Electroforming is a great way to encrust jewelry projects with layers of flowing copper. But what are the proper voltage and amp settings on a Caswell rectifier to create a plated surface on a piece of jewelry? The Caswell is one of many power supply devices intended more as laboratory test equipment for engineers.
It is also known as a rectifier. Above: Briana Swisher of Earth and Metal Shop used electroforming to create this open back, double-terminated Tibetan quartz ring encased in textured copper with an oxidized finish.
Photo by artist. For her demonstration, though, Peck used a pocket-sized micro-processor developed by electrical engineer Dan Haab for his wife, Sherri Haab. Sherri is the author of 30 books on jewelry techniques. Compared to a lab-style power supply, their device is programmed to make calculations automatically.
Flip the switch, change your set up, and you can electrically etch jewelry designs on sheet metal, too.Making copper electroforming / electroplating bath
So, when looking at all of the dials and buttons on a desk top power supply, to what settings should you turn the volt and amperage dials for electroforming? Here are a few general guidelines to help you get started. The basic rule of thumb is that you want to deliver mA of current per square inch of surface area. Turn the voltage up to 2V, which is more than enough for copper electroforming.
Make sure your constant current is set. Start at zero with your amps and turn up to mA 0. Remember that you can adjust the current higher or lower as needed. Low and slow is always better for a smoother plate. Learning where to set and adjust the current takes experience and there is a learning curve. Too much current or too little current will change the texture and surface of the copper.
After awhile, it becomes intuitive.How to electroform an organic object iris seed pod. Commonly referred to as "dipping" in metal, think bronze baby shoes! Did you use this instructable in your classroom? Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.
First, you need to find an object you wish to electroform. The possibilities are almost endless, from shells, fabric, wax, clay, plastic, paper, seeds and pods, etc.
Be creative! For this project, I have selected an iris seed pod from my garden. I have removed the stem and leaves. Attach a copper jump-ring to your piece. This will serve 2 purposes - to attach to copper wire to suspend in the electroform solution, and to attach to your finished jewelry piece. Use hot glue or a 2-part epoxy.
For porous objects, such as seed pods, they need to be lacquered to seal them. Paint or dip the object in the lacquer, making sure it is completely covered. Hang to dry in a cool, dry place, avoiding dirt and dust. Make sure to avoid touching the lacquered surface of your object.
Use gloved hands or tweezers to hold the seed pod, and paint on a thin layer of conductive paint. Check to make sure areas are covered with an even layer of paint, especially the area where the copper jump-ring meets the seed pod.
Paint over the glue and onto the jump-ring. Hang the item to dry overnight. I use a 22ga sheet of copper with the top bent over so it will hang over the side of the beaker. With gloved hands, scrub it vigorously with a scotch-brite pad to remove any dirt or oils from the surface. Fill the beaker with the electroforming solution, and put the anode in place. With the rectifier turned off, attach the red positive lead to the anode with the alligator clip.
Make sure to wear your gloves, as you want to avoid getting any oil or dirt on the painted object. Attach a length of copper wire to the jump ring, secure it by twisting the wire back on itself. Attach the wire to a long length of copper tubing. The tube will rest on the edges of the beaker, allowing the seed pod to be suspended into the electroforming solution. Attach the black negative lead to the copper tubing with the alligator clip. Turn the rectifier on, keeping the amp and volt set both below 1.
Slowly submerge the seed pod into the solution, making sure it is completely covered. After a few seconds, you should be able to see a light layer of copper forming on the surface! Let the copper tubing rest on the beaker. Make sure there is plenty of space between the anode and the seed pod, they should never touch. You also want to avoid allowing the seed pod to rest against the glass.
Check the amp and voltage setting, they should both be at or below 1. You want a very slow and steady build-up of copper to form, otherwise it can flake off.This is the time of year when a walk in the woods yields the best treasures! The hidden frameworks of ordinary plants reveal themselves in all their fascinating glory.
Leaf skeletons, pine cones, seed pods—all bursting forth, just asking to be made into jewelry! Electroforming is the way to make that happen—turning natural and other materials into metal jewelry components, by building up layers of metal around your forms, preserving them forever. But I'm the first to admit that just the term electroforming sounds daunting. Let's face it, it requires a piece of equipment that is unfamiliar to many of us, and it requires electricity and electrodes!
Sounds like a science project. But it really is simpler than you may think. Rectifiers, that unfamiliar piece of equipment, used to be large, cumbersome, and expensive—with knobs and switches and mysterious gauges.
And Sherry Haab Designs sells an alternative electric current controller that is pretty much foolproof and smaller than a cell phone. Electroforming and plating are essentially the same, but you build up a much thicker coating of metal when you electroform.
Plating can be done in many different metals, however because copper is so inexpensive, that's what we use for forming. The science part is simple: You use a copper electroforming solution, also available from jewelry suppliers, in a glass or plastic bowl or beaker, and by sending a very low current of electricity between a piece of copper and your conductive object, both submersed in that solution, the copper transfers from the piece of metal to your little treasure, forming a nice strong coating of copper.
In my video Easy Electroforming for Jewelryyou can see a second time lapse sequence of this happening over the course of several hours. It's really quite magical! Almost anything can be electroformed!
You're not restricted to nature's treasures. You can plate metal objects, plastic objects, fabric or lace—just about anything. The key, though, is that the object must be able to conduct electricity. So anything that does not start out metal must be coated with conductive paint available online. And anything from nature must first be covered with a couple layers of lacquer so as not to contaminate the solution.
It also gives the piece strength and seals it. Prepare your bowl or beaker by filling it with copper electroforming solution and partially submerging either a coil of heavy-gauge copper wire or strip of sheet copper. Brush several coats of lacquer over the entire surface, allowing each coat to dry thoroughly between coats.
Glue on a jump ring from which you'll hang the finished piece. Brush on one coat of conductive paint, covering the entire piece, including the dried glue you used to attach the jump ring. Attach a fine piece of wire to the jump ring for suspending the piece. Suspend the piece in the beaker filled with copper electroforming solution and the coil or strip of copper.
Attach the clips from the controller, one to the wire on your piece, the other to the piece of copper coil or sheet, and turn on the controller. The electroforming process will take anywhere from several hours to several days, depending on how thick a coating of copper you want. That's the process! Not scary, not dangerous.
The solutions are acid based, so follow the manufacturer's safety instructions. You are on your way to turning your nature treasures into fabulous jewelry! Now that you know the basics and see how fun and easy electroforming can be, get the rest of the details and project ideas in Denise's electroforming video workshop, Easy Electroforming for Jewelry.Our devices monitor key physical process parameters and dosing consumable chemistry for electroplating exactly according to consumption.
Reduce your quality costs by a more precise process control as you allow by Kirchner PRE. Kirchner PRE can also be easily retrofitted to existing plants. Kirchner PRE helps you to operate electrochemical and galvanic processes with high quality. In many chemical processes and also by electroplating, the pH of the chemical bath have a significant impact on the behavior or on the deposited layer.
Thus, even small variations in pH change cause variation in the gloss of nickel layers. In electroforming the PH can lead to internal stresses if the pH-value is too far from the desired value.
Kirchner pH control equipment will help you to monitor and to controll these processes in electroplating and chemical industrie to secure and carry. In electrodeposition and plating a dosage of process chemicals is necessary depending on flown Ampere-hours.
This also effects the pH value in the plating processes so you also have to adjust the pH-value continuously. Kirchner PRE process control system meets all these requirements. Our process control system continuously measures the actual pH, the temperature of the process and the flowed ampere hours Ah. Through six individually controllable potential-free relay contacts, different chemical additives can be dosed into the plating bath.
The dosage is freely configurable by the ampere-hours Ah or pH. Kirchner PRE process control unit are an ideal combination of an ampere-hour meter and a pH monitor system. It is designed directly to the process control and monitoring of chemical and electroplating processes. Electroplating rectifier and programmable current source. Speach English German Portuguese.
Input signal. PRE Ah counter and dosage system.
Large automatic illuminated alphanumeric display. Ah counter and dosage system pH-Control and regulation system.Many different processes, from forging to deep drawing to casting, are used to form metal — and most of them involve applying some sort of effective stress to a metal.
After the process is complete, the mandrel is typically removed. This metal form is the finished product. This technique allows for high accuracy and the creation of complex shapes. The surface of the form that was touching the mandrel is highly accurate with respect to the desired shape of the model.
The metal layers can be extremely thin if desired. It only needs to be thick enough to support itself. Electroforming and electroplating are both used in the manufacturing of metal products and they both rely on the electrodeposition process. A product made by electroforming is usually created entirely through electroforming, while electroplating forms just the outer layer of a product.
Electroplating is used to deposit a thin coating on the outside surface of an object, typically to enhance its appearance or functionality in some way. You might use electroplating to improve the cosmetic appeal of an object or its hardness, resistance to corrosion, conductivity or many other things.
The process can be applied to a wide range of objects, including electroforms, and the plating can be made of a variety of metals. The main difference between the two is that electroforming creates a separate object, while electroplating deposits a layer onto an existing object. The electroforming process begins with a metal substrate with a textured surface — the mandrel.
You must clean and degrease the substrate and then apply a photo-sensitive coating. You then cover the areas to which you do not want the metal ions to adhere with a film photomask. Next comes the electrodeposition phase of the process, which is what causes the metal to form on the mandrel. Electrodeposition is, at its most basic, the method used to deposit metal onto a conductive surface.
This process involves immersing an anode and a cathode in an electrolytic bath made of a solution of salt and the metal that will be deposited onto the object. You pass a direct electric current DC through the salt-and-metal solution, which transforms the metallic ions into atoms and causes them to deposit onto the cathode, which is the object that will receive the metal.
This allows you to build up the object essentially atom by atom, allowing for the high levels of accuracy for which electroforming is known. In electroforming, the atoms will only adhere to the parts not masked with the film photomask. One the metal has grown on the mandrel to the desired thickness, you remove it from the electrolytic bath.
Sometimes — especially if the electroforming serves a decorative purpose — you will leave the mandrel in place. There are two different methods of electroforming used to control the shape of the finished product: Electroforming overgrowth and electroforming thick-resist.
Electroforming overgrowth is plating-defined and uses a thin photoresist pattern that covers parts of the conductive substrate that will polymerize under UV light. The metal forms over the photoresist pattern and is allowed to grow over the sides of the model. This method is commonly used to create items such as nozzles and filters due to the bellmouth shapes it can form. The thick-resist method is photo-defined because its accuracy is defined by the photolithographic process. It involves depositing the metal material below the height of the photoresist.
No overgrowth is allowed, resulting in straight-lined walls. This type of model creates a two-dimensional structure with straight sidewalls and you can also apply multiple cycles of the process to create quasi-three-dimensional structures. The height of the photoresist determines the height of the electroform. This required blocking off the parts of the mandrel where you did not want metal to form.
You can also use electroforming with non-conductive materials such as plastics and glass. The process of electroforming with a non-conductive mandrel is similar to the process involving a conductive mandrel, but you have to do the beginning steps in an opposite manner. You do this by applying a conductive coating to the desired parts of the model, which you can do manually, chemically or with vacuum deposition techniques. Manual methods are common and include painting or spraying on a conductive metallic paint that creates a thin film on the substrate, often comprised of nickel or silver.
Once the conductive film is applied to the mandrel, you can go through the electroforming process as you would with a conductive substrate. You can use a permanent mandrel for high-volume production runs.Small objects such as twigs, leaves, shells, toys, and glass beads are just a few examples of common items you can electroform copper over to make charms and jewelry pieces using the controller.
Plating is a similar process, allowing the user to use various anodes and plating solutions to electroplate silver, gold, or other metals over base metals including copper. The controller is small, portable and can be used instead of a traditional plating rectifier.
International Electroforming Kit Information. Maintaining Copper Plating Solutions. Can I plate multiple objects at one time? Yes, but make sure they are similar in size and shape so that they electroform uniformly as the copper is distributed to each.
Attach each object to its own wire, and then twist all the wire ends together so they share a common stem think of leaves growing on a tree branch. Another way to plate multiple pieces is to wire each piece onto a common copper rod so that all of the pieces are positioned in a row suspended from the rod. Rest the rod over a rectangular shaped vessel lined with a copper anode sheets or wire. This will allow you to form individual pieces at once on a large scale.
My project is a dull color and appears grainy. If your solution starts forming or plating with a dull, rough, salmon-colored finish, add 2 full droppers of brightener during the plating process to restore the smooth, bright finish. Another cause could be that the current level is set too high.
Turn the current level down and see if the piece becomes shinier. If you are using solution that has been used before, replace the solution, as it will lose the ability to plate smoothly as the acid levels are depleted. Acid is vital for bright, shiny copper. A warm environment is also helpful. Agitation is beneficial in addition to warmth. Organic materials leaching into the solution can also cause poor plating.The process of electroforming entails preparation of a suitable mandrel and placing it in an electroplating bath.
Nickel or other metals are deposited on the mandrel by electrochemical deposition. The outer surface of the mandrel forms the inner surface of the form. The surface of the finished part is rendered in fine detail with respect to the original. Electroforming EF is a highly versatile manufacturing process and is very effective when requirements call for extreme tolerances, complexity, surface finish, or lightweight.
This process allows high-precision duplication of a mandrel and therefore permits quality production—at low unit costs with high repeatability and excellent process control. In many cases, traditional manufacturing methods such as machining, forging, stamping, deep drawing, and casting cannot produce components with the complexity and accuracy that electroforming affords.
A wide variety of shapes and sizes can be made by electroforming, the principal limitation being the need to separate the product from the mandrel. Since the fabrication of a product requires only a single master or mandrel, low production quantities can be made economically. In special cases, the mandrel may be a sacrificial part due to highly complex or non-drafted geometry. For this class of components, the mandrel is dissolved away after the component is fully formed.
While this method raises the unit cost of the component, it removes the primary limitation of separating the part from the tool. The scope of component design possibilities is vast. Based on our years of experience pioneering this technology, here are some guidelines meant to streamline the design process for components that may utilize the electroforming process. Additive Manufacturing Using Electroforming.
Benefits of Electroforming over other manufacturing techniques:. How Electroforming Works. Design Considerations for Manufacturing Electroformed Components. Optiforms Proudly Serves:.