In Knol-edge, Harrie Knol shares his knowledge on precision metal. Harrie is Head of Application Engineering at Veco and helps our clients' engineers to shape their projects.
In this video, Harrie compares two popular Additive Manufacturing techniques: Electroforming & 3D Printing.
Welcome to our first Knol-edge video of 2018. Today we want to make a little comparison between 3D printing and electroforming. Electroforming is quite an old technology already, it's done by Veco for more than 80 years. 3D printing is quite new, it's evolving very fast, it's quite popular especially under the young engineers, and not without reason.
3D printing is mainly used for rapid prototyping, complex shapes like gearboxes, but not yet in high volumes. This may be the main difference with electroforming. Electroforming, also possible in 3D; for example bellows, cylinders, for textile printing, optical lenses, they can be made in a three dimensional shape.
But at Veco, we mainly manufacture electroformed precision parts in two dimensional shape. Flat shapes like shaver foils, inkjet nozzles, encoder discs, or whatever. Sometimes we call it 2.5D, but then we are combining layers for example for an inkjet nozzle plate where we combine the inkjet chamber together with a nozzle plate calling it 2.5D.
With 3D printing more and more materials become available. Even polymers are possible. That's not possible with electroforming. With electroforming there are some restrictions on the type of materials that can be used. Most of the materials most of the time are made in nickel, nickel cobalt, palladium, palladium nickel, gold, these type of materials, but not possible in polymers.
3D printing is done layer by layer, or droplet by droplet. Electroforming is done atom by atom and therefore electroforming is much more accurate with tolerances down to one micron, where 3D printing still is in field of say 10-20 micron tolerances. 3D printing is a complementary technology over our electroforming technology. I don't think it will be a threat due to the mass production that we already achieved and the very accurate tolerances that we can achieve, but there will be some very exciting developments in the near future.