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Electroplating Made Easy

Turn your ideas into gold with the Orbit1 from Taiwan’s Monolith Studio, now on Kickstarter, which would pair perfectly with your Form 1+ 3D prints. The Orbit1 is a tabletop electroplating machine that works with nickel, copper, lead and gold. It made a big splash at MakerFaire 2014. See what all the buzz is about and how to use the Orbit1 to plate SLA 3D prints from Monolith Studio’s co-founder Gary Chen.

Why Electroplating?

You may be thinking, “Why should I electroplate my prints when I can just spray paint them for a metallic look? Electroplating allows you to deposit metal particles onto the surface of a print, which not only changes the look of the piece, but creates a denser feel as well.

Snail Electroplated on the Orbit1_

How It Works

Gary explained how the appearance of the Orbit1, with its cylindrical design and spinning cathode, is different from the industrial electroplating tank. The industrial tank stirs the solution with strong bubbles or a jet stream to make the coating uniform and flawless, but the agitating flow usually makes the working environment a mess and it’s difficult to maintain the concentration of the solution. To avoid the aforesaid issues, the Orbit1 replaces the bubbling agitation with the rotating cathode to disturb the flow around the plated object and make electric field distributed equally. In addition, the cylindrical shape makes the fluid flowing smoothly and the filtration system more efficient.

The Challenges of Electroplating FDM Prints

Gary explained the differences between electroplating for FDM prints and SLA prints:

“The surface of FDM prints is relatively rough and need sanding and polishing before plating to get a fine appearance. Given the high resolution details, it goes without saying that the plating quality of SLA print made from Form1+ is the best. The roughness issue also impacts the plating time for FDM. For a smooth SLA item, it usually takes only half an hour of plating to form a fine texture, while the FDM model takes about 2 hours to achieve a similar quality.”

Orbit1 on Kickstarter

Monolith Studio launched the Orbit 1 today on Kickstarter. Check out their campaign video to learn more.