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topic 59184

Making hand tools from metal coated 3D printed plastic

March 3, 2013

affil. link
"How to Make Money with 3-D Printing"
by Jeffrey Ito
from Abe Books

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3-D Printer

Q. Hi.

Making hand tools from metal coated 3D printed plastic? I am working on a small run of tools and am wondering if I use an industrial chrome or nickel finish on a softer material, such as aluminum or plastic, will it be similar to making the part from a better grade of steel? For example, could I make a closed end wrench or socket wrench out of aluminum, ABS, PC, or ULTEM and then have them finished with chrome, nickel or other material? Will they last, somewhat comparably, as long as normal tools? The torques that will be put on the wrenches are not incredibly large but I still need them to hold up just as well as steel wrenches. The main benefit I see from using these materials is weight reduction but I am specifically worried about strength, toughness and wear of the parts if they are plastic. I am asking about plastics because I have access to 3D printers that can makes the parts out of those materials and it would be easy if I could just plate them and turn them into an end-use product.

Thank you

Jason Chavez
- Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

March 4, 2013

A. Hi Jason. Although 3D printing is new, plastics have been around for many decades, and plated plastics have usually been cheaper than metal for almost the same period. Yet we've had no plastic sockets because they don't work.

I think many things can be built from 3D printed plastics with metal electroplating or electroforming on top of them (ABS would probably be best), but sockets and wrenches aren't on the list. Good luck.


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