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Metalise Your 3D Prints With 3DCC

A plastic part becomes a work of art with 3DCC’s services

Lately I’ve been thinking about having 3D prints made of some of my digital sculptures, and what kind of surface finish I want them to have. As I began looking at various 3D printing service bureaus, it became clear that if I wanted to have a model printed in metal, my options were pretty limited and expensive.  Luckily there are a few other options if you want a metallic look to your print.

At Shapeways you can get your models printed in stainless steel and sterling silver.  One of the issues with 3D printing are the visible lines left on the model due to the printing process itself, and stainless steel models have noticeable artifacts which I want to avoid.  However, this method may be appropriate for your project depending on the surface quality you’re after.  If you’re interested in making jewelry, Shapeways’ sterling silver prints seem like the way to go.  The main problem for me (besides the price) is that technical limitations prevent larger sculptures from being made.

One solution might be a company called 3DCC (located in England) which provides metal coating for plastic parts in a variety of materials.  The result is a metallic coat that not only looks great, but strengthens the part at a fraction of the cost of other methods.  One thing to consider is that 3DCC’s process doesn’t work so well on parts with a waxy finish, like those seen at Moddler.  While it is still possible to metal plate these, it’s a time consuming process to remove the waxy top layer and sandfinish such complex structures.  The company suggests printing models using a higher end SLA material (Stereolithography) to achieve the best results – since the metal coat doesn’t hide any imperfections (print lines).

Another option would be to print a model and have a foundry create a casting.  One of Shapeways’ customers offers casting services via Union Steam Models – just finish the printed part to your liking and ship it to them to have a bronze casting made.  Finally, if you’re just looking for a metallic look to your part, a company called Offload Studios provides a variety of faux-metal finishes.  I’m still considering my options, but I thought that some of you who print parts for robots might be interested in the sleek metallic finish 3DCC can offer.  It would certainly look pretty awesome on a robot!

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