The 3DPlate project started at August 2020 and has a duration of 30 months. The workplan is divided into four technical phases, while activities related to the wide dissemination and exploitation of the results are also projected.
- Phase 1
The first phase of the project includes the acquisition of know-how and experience in 3D modelling using mainly the Rhino CAD software as well as other open software. The aim is to be able to design various type of objects, starting from simple structures and moving to more complex objects (e.g. jewelries, artifacts) based on the descriptions provided by the customers This will be achieved through the company’s personnel training in the Rhino 3D software, as well as the company’s participation in related seminars and conferences. The target of the first phase is to be able to model complex object by month 12 of the project.
- Phase 2
3D Printing is a process for making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model (CAD representation), typically by building up parts, additively, in layers at the sub mm scale. The most fundamental differentiating principle, behind 3D printing, is that it is an additive manufacturing process. The main differences between processes are in the way layers are deposited to create parts and in the materials that are used.
Thus, the second phase of the project focuses on the 3D printing, using both FFF and SLA technologies, and the post-curing treatment of the printed parts. For example, many SLA 3D printed objects need to be cleaned and cured. Curing involves subjecting the part to intense light in an oven-like machine to fully harden the resin.
- Phase 3
The third phase includes the core research activities of the project as it is directly connected with the activation of the polymeric surfaces and preparation for the metallization phase. Electroplating of surfaces made of non-conductive materials can be carried out after a specific pre-treatment process for the activation of the treated surface. Cnano, based to its extensive experience in surface treatment processes, a suitable low-cost and environmentally friendly process will be developed allowing the deposition of a conductive material on the surface of the 3D printed object. This will include steps such as cleaning of residues and impurities, morphological activation of the surface targeting in enhancing the adhesion of the final coating and final chemical activation. This activation aims to provide the necessary conductivity of the surface that will allow the electrochemical deposition of metals. In parallel to this technology, the company will also investigate other alternative routes for making the surface of the 3D printed objects conductive.
- Phase 4
The last phase of the project focuses on the electroplating process and the fabrication of the final product. The range of metallic coatings for decorative purposes is wide and the possibilities are endless. Within the context of the project, objects will be plated based on the client’s desire and the advice of the artists with whom the company collaborates. Particular attention will be taken to avoid the use of allergenic metals, such as pure Ni, while materials such as precious metals (Au, Ag, Cu) and anti-allergic nickel alloys (Ni-P, Ni-Sn) will be employed.
As we have already mentioned, one of the objectives, within 3DPlate project, is the utilization of company’s experience on electroplating procedures in order to establish practical anti-COVID solutions through the usage of photocatalytic and copper-based coatings on surfaces.
Evaluation of the final products will be performed, providing information to the R&D team in order to intervene and increase the quality of the coatings if necessary. This will be realized by appropriate modifications in the chemistry of the electrolytic solutions, by addition of special compounds that can increase and optimize the quality of the coatings. The baths’ maintenance and long-life operation will be taken under consideration having in mind the sustainability of the process.
Based on operational plating procedures that are followed within the company all necessary safety measures are taken. The assessment of the coatings will be performed by utilization of Optical Microscopy to identify the surface morphology of the final products. The corrosion resistance will be evaluated by employment of electrochemical methods such as linear polarization. The adhesion on the interface between the 3D printed object and the coating, and on the coating itself, by application of a pull-off adhesion tester will be investigated.