Electroplating in Rapid Prototyping Model Making

Electroplating in Rapid Prototyping Model Making

Electroplating is a process, according to electrolytic principle, that coats a thin layer of other metals or allows over some metal surface, which forms a thin coherent metal coating attached to the surface to prevent meal oxidation (such as corrosion), improve wear resistance, conductivity, opacity, corrosion resistance (copper sulfate, etc.) and enhance the role of aesthetics.

Electroplating in Rapid Prototyping Model Making

While we are doing the rapid prototyping, we are required to add plating effect to the prototypes. However, not all the materials can be plated. Generally, materials that can be plated are ABS, and of course, parts from vacuum casting can be plated as well. Prototype models made by SLA is not suitable for plating, even you do it, the effect is poor.

ABS pieces from CNC machining will get better results if they are electroplated.

Vacuum plating is a method of forming a metal film on the prototype surface by heating, melting, and cooling under high vacuum. TE-PVD is suitable for Al, gold and the like.

Vacuum plating parts must be pieces from overall processing. Otherwise the surface plating will be very ugly if there are bonds.

Because the plating is generally used as the surface sputtering, mainly the inner surface (anti-EMI, but also for small pieces to do the surface treatment, like some keys) relative to the water plating thick film thickness is about 0.01-0.02MM or so, vacuum sputtering of the film thickness 0.005MM.

Pretreatment of Electroplating

Pretreatment, the treatment before plating, includes the following work that needs to be well done:

1. Wash: remove the oil, fat, abrasive, and sludge on the metal surface. Spray, solvent wash, immersion washed or electrolytic wash are common ways to do so.
2. Cleaning: use cold or hot water to wash the residual detergent or dirt.
3. Acid leaching: remove rust or other oxide film. What should be paid attention to is to prevent the substrate being corrosive or produce hydrogen embrittlement. Inhibitors can be added to avoid excessive acid leaching. A full clean is required after the acid leaching.
4. Activation: promote the adhesion of the coating with a variety of acid solution to activate the metal surface.
5. Drift: immediately remove acid film and then plating


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