The Metallizr Is Coming

By on March 25th, 2019 in Hardware

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 A collection of electroplated 3D prints made on The Metallizr [Source: Dizingof]
A collection of electroplated 3D prints made on The Metallizr [Source: Dizingof]

Soon we’ll find out what The Metallizr can do for 3D prints.

What might this be? We have little to go on at this point, because the product has not yet launched. However, Tel Aviv-based backer Asher Nahmias, a noted 3D artist also known as Dizingof, has been dropping significant hints about what this product might be.

The site explains:

“The Metallizr grows Metal Skin (literally) on your 3D Printed plastic models – using a new, innovative, Electroplating process for HOME USE.”

The electroplating process is quite old, having been invented in Italy in 1805, and it’s extensively used today in industry, but only rarely by hobbyists.

 Electroplating process [Source: Wikipedia]
Electroplating process [Source: Wikipedia]

The process of electroplating, as explained by Wikipedia:

“The part to be plated is the cathode of the circuit. In one technique, the anode is made of the metal to be plated on the part. Both components are immersed in a solution called an electrolyte containing one or more dissolved metal salts as well as other ions that permit the flow of electricity. A power supply supplies a direct current to the anode, oxidizing the metal atoms that it comprises and allowing them to dissolve in the solution.

At the cathode, the dissolved metal ions in the electrolyte solution are reduced at the interface between the solution and the cathode, such that they “plate out” onto the cathode. The rate at which the anode is dissolved is equal to the rate at which the cathode is plated and thus the ions in the electrolyte bath are continuously replenished by the anode”

Electroplating has long been a finishing technique for 3D prints. Here we see a 3D printed thermoplastic part that has been electroplated with a metal finish:

 An industrially-processed electroplated 3D print [Source: Fabbaloo]
An industrially-processed electroplated 3D print [Source: Fabbaloo]

But this particular part was 3D printed on an expensive industrial machine, and electroplated by a professional electroplating service. That is one of the problems in the current state of electroplating for 3D prints: it’s not very accessible to most users. Some homemade electroplating attempts I’ve seen have been successful, but usually of lower surface quality.

 An electroplated 3D printed vase made on The Metallizr [Source: Dizingof]
An electroplated 3D printed vase made on The Metallizr [Source: Dizingof]

It seems that Dizingof wishes to make a change to that status by launching (soon, hopefully) The Metallizr. We have little (well, no) information about this item, but I might speculate that it could be a desktop unit that provides simple electroplating services. Perhaps it might even be a one-touch system that allows very easy use.

Dizingof is keeping information close, but does say:

“It’s basically a micro controlled safe, metals & alloys growth technique on any 3D printed substrate.”

Unfortunately we have no information about pricing, availability, or specifications.

 An electroplated 3D print made on The Metallizr [Source: Dizingof]
An electroplated 3D print made on The Metallizr [Source: Dizingof]

I’m quite excited to see this development, as there really isn’t an easily accessible electroplating accessory for the desktop 3D printing market. If so I believe there would be some very interesting potential uses:

  • Providing more interesting finishes for 3D printed artwork

  • Enabling conductive surfaces on 3D prints

  • Strengthening “weak” plastic parts

That last point could be quite important, as the application of a healthy metal surface could very substantially increase the strength of a 3D print. No, it won’t be anywhere near the strength of an equivalent solid metal 3D print, but definitely vastly more than the plastic part alone.

It’s possible this may address the needs of some professionals using 3D printing, who always seek stronger parts. Recently their interests have tended toward high-temperature materials, such as PEEK. But perhaps some of their needs could be served by simply electroplating plastic parts.

One issue with electroplated plastic parts is the heat resistance. While the metal fused on the exterior of the part will resist heat, the plastic interior remains and will become soft when exposed to heat, just as it would without the electroplating. This means that electroplated parts won’t necessarily be used for high-temperature applications.

I think we will see this type of experimentation taking place when The Metallizr eventually emerges.

Via The Metallizr

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!