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3D Printed Chemically Resistant Masks for Electroplating MRO

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Conference Abstract: The aerospace industry performs a tremendous volume of electroplating. They use conformal anodes and masks to selectively deposit chromium, cadmium, and nickel where specific physical and surface properties are needed such as abrasion-resistant chrome over wear surfaces, cadmium on exterior surfaces that see corrosive environments, and electroformed nickel to restore part dimensions to drawing spec. The nature of work in an aerospace maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) plating shop demands the responsive capability to design and manufacture conformal anodes and masks to support new, variable, or sporadic workflows. Current methods for creating masks involve hand application of waxes and lacquers, or machining masks from blocks of CPVC. The process is labor intensive and expensive. Aerospace maintenance activities need a cost-effective, rapidly manufacturable, multi-use masking system for plating components. Additive manufacturing is the solution for manufacturing these masking fixtures but no 3D printable materials were identified that were tough enough, nonporous, electrically nonconductive, and resistant to the chemicals and temperatures encountered in an aerospace plating shop. Figure Engineering will discuss how additive manufacturing can be used to meet the challenges of aerospace masking applications based on our experience with MRO plating shop workloads. Part identification, chemical attack challenges, and design considerations will be reviewed and strategies to overcome them laid out. Formlabs will discuss how the Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing process is inherently well-suited toward making precise fitting, chemically and thermally stable materials, and how both material development and printing of novel AM polymers are more accessible than ever before. Modular, push-button, compact resin printing ecosystems enable shops and labs to readily adopt and implement 3DP technology at any scale, across multiple locations, with minimal operator training and a fast ROI.