Existing 3D printing techniques make it difficult to print plastic or metal objects, but at the same time print a single item made of two materials. However, scientists have developed a new way to increase the production of full-featured 3D-printed electronics. It has been achieved to coat 3D-printed plastic objects with metal.
This involves dipping the item into a solution containing palladium, which sticks to the plastic surface. When the item is then placed in a non-electrolyte plating tank, the adhered palladium acts as a catalyst for the metal ions dissolved in the liquid to stick to the item. The metal coating is eventually formed.
But according to researchers at Waseda University in Japan, the coating tends to adhere poorly and unevenly to plastics. In addition, they cover the entire item, which is not always desirable.
Led by Professor Shinjiro Umezo, scientists have developed a new 3D printing system that builds objects by depositing layers of material from two nozzles. One squeezes out the melted ABS plastic, while the other squeezes out the melted ABS mixed with the palladium. Pure ABS is used in parts of an object intended to be linear plastic, while ABS/palladium is used in areas that will be coated with metal.
Once the print has cooled and hardened, it is placed in the previously mentioned non-electrolytic plating tank. In this case, however, the metal coating is formed only in the area printed by the ABS/Ala mixture. According to the researchers, the coating is uniform in quality and firmly attached to the plastic.
Unlike traditional coating methods, the new printing system does not require the first coarse treatment of plastic surfaces with toxic chemicals. And the technology can be retrofitted to existing fuse-making 3D printers.
The study was described in a recent paper published in the journal Adder Manufacturing.