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Large volumes, small parts: a comparison between electroforming and micro milling

Oct 13, 2016 7:00:00 AM By Maarten Nijland

We want to get our innovations to the market as fast as possible. Large scale production is one key factor to speed up lead time and reduce manufacturing costs. On the other hand, with size of the components gets smaller and smaller,  fabrication of the parts gets more and more complex day by day. How do micro milling and electroforming compare, when looking at important key factors such as time, costs and precision?

First, let’s take a look at micro milling.

Micro milling is a subtractive metal manufacturing process where you mill material away with a drill. Depending on the milling machine used, drills can automatically change to different sizes and move in different axes, creating complex 2-, 2.5- or 3 dimensional shapes. Accuracy of the structure goes down to a few dozen microns. Almost every material can be milled.

And what about electroforming?

Electroforming is an additive manufacturing process where you add (grow) material onto a conductive object. The precision of the electroformed part goes down to 2 to 3 μm. Electroforming is predominantly done with nickel, followed by palladium nickel or copper.

PAV_8672.jpgLarge volumes, small parts: electroforming or micro milling?

Unlike electroforming, micro milling is serial of nature. The machine needs to mill every piece one by one, which directly affects the time that is required to produce larger volumes. On the other hand, electroformed metal parts can be manufactured by thousands at the same time, starting from one single mold (in the industry called a mandrel). 

The more metal pieces that are needed, the more interesting electroforming gets, looking from a cost (and time) perspective. Also, when looking at tolerance and precision, electroforming is the more high-end solution of the two, capable of creating ultra high precision metal components.

How to introduce a new technology in your company

To survive, change is sometimes inevitable. However, introducing new technologies to create more innovative products for your company is not an easy task. To get buy-in for your plans, you need to speak the language of your management but also that of your engineering team.

The team of Veco is experienced in facing every design challenge by pushing the boundaries in micro fabrication of high precision metal parts. Everything always starts with choosing the right technology. Do not hesitate to challenge us with your innovative goals, or learn more about electroforming for your industry below.

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