YouTuber SunShine has developed an affordable metal 3D printing platform. According to the developer, his 3D printer is based on a process called electroplating. This involves dissolving metal and depositing it on the other side of an electrical circuit. This process, also known as electrolysis, is often used for metal coating.
The difficulty is usually that the metal particles are distributed in an uncontrolled manner in the electrolyte and therefore no homogeneous coating can be created. As a solution to this problem, SunShine’s printer immerses only a small part of the object to be printed in the liquid at a time. In this way, it can specifically control the amount of metal deposited and cover the object with an even coating layer by layer in small steps.
The innovation of the 3D printer is therefore to allow this metal deposition process realized by electrolysis to take place selectively and thus in a controlled manner. A 3D print made of conductive plastic filament serves as the basic framework for the metal layers to be applied.
Examples of applications for metal 3D prints that have already been implemented include motors, ion beam fans for optimized air circulation and printed circuit boards.
The long-term goal is to develop a 3D printer that can replicate itself completely and produce all the required spare parts independently. This would lead to far-reaching independence from supply chains and suppliers.
He makes the 3D models required for the printer freely available on the Thingiverse platform. He explains the technical background in detail in a YouTube video.