Fused filament fabrication (FFF) 3D printing is widely used within both hobbyist and industrial applications for its superior printing speed and cost-effectiveness in comparison to other conventional technologies, such as fused deposition modeling (FDM). One of the primary drawbacks of FFF technology, however, is the limited electrical conductivity of its parts and thus their minimal industrial usage. The purpose of this research, therefore, is to improve the electrical conductivity of FFF parts by varying the infill parameters used in the printing process in conjunction with copper electroplating of the parts. Initially, 3D prints were fabricated using a Prusa MINI+ 3D printer at 20, 30, and 40 percent infill density with a linear infill pattern. Following the printing, all prints were coated with a conductive, nickel-based paint, and half of the prints were electroplated in a CuSO4/H2SO4 solution at 4V for 20s with a pure copper metal anode. Following electrolysis, both the electroplated and non-electroplated prints were tested for electrical conductivity by measuring resistance using a multimeter. It was found that the difference between the measured resistances for the electroplated parts between infill densities was significant, along with the change in resistance for a given infill density before and after electrolysis. Previous studies and related data suggest that additional modifications to the 3D prints’ fabrication, such as the variance of print speed or bed temperature, can be modified to further improve electrical performance and industrial applicability.
Angel Kristin, Tsang Harvey H., Bedair Sarah S., Smith Gabriel L., Lazarus Nathan. Selective electroplating of 3D printed parts. Additive Manufacturing. Vol. 20:164–172. 2018. Elsevier BV. [Cross Ref]
T.V Naveen Kumar, Kulkarni Mithun V, Ravuri Manu, K. Elangovan, S Kannan. Effects of Electroplating on the Mechanical Properties of FDM-PLA Parts. i-manager's Journal on Future Engineering and Technology. Vol. 10(3):29–37. 2015. i-manager Publications. [Cross Ref]