To help make the printed plastic pieces conductive and therefore amenable to electroplating, these were first pre-treated with a special procedure produced by the organization Galvotec near Zurich. When the first conductive layer was applied, the pieces might be treated as though these were metallic. The initial step does apply selectively to particular parts of the printed piece, so the final device contains some areas which are metallic and conductive while some remain insulating.
This method enabled they to construct two electrically independent high-current electrodes from one printed plastic piece along with the correct geometry for beam-splitting. Meanwhile, the process enables a nearly free selection of the coating metal, including some that might be very difficult to machine.
This method also created surfaces which have no scratches, recesses or abrasions. The molecular beam-splitter accustomed to prove the brand new technique is a structure according to very complex electrodes that need impeccable surface qualities and-precision alignment. "Which comes free of charge while using the 3D-printing approach," states Andreas Osterwalder.
Together with cost, the brand new 3D printing/electroplating method also drastically reduces production time: Traditional manufacturing for such structures can frequently take several several weeks. However in the EPFL study, all of the components were printed within 48 hrs and electroplating only required each day. The shorter time enables for extremely fast turnover and much more versatility within the development and testing of recent components.