Plating on 3D printed ABS resins?
Anyone here have any experience with plating 3D printed ABS resins? We have a little Form3 downstairs we'd like to print some waveguide parts on, but we need a way to deposit a conductive seed layer prior to copper electroplating.
We tried going the conventional ABS plating route, but the process fails at the first bath (chrome sulfuric) because of significant ingress in the 3D printed part... apparently injection molding gives you a much smoother finish, so this isn't a problem.
Anyone else had this experience? Any ideas on electroless metal deposition that'll stick to rather porous ABS?
I have seen printed horns coated with the spray-on conductive paint (e.g. MG Chemicals 843AR) whose gain is only a dB below a metal one, but it was a one-off and I never saw any follow-up. That said, it might be enough for the initial strike plate needed.
As far as smoothness and surface sealing, you should look up what people are doing to ABS with acetone vapor. I've tried it a bit and can attest that, by paying careful attention to temperature and duration, you can get quite nice finishes.
Thanks for the suggestions! Spraypainting might be bit tricky inside the waveguide, but we'll certainly try the acetone vapor!
I know that plating plastic is possible, and some companies do it well. But the devil is in the details. Not just in the plating but in holding tolerances on the plastic part. I am considering adding an entry on this on our career killer page... good luck!
So, quick update on this:
After almost a year of trial and error, we finally figured out that a few rounds of Tollens' reagent (
) works like a charm... much more even finish than trying to electroplate copper, and IL (@ K-band) only marginally below metrology grade waveguide.
Paper will be submitted to IEEE CPMT soon; will keep everyone posted.
That will be a useful paper to many people, thanks!
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