While researching copper plating graphite for a project, [Dave] stumbled upon a blog post illustrating a brilliant approach to metal plating 3D printed parts.
Our pioneers in this new technique are [Aaron], who runs a jewelry business, and [Bryan], a professor of Digital Media. By mixing graphite powder into an acetone solution, it is possible to make a kind of graphite paint that sticks extremely well to ABS plastic.
Using the graphite painted part as the cathode, and a chunk of copper as the anode, it becomes possible to electroplate the part with a variety of electro-forming solutions. In the first test (seen above), [Bryan] uses a Midas Bright Electro-forming Copper Solution (copper sulfate solution).
The electroplating process is the same as any other metal plating hack we’ve covered, but if you’re a bit rusty on your chemistry knowledge, we’ve thrown in a little easy-to-read diagram to refresh your memory.
As the current flows through the solution, dissolved metal cations form a coating on the cathode, creating a coherent plating effect — this process is called electrodeposition.
The results are quite impressive — we can see how [Aaron] makes some pretty cool jewelry combining 3D printing with this technique!
[Bryan Cera] is a Wisconsin maker who teaches digital media at the Cardinal Stritch University. His studio work focuses on the intersection of art, engineering and design.