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Plating non-metallic items?

Hi Everyone.

I’m a hobbyist who casts jewelry in my garage but I also have recently got into 3D printing. I like to create other types of art and was thinking of an idea. I have a resin printer that makes high resolution and if I design an item that is too large to cast (my centrifugal casting machine only likes small flasks) I was thinking of coating my small sculptures in thin plated bronze.

My understanding of how baby shoes and other non-metallic items are bronze plated is that they spray a copper infused liquid that makes the outside of the baby shoes conductive. Then they simply do an electro-plating process which is easy.

But what exactly is the “copper infused liquid” that makes the baby shoes conductive? Is there a recipe for this? And what keeps it from washing off of the baby shoes or in my case the printed resin while it get’s electroplated (it’s immersed in a bath)?

If anyone knows where I can learn how to re-create this method, I’d appreciate it.

There are several formulae for electrically conductive paint. You can fine videos on how to make them on youtube. But it is likely more efficient to purchase them from a supplier to the electroplating industry.
Krohn Industries, in New Jersey, is a supplier of solders, fluxes, and electroplating supplies to the jewelry industry. While I don’t see any conductive paint on their website, they are very nice folks and will happily answer technical questions. They can certainly steer you to a reputable supplier of conductive paint.

Thanks, I’ll check it out.

Check out the electroforming resources here and on FB
(groups/394961414040659) for a tremendous
amount of information. It’s not always easy and there are
a lot of variables to manage.

I’ve carved wax and electroformed on top of the form and
have made a mold of and e-formed inside the mold for better
surface detail retention on parts.

If you print in wax, spray with either your own graphite mixture
(Copper Electroforming on 3d Printed PLA/ABS Objects : 6 Steps (with Pictures) - Instructables)
or use Rio’s Graphite conductive paint graphite or copper
conductive paint. When electroforming over wax you can add
weight your part by adhering glass to wax to keep it from floating.
You can also use stiff sprues to keep a part submerged in the bath.

I had a conversation about the paint to use years ago with a jeweler friend of mine. He indicated that any metallic paint with a lot of metal in it would work. If I were you I might start out with the proprietary products which I knew would work, but then I would try some cheap metallic paints available in the discount store, as they are likely to work just as well. You just need a conductive coating that will attract the ions in solution.

Rather than trying to do something really difficult like plating plastic try vacuum casting. You must have a vacuum for your investment. If you don’t have a vacuum invest/cast unit it’s a simple to set up for casting. In my opinion lots of advantages!