Conard's Photo Etching Blog

Electroforming - a smart business decision

Posted by Kathleen Stillman on Sep 29, 2015 11:08:00 AM
Kathleen Stillman
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With it's ability to handle difficult "micro" designs at relatively low costs, electroforming is a smart business decision.

Additive manufacturing is all over the news right now. Businesses and consumers alike are fascinated by the possibilities the technology brings. But as a recent article in Fortune Magazine pointed out, when the hype around additive processes subsides, businesses will want to know how they improve their products and lower their costs. They want to know why it's the right business move.

Much of the hue and cry around additive manufacturing comes from the recent 3-D printing craze. While this specific technology is still maturing, there are other additive methods that have been around for decades and have proven themselves to be very smart business decisions. Electroforming is one of those.

What is electroforming?
The electroforming process starts with a nickel sulfamate plating bath, a DC power source and an anode (usually nuggets of solid nickel) and cathode (a mandrel, or template, in the shape of the finished part. The template is connected to the power, the nickel migrates particle-by-particle toward the current and comes out of the solution onto the template. The nickel continues to migrate to the current until the current is removed. The resulting solid nickel parts are then peeled from the templates, which are reuseable.

Electroforming is capable of making parts fewer than 25 microns (.001") thick or up to 250 microns (.010") thick. In addition, the process can produce foils less than 25 microns thick and holes under 10 microns. Unlike photo etching, hole size requirements are not dictated by metal thickness.

Electroforming can solve tricky design challenges and save money at the same time.Electroforming can solve tricky design challenges and save money at the same time.

Why electroforming is a smart business decision
While we can't show the drawing, we can share a story that shows how electroforming is a smart business move.

We recently had an OEM inquire about a design for a very small part. It had to be .050" +/-.002 diameter x .015" thick with a .020" +/-.001x .012+/-.001 pedestal. That meant the flange had to be .003 thick. Most other suppliers using methods like esomatics and metal injection forming said no outright.

Other processes could make the part, but needed exceptions to the small design requirements. The price they wanted for each part was also far above what the customer wanted to pay - in some cases up to $6 per part. With electroforming, we were able to say, "Yes, if you can use nickel, we can make this exactly to print, for less than $1.00 per part."

Electroforming is used by OEMs in industries such as microelectronics, scientific and optical equipment and aerospace. The process' ability to create ultra-precise micro parts while remaining cost effective is a major draw for these manufacturers.

Electroforming RFQ

If you want to know more about how electroforming can solve your "micro" design challenges and save you money, call us at 800-443-5218 or email us at sales@conardcorp.com.

Topics: Electroforming