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  1. #1
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
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    Alchemy - electroforming on plastic, but really it's alchemy ;-)

    So I've been looking at electroplating for a while now.
    Friend of our bought a little metal bird dispatcher widget from the states.
    I made a plastic clone - it's probably strong enough, but I can break them with my fingers.

    So i had another look around and found these people: http://gaterosplating.co.uk/
    Turned out they are actually just a couple of miles from my house.
    Phoned them up, went round monday for a chat and to buy some stuff.
    One very informative chat and a few quid later I've now got a copper electroforming kit. Complete with easy to understand instructions.



    So what we've got there is a bucket 'tank'. With 4 litres of deionised water and a bunch of chemicals dissolved in it.
    The only thing that needs doing to the solution in the future is to add a few drops of a brightener solutions when the copper plating gets a little dull - got two bottles that should last for quite some time.
    If the level gets low due to evaporation I just top up with the deionised water, that and adding new copper when the original is used up is pretty much all the maintenance it requires.


    There are also two slabs of copper suspended in the solution which is the source of copper for the plating.
    My power source is an old battery charger, attached to a makeshift voltage controller.
    The copper pipe across the top is one of the things dan showed me.
    Instead of attaching the negative connector directly to the item to be plated. You attach it to the pipe. Then anything you want to plate just gets attached to some copper wire and hung of the pipe into the tank. Works a treat :-)
    The duct tape is temporary I'll be making a couple of flexismart rubber clips that will hold the pipe and attach to the edge of the bucket. that way I can just lift it off and put the bucket lid on when it's not in use.

    I also got a bottle of conductive paint. That works really well.
    I will be experimenting with homemade paint, but for the time being this stuff works great and after painting 12 items with 2 coats each, I can't actually see any noticeable drop in volume in the bottle of paint. A little goes a very long way.

    So the first finisher clones went in last night.
    Here's one next to the original plastic model.




    The difference in strength is amazing. I can't bend or get and kind of flex in the copper one, it is super strong. I haven't weighed them yet, but the copper one feels a lot more substantial. I'd say it's probably doubled in weight.
    I've also devised several better ways to plate them than my first effort.

    Took about 3 1/2 hours to get that level of coating. I upped my voltage to 0.9 once I had three on the go.

    All in all I'm a very happy aardvark indeed :-)

    Thoroughly impressed, both with the results, cost and the nice people at Gateros Plating.

    More on my alchemy adventures as I learn and work out different uses for this process.

    Next up is a small cuddling owls model, which should look amazing: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:790938

    Also trying different paint recipes.
    As far as copper wire for hanging the things goes. Got about 200m of cat 6 network cable under the bench. That breaks down into 8 strands of decent thickness copper wire. Stripped a couple metres down last night, works great. So in total I've got about 1.6 kilometres of copper wire - should last a little while :-)

    Apart from the obvious advantage of added strength, a copper plated print has several other - not immediately obvious advantages.
    Heat tolearance.
    The plastic inside the copper can still melt, but it can't go anywhere. So plated items can withstand much greater temperatures than unplated.
    Usage for food items. Copper is actually an amazing natural anti viral and antibacterial substance.
    It'll even kill mrsa and other super bugs.

    It will hold a decent edge - so expect a printed and coated knife of some kind in the future :-)

    The more I think about this, the more things I can think of to use it for :-)
    Last edited by curious aardvark; 09-21-2016 at 09:36 AM.

  2. #2
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    Congratulations on the electroforming; I'd like to see some pictures. But you don't want copper in direct contact with your food, especially acidic foods like tomatoes; it's toxic. It's not just bugs that get killed. That's why copper pots are tinned before use.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
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    Pictures in first post.

    Hit the first snag last night.

    Printed and painted a small cuddling owl. 10% infill.
    Bloody thing floats - well it would wouldn't it, it's practically hollow and totally sealed :-)

    At the moment I have no way to hold it under the surface while it's coated. Need some kind of clamp to hold the 4 ply really stiff wire I made onto the pipe.
    Can't find any of my grip clamps - always the way lol.
    Probably print a screw clamp later :-)

    ***

    Left this printing while I was out: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1673030

    Works a treat, the screw is perfectly sized. I printed a rubber end stop for better grip.


    So in the end I used an elastic band gun barrel extender:http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1673030
    Pput the wire through the end hole to hold the owls in place, and clamped it to the side of the bucket - I mean 'tank' :-) and ran a wire from there to the pipe.
    Gonna leave it for about 6 hours, till i get back from tai chi tonight.
    Assuming the pla doesn't get eaten by the acid - should work :-)
    Last edited by curious aardvark; 09-22-2016 at 10:25 AM.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
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    Quite impressed with this.
    Due to the excessive handling it got while I was trying to stop the bloody thing from bobbing to the surface, there were a few spots where the paint had flaked. But on the whole - it certainly worked :-)
    Only used one coat of the paint as well.

    I figure a coat of clear varnish after lating to seal it in and stop verdigris and you've got something very saleable.

    Todays task - try making my own cconductive paint.
    Just going to try a basic acetone and graphite mix to start with.
    If it works it has the advantage of drying a lot quicker than the paint, and being a helluva lot cheaper. Plus compared to the solvents in the conductive paint, acetone is positively good for you :-)

    Tried a couple different voltges and settled on 0.9 in the end, give a nice clean plate and at a decent speed.

    ***

    Just about to pop these in the tank for a test plating.
    made up two different paints. One, just acetone and graphaite and one with an added secret ingredient :-) that should make it stick a lot better and not flake off.
    I'm using pla as my base. So acetone based 'paints' don't naturally stick that well.

    Interesting to see if there's any difference between the two mixes :-)
    They look the same painted on.
    Last edited by curious aardvark; 09-24-2016 at 09:21 AM.

  5. #5
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
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    well it's official I am a proper alchemist :-)

    The duck dispatchers painted just with acetone and graphite, did not plate as well and the plating itself is not very strong, some areas flake off easily.
    The paint with secret ingredient - on the other hand. Performed as good as or better than the expensive paint :-)

    And i know what you're thinking: The answer is NO, it's a secret ingredient - i can't tell you - that's what secret means :-)

    I am truly an evil genius !

    graphite paints_800x600.jpg

    acetone and graphite in the middle, S.E paint left and right.

    The reason it's so much better is that it sticks to the pla much much better and the graphite itself is bound tighter together. You also need a much thinner coating than with either acetone and graphite or the commercial paint.

    The commercial stuff needs 24 hours to dry an works best with 2 coats. My stuff, 2 minutes to dry and works with 1 coat :-)

    Yeah I'm feeling smug lol

  6. #6
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    I'd think you'd need a binder in there, as well as the solvent and graphite. I'd be reluctant to use acetone on my printed objects, though - it tends to degrade most plastics.

  7. #7
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    In electronics stores you can also buy spray cans with conductive nickel coating. These are normally used to spray inside plastic enclosures to make them conductive (creating a Faraday cage) in order to minimize electromagnetic emissions. They are designed to adhere to plastics very well.

  8. #8
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by awerby View Post
    I'd think you'd need a binder in there, as well as the solvent and graphite. I'd be reluctant to use acetone on my printed objects, though - it tends to degrade most plastics.
    yeah but you would never do anything. with anything, at any point, ever. Do you by any chance work for a government health and safety department ?
    Acetone, evaporated from pla in a couple of minutes, has no effect on the print, which is going to be covered in copper anyway - so what difference would it make ?
    hell the acetone graphite paint is mostly used on abs, upon which the only effect is to stick the graphite to the abs.

  9. #9
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alibert View Post
    In electronics stores you can also buy spray cans with conductive nickel coating. These are normally used to spray inside plastic enclosures to make them conductive (creating a Faraday cage) in order to minimize electromagnetic emissions. They are designed to adhere to plastics very well.
    yep very very expensive, and think of the paint that gets wasted when you sparay paint something small.
    A small paint brush will cover any small item, quicker, cleaner and you won't miss any nooks and crannies or need a spraying box.

  10. #10
    Now you need to make a philosopher stone.
    You are the full metal alchemist.
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