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"What Shiny Coating to Use for 3-D Printed Aluminum Casting?"

May 21, 2018

Q. Hi

We have a piece of aluminium cast from a 3D print; as you would expect, the finish is a dull grey.

What would be the most efficient and effective treatment to obtain a shiny finish, say a Rose Gold?

Thank you

Mark Clarke
3D Designer - London, London, UK

May 2018

A. Hi Matt. Finishing/coating 3-D printed metals is still rather new to many of us in the finishing industry. We've had "Guidelines" for the design of parts to make them readily plateable/finishable for decades, but the 3-D printing and other rapid prototyping technologies of today are growing explosively, and involve many approaches such that the answer may depend on what metal forming methods were used …

My limited understanding of 3-D printed metals tells me that they tend to be porous … they may be made of mixed materials (some kind of binders as well as the aluminum?) … and the curing may involve heat that oxidizes the surface and makes it difficult to plate or coat.

If there is no special reason to want a metallic coating (electroplating), I think organic coatings (electrophoretic lacquer, powder coating, or paint) will be more practical. You could do electrophoretic lacquer (electrocoating) and a "rose gold" tinted post dip. Even then some extra prep, pre-baking for outgassing, etc., may be required beyond what is usually used for conventionally built components. Good luck.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
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