a number of existing stainless steel plates and confirmed the speed and ease of this coating process. Further, trial installations have clearly demonstrated the simplicity and practicality of replacing conventional stainless steel with the new ACTIVAT3D plates.” - Assoc. Prof. Suresh Palanisamy


The University of Delaware, USA

Assistant Director of Digital Design and Additive Manufacturing at the University of Delaware, Larry (LJ) Holmes, said

“Scientists and engineers at the University of Delaware were honoured to be part of this global research collaboration. We recognized the importance of developing simple, yet highly impactful, solutions that have been proven effective on COVID-19. Recognizing supply chain shortfalls over the last couple of months, it was clear to this team that fabrication speed was a priority. Using this technology, we are able to rapidly transition safe options for high-touch surfaces.”

Screen Shot 2020-04-14 at 3.16.13 pm

Expressions of Interest

SPEE3D are currently looking for expressions of interest in ACTIVAT3D copper products, this enables us to work with partners to rapidly deploy products where they are needed.

Freqently Asked Questions