This Instructable will show you how to plate a 3D printed (ABS) object with nickel! The process takes about 6 hours, not including print time for the 3D print. You will need:
-A 3D print (ABS plastic)
-Power supply + alligator clips
Step 1: Download STL
The model was created in grasshopper, a parametric modeling plugin used with Rhino 3D modeling software. An image displaying the definition can be found above. Additionally, an STL of the file can be downloaded here.
Step 2: 3D Print It
For this Instructable, I 3D printed the model on a Stratasys Mojo in ABS plastic. You can see how much support material it needed! After the print is done, either remove the support manually or throw it in a base bath.
Step 3: Remove Support and Paint Model With Graphite Acetone Solution
Once support is removed, you should get something like the images above. The model is quite sturdy, though be careful as the sprandels are thin. Now it's time to make a conductive coat! To make this conductive paint, I mixed 1/3 graphite powder with 2/3 acetone. You can use the brand I used for the graphite powder (about 10 bucks on Amazon). I kept it in a plastic bag as the graphite tended to get EVERYWHERE.
Step 4: Set Up Electroplating Rig
Once you've painted your 3D print, you can begin setting up your electroplating system. I decided to coat my print with nickel, as it is a relatively cheap material to purchase. I used a small power supply, set at 3V. Mix your Nickel Acetate in a large plastic container with vinegar. Attach the nickel rod to the positive (anode) of your power supply. Next, wrap your graphite covered 3D print with the nickel wire and attach this to negative (cathode) of the power supply. Place the nickel rod and the 3D print in the Nickel Acetate solution. It should look something like the image displayed of my rig.
Step 5: Check on Model and Rotate As Necessary
It took about 5-6 hours to fully coat the print with nickel. It's best to turn off the power supply and check on the print every so often. Ensure the print is being evenly coated by rotating it. Another word of advice- keep the print in longer and the voltage low, rather than shorter time and higher voltage. If you opt for the fast route, it can cause "hot spots" on the print (which I got on some original prototypes) and ruin the coating.
Step 6: Shine It Up!
Once the print looks fully coated, take it out of the nickel acetate bath and rinse it with water. Then, use a soft cloth and bit of polish (I used Simichrome Polish) to get a nice shine. Now you have a beautiful piece of 3D printed jewelry coated with Nickel! Thanks for reading.