We are frequently asked how parts can made even stiffer or stronger. At Graphite, we can use a variety of techniques to give the desired outcome, but the one we will focus on here is metal plating. After the part has been sanded and prepared for the process, a thin layer of copper and then nickel can be applied to the component. It is recommended that the part is fully encapsulated, rather than selectively plated.
Total thickness of the metal is only 0.1mm, but the effect on the part can be significant. We took our standard flexural and tensile test parts, made with our Ceramic-SLA (Bluestone) material. Section was 4mm x 10mm. The plated parts gave an impressive result of 20,800 mpa in flexural stiffness (over 2x improvement) and 40% improvement in strength. Elongation at break was reduced from 1.8 to 0.7%.
Results will vary greatly depending on the geometry of the part it is being applied to. Thinner and more delicate components will see even greater benefits while very thick parts will only have marginal gains.
Many different 3D Printed materials can be plated, but we have found the best results are from any of the Ceramic filled SLA materials in the market. This is due to the fact that these materials resist distortion during the plating process and their inherent stiffness compliments the metal coating. They are also relatively easy to sand smooth before plating, which gives really good appearance afterwards.
If you are interested in improving the cosmetic appearance, mechanical properties or long term life of your parts, please contact us to discuss your application.