Electroforming and Applied Electroforming
No tooling fees - Rapid prototyping - Mass Production
no stress.no burrs. no problem
Is Electroforming a possible solution for you? Let's take look.
If you think electroforming may be a solution for you, we recommend you contact an engineer for an expert evaluation.
Electroforming is a specialized additive manufacturing process that provides extreme control of feature size and accuracy to sub micron levels. With the ability to produce feature sizes down to (1) micron with crisp, clean, burr free edges, this specialized process can bring your imagination to life. As an additive process, people most closely relate it to 3D printing. Electroforming is a cost effective process scalable from prototype all the way to mass production. Electroforming is capable of producing complex, multi-layered, high precision, stress free micro parts.
Figure 1. Image captured with electron microscope at 1000X magnification of metal mesh (screen) produced with electroforming. Even at this microscopic size we can notice that the holes are not a random form as is the case with woven screen material. These holes are made square. Not only are the holes square, we also rounded corners. The uniformity and symmetry at 1000x magnification is stunning. In fact, the hole size and pattern can be held to tolerances of half a micron, or .000019" of an inch.
What is Electroforming?
This image in Figure 1 is an example of a metal mesh produced using electroforming.
The image was captured with an electron microscope at 1000X magnification. You will notice the apertures (holes) are a distinct shape, and are not some random form as is the case with woven screen material. These apertures were made square. Additionally, the corners have an exact size radius, which was designed specific for a customer application to prevent particulate clogging. As you can see, the uniformity and symmetry at 1000x magnification is stunning. In fact, the hole size and pattern can be held to tolerances of .5um (half a micron), or .000019" of an inch.
Electroforming - An Additive Manufacturing Process
Electroforming is an additive manufacturing process used to produce thin metal parts that require a high level of detail, or accuracy, or both. The Electroforming process is an additive process in the sense that we are building up parts at the molecular level, one ion at a time. The advantage being that we can produce incredibly small metal features; down to .00004”, while maintaining tolerances to a fraction of that size. With Electroforming the facilitation of rapid product development is possible in part because there are no significant tooling requirements. If you were to compare a process such as metal stamping, you will find that the metal stamping process requires complex tooling, which can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars, and take months to produce, the advantage of Electroforming is clear. Rather than this substantial investment of time and capital, Electroforming parts can go from digital file to material mass production in a matter of days. Amazing!
Electroforming opens the door to technological advancement in a vast array of industries and applications on a regular basis. The ability to produce stress and burr-free precision metal parts with micron scale accuracy can benefit many applications that have yet to discover this wonderful additive technology.
The process of Electroforming could be compared to the electroplating process. It is similar in that the feed material utilizes electrolysis and metal is built up through electrodeposition onto a conductive substrate at a molecular level. A fundamental difference between the two is that electroplating deposits feed material onto existing parts, and the deposition of feed material in electroforming is in fact creating the parts. This is a simplified illustration of Electroforming but is helpful in visualizing non the less.
A variety of materials can be utilized (nickel, nickel alloy, copper, gold, silver, platinum, palladium, rhodium, engineered plastics) which are deposited onto a conductive, patterned surface. With Electroforming, the pattern on the surface is created by masking certain areas and exposing the areas where the deposition is to take place. Once masking is complete, the substrate is submerged into an electrolytic bath with an anode and cathode. DC current is applied to the bath causing the ions of the deposition material to be deposited onto the unexposed area of our masked mandrel. Once the desired thickness is reached the buildup process is complete and the electroformed portion is removed from the substrate.
For more information or to see if Electroforming is an option for your application, please contact us @ firstname.lastname@example.org