CNC Electroforming Machine

Electroforming of metals, using cnc, wire and an electrolyte.

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An affordable metal printer is a difficult thing in devising. Electroforming of metals is an attractive method for low cost low energy usage metal forming. Utilizing a flowing electrolyte and a wire feed I think a very simple CNC electroforming machine cant be built.

The bath can interestingly enough be composed of TiI4
an excellent electroplating electrolyte. Applications are wide ranging if titanium can be easily plated at low temperature. Nickel is still useful and copper could make low resistance traces.

3d metal printing currently could use a new strategy for metal 3d printing. Putting metal on substrates and incorporating carbon nano materials is the goal and electroplating makes much more sens and requires very low energy usage compared to lasers and magnetrons using vacuum and plasma sintering. etc.

A conductive bed of silicone will be slung under an x/y cartesion bot. electrolyte will be flowed over the anode or positive lead which is attached to the wire made of the desired plating material. This is the source of positive metal ions in solution. The cathode being the target will be moved by the gantry tool direction and layers will be electroformed upwards.

Titanium as well as Nickel and Coppper have been successfully electroformed in the past by numerous persons. The most enticing of which is obviously titanium.

Titanium Tetra Iodide can be made by heating Iodide and Titanium Powder the resulting molten salt will dissolve the remainder. The molten salt could provide a high titanium density and higher currents yielding a faster forming process. It would require heating the bed to 80 degrees Celsius and blanketing the molten salt bath with argon and co2.

All fore mention metals have readily available wire for purchasing across the web.

I will be building a bot that can be used to print normally, print batteries, 3d print plastic on a large scale or do electroforming. Different modules could be purchased allowing each functionality.

I believe I can just use my prusa i3 for the parts and build it using some aluminum scrap I have come upon for construction of the gantry which can be mad quite large and custom y axis including the molten salt fiberglass tub.

A couple build plates can provide all the functionaity. Will sketch soon.

This documentation describes Open Hardware and is licensed under the CERN OHL v. 1.2. You may redistribute and modify this documentation under the terms of the CERN OHL v.1.2. ( This documentation is distributed WITHOUT ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTY, INCLUDING OF MERCHANTABILITY, SATISFACTORY QUALITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. Please see the CERN OHL v.1.2 for applicable conditions

  • 1 × Fiberglass
  • 1 × Epoxy Resin
  • 1 × Argon/CO2 mix gas
  • 1 × Argon Regulator
  • 1 × Hose Fittings

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  • 1955 Patent on deriving metallic titanium via electrolysis

    MECHANICUS05/31/2016 at 04:13 0 comments

    Plating titanium was developed long ago, the process can be kept the same and used as such. Titanates or titanium hydroxide is soluble in many organic solvents, this will require much less reagent.

  • Different direction to electroforming in electrolyte.

    MECHANICUS05/20/2016 at 04:04 0 comments

    I am scratching the whole laser/magnetron idea, instead going with a submerged build plate and a nickel wire feed. Will be printing in nickel, copper and titanium. Nickel should be easier to electroform, If the distances are kept very small high amperage may be possible and higher deposition rates possible.

    The thickness of the nickel wire will determine the thickness of the printed lines. Deposition rates to be controlled by amperage and fines by close.

    Watts nickel electroplating solution will be used and then titanium solution and 99.5% Titanium Ni Anode.

    A cartesian build with a submersible silicone nickel graphite build plate should suffice. An attempt to disperse nano carbons in the liquid will be attempted and there will be circulation in the bath. The circulation nozzle will come out around the wire, using pressure to center the wire leaving the plastic nozzle.

    A glass nozzle may be used, a pipette of say 10mL in 1mL per inch segments would work if placed in a geared housing to control depth

    This way the whole target is bathed in nickel or titanium saturated fluid. The nano-carbons should be positively charged at the cathode as they are circulated close to the anode a electrostatic attraction should occur plating them in place.

    The printer could also be used to print copper traces, lifted out of the bed, apply a mask and spray an insulator, remove the mask and plate a second level, and a third add infinitum.

    The toxicity of the plating solutions is a concern so I am going to tackle that by plating in a sealable container. So as to not loose the plating solution. It is also imperative that some computer monitoring of pH is needed and adjustments made with the appropriate buffer or pH down/up solution.

    Information below on the nickel plating solution.

  • New Thoughts On Design

    MECHANICUS04/25/2016 at 06:22 0 comments

    I am going to need to pull a slight vacuum on the whole machine.

    This will be accomplished by laying up fiberglass on the outside of a 36" cement tube and dropping a delta styled 3d printer inside.

    I will need a door, to get at any prints on the inside and probably a camera to monitor the progress of the prints.

    The top and the bottom will be fiberglass plates with fittings for a vacuum pump and argon/co2 mix injection.

    A magnetron plasma will be the only thing I will be able to fuse particles with, but should be easily achievable with small enough particle sizes.

  • Going in an entirely different direction

    MECHANICUS03/21/2016 at 23:59 0 comments

    I don' think the laser makes sense, I will be attempting to make a simple high voltage DC magnetron and sputtering the aluminum through the magnetron at the build plate.

    This will allow layer heights as low as .1 micron and incredible resolution if I can focus the magnetron beam to a small enough point. A refractory epoxy will be used to glue very small magnets into a copper pipe using another magnet oriented in the opposite direction in the center.

    Print times will be massive but its the cost of printing so small.

    I will be entering this into the automation portion of the 2016 HAD prize.

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Enjoy this project?



alangrimmer wrote 09/29/2016 at 08:31 point

hey this looks cool, are you going vacuum and magnatron after all?

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DIGI wrote 03/30/2016 at 02:24 point

this concept has long been exhausted and is an industrial application, I'm sure you can figure out why its not so common as a home device.

Best home solution:

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MECHANICUS wrote 03/30/2016 at 03:38 point

I am changing how I am doing it, I just haven't updated it yet. But thanks for another comment:)

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