Reinforced Copper Plated Prints

So something I've been working on here and there for the past couple of months has been copper plating 3D Prints to give them functional strength.  I have a pretty legit homemade electroplating bath that I do a lot of copper plating with.  I recently copper plated the one finger knuckle that I printed for my Draken tutorial videos.  After I plated it I was very pleased to find that it was strong enough to actually do quite a bit of damage. Of course I had to make a video and share ;)

And if you want to see my copper plating bath in action watch this video: 

I'm curious to hear your guy's thoughts on this.  There was a kickstarter campaign not too long ago that was for an electroplating bath specifically for 3D Prints... Personally I think copper plating prints opens up nearly limitless possibilities both artistically and in engineering.

Check out my Youtube channel Garage Science for videos and tutorials about printing with the Draken.


  • rkundlarkundla Member, Moderator, Backers, Ultimate Backer
    What did that poor watermelon ever do to you? ;)

    That is a pretty serious plating bath @Gravelle. That took two/three days to plate to that level? Maybe something to do with the amount of available copper in that solution? I plate silver/gold/palladium/rhodium on jewelry and it doesn't take that long, but maybe it has something to do with the layer thickness and the metal on metal bond?

    That Kickstarter for the Orbit-1 was crazy. It looks really cool until I got down to the $2K price tag (early bird at that!). That is a lot of coin just to do some plating you can do with a heated mixer stand, a beaker, a DC power supply and some spare parts for maybe $500 max and a little more of your time to check on the process.
  • rkundlarkundla Member, Moderator, Backers, Ultimate Backer
    Boy, looking closer at the Kickstarter FAQ for the Orbit-1, if you don't recycle your used solution with them, they can shut down your ability to use your own equipment. That is taking nannyism to the extreme and I would never fund such blatant over reach all in the name of the 'environment'.

    To prevent the waste being disposed carelessly, we set a policy to force the users to take this issue seriously. If the user who doesn’t send the proof of recycling the waste over a period of time, the user may lose the validity of the Orbit1 account and the support from us, including the update of software and firmware. Then the machine may not be functional anymore.

    Last updated: Fri, May 22 2015 3:00 AM EST

  • GravelleGravelle Member, Backers
    edited March 2016
    Yeah the orbit is the only product I've seen that targets electroplating 3D Prints.  I was thinking they would be more successful and I was really rooting for them to make it into the big time but alas they failed.  Probably a function of their price point and like you mentioned the outrageous nannyism.  Considering you can get into copper plating with a nickel's worth of vinegar and some copper wire, a 2k plating bath is way too expensive.

    Yeah so my bath is a little over the top haha ;).  I made it like that so it would be something I could have running non stop in the corner and not have to monitor and not have some complicated apparatus to setup each time I wanted to plate.  Also being able to electroplate any object small enough to fit inside a 5 gallon bucket is a big plus!  The reason it took so long was because I was plating it at 1V which gave me just a little over 1A of plating current.  That is a fair amount of plating current for just the knuckle but considering that initially the copper wire holding everything together is going to conduct current better than the part will until the initial layer of copper is plated, then most of that 1A is going into the wire holding everything together for at least a little while.  Then probably a good 1/3 to 1/2 of the current is still going into the wire after the initial layer of copper is plated just based off of surface area.  I could have plated it much faster but as a general rule the slower you electroplate the smoother your surface finish.  

    I've plated parts at 5+ amps before without issues.  One particular quarter I plated to be about 1/4" thick and it still retained the patterns on the front and back.
    Check out my Youtube channel Garage Science for videos and tutorials about printing with the Draken.
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