Electroforming enables the manufacture metallic parts with good mechanical properties and high level of accuracy and reproducibility. A thin metallic shell is deposited on a model and later released from it. There are several applications of electroforming combined with rapid manufacturing (RM) technologies. However the two main disadvantages of electroforming are the non-uniformity thickness distribution and long time span of shell manufacturing.
The goal of this research is the evolution of Elecform3D™ product. It is a numerical simulation tool of electroforming process, in order to facilitate design and manufacturing tasks for metallic shells production. This software also controls the automatic device of cathodic orientation (ADCO) inside electrolytic baths. High quality of part is obtained, taking advantage of electroforming properties and improving manufacturing speed.
The methodology is based on the well-known potentials model of LaPlace, it enables deposited metal distribution prediction with high grade of precision, being experimentally validated with cathodic polarization curves. Moreover this has also created a subroutine for solving this problem for this application using the boundary element method (BEM). This tool has been tested and validated for the simulation of metal electroplating by using reference solutions of problems in the literature. It also examines changes in the geometry of the cathode as a result of the process of electro-deposition of the metal and the influence of this phenomenon on the simulation routine developed considering variables such as the metal thickness distribution and the rate of deposition. All these tasks work and carry out processes complementing simulation with experimental work in the laboratory in order to create a tool that will give greater potential to this product.
The results obtained with the first version of this product were very promising, and also indicated the need for a more precise analysis of electrochemical phenomena in the process of electroforming. Elecform3D™ is an important step beyond electroforming so far, and combined with additive manufacturing (AM) 3D printer, is a cheaper alternative for high quality metallic parts manufacturing in comparison with other RM technologies.