Nickel plated prints


#1

I had some reasonable success experimenting with nickel plating prints today. I used an electroless nickel bath to plate my print. The part was made in White V4 on a Form 3. The electrical conductivity and surface adhesion are both pretty good. If there’s any interest, maybe I could do a writeup on the process.


#2

That would indeed be very interesting! Do you have any idea which plating thickness you achieved?


#3

I don’t have a great answer on the thickness, but I measured the sheet resistance to be roughly 35 ohms/sq. With a little mental math I’d guess the thickness is less than one micrometer thick. Additional plating could be performed with an electroplating bath.


#4

Looks awesome!

Definetly in for a step by step tutorial :wink:


#5

This is so cool! We’ve just started really investigating elecroplating here in the office as well! Here’s a half plated Dymaxian Cube :slight_smile:


#6

Very cool. Would love to see a writeup.
Also, do you think a thick enough layer could be built up to affect material strength?


#7

Omg this would bring my prints to another dimension please make tutorial or give us directions to do it ourselfs! :slight_smile:


#8

Yes, please!


#9

To build up a thick layer of metal, you’ll want to use electroplating after the electroless plating step.


#10

Here’s the recipe for those interested. It’s not exactly a full writeup as promised, but it should be enough to get you started.

Notes:

  • So far I’ve only tried this with White V4 prints that haven’t been post-cured. I don’t know how different resins or post-curing will affect the process.

  • You should should feel comfortable with best practices for wet bench chemistry (emphasis on safety) before attempting this.

  • I live in the US and was able to obtain everything from either eBay or the local hardware store. Everything was sourced from the US except for the sodium hypophosphite which came from China. I think in total I spent about $150 USD on the chemicals, mostly buying the smallest quantities I could find.

  • For an excellent video introduction to electroless plating SLA prints, see @BenKrasnow’s youtube video (copper plating) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z228xymQYho
    The process is similar, but the makeup of my solutions is different. I also separated the palladium chloride and tin chloride solutions so they have a long shelf life.

  • Used distilled or DI water for the solutions

  • I added a dash of NaOH to the plating bath to kickstart it, but that may not be necessary.

Step 1 - Clean for 5 minutes at room temperature in cleaning solution:
Sodium Carbonate (Na2CO3) 50g/L
Sodium Metasilicate (Na2SiO3) 35g/L
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (CH3(CH2)11SO4Na) 3g/L

Rinse thoroughly in distilled or DI water

Step 2 - Etch for 30 minutes at 45degC in etching solution:
Potassium hydroxide (KOH) 400g/L. <-- that is not a typo

Rinse thoroughly in distilled or DI water

Step 3 - Sensitize for 5 minutes at room temperature:
Tin Chloride (SnCl2) 20g/L
Hydrochloric Acid (HCl) 20mL/L

Rinse thoroughly in distilled or DI water

Step 4 - Activate for 5 minutes at room temperature:
Palladium Chloride (PdCl2) 0.1g/L
Hydrochloric Acid (HCl) 20mL/L

Rinse thoroughly in distilled or DI water

Step 5 - Plate at 85degC in electroless nickel bath:
Nickel Sulfate Hexahydrate (NiSO4(H2O)6) 32 g/L
Trisodium Citrate (Na3C6H5O7) 20g/L
Ammonium Chloride (NH4Cl) 25g/L
Sodium Hypophosphite (NaPO2H2) 28g/L


#11

85 C is it going to warp model ? what if you have 0.5mm parts?


#12

Great question! We’re actually in the process of starting those tests so we can have some real data for y’all on how strength and other properties change for an electroplated part.

Short answer is yes, the part absolutely gets significantly stronger.


#13

Excellent!
I wonder if black resin would be a better choice for a richer looking plating than lighter colored resins. Scale modelers seem to have more realistic results with metallic paints resembling brass, aluminum, etc over a black primer.


#14

Are any of these steps sensitive to the solutions needing to be mixed immediately before use?

I’m thinking about how this could be turned into a kit, for those not looking to source a dozen chemicals, measure and mix them. How close to five bottled, ready-to-use steps could you get?


#15

The plating solution has a relatively short shelf life. I made it about 3 days ago and it looks like it’s nearing the end of its life. The sensitizer solution seems to last maybe a month or two. The other 3 solutions have a long shelf life, I actually made them up over a year ago and they still worked fine. I stored them in pyrex media bottles.


#16

I can see how temperature may be an issue for thin parts. In my experience, thicker parts don’t tend to warp at temps above Tg if they aren’t subjected to a load. I should note that I’m definitely no expert at plating, and you might be able to get satisfactory results at lower temperatures or with a different formulation.


#17

Thank you PiGuy, for your very interesting project. I have ordered a “brush plating kit” and expect that to turn up here today. So your article was more than timely. The experiments will be with copper and nickel plating with the problem being sensitizing the materials before plating. You are far more innovative in your approach, thank you for the “heads up” start with this.