Apr. 21, 2015 | By Alec

While it’s been expected for a long time, the Orbit1 electroplater is now finally ready for business. Since being unveiled at the Maker Faire in New York last September, this interesting desktop electroplating machine has been eagerly awaited by many in the 3D printing community as an ideal tool for affordably transforming regular 3D printed objects into valuable metal pieces of art, jewelry and even conductive parts for electronic creations. But that wait is now finally over, as Monolith Studios has just launched its Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to bring their machine to the masses.

The excitement the Orbit 1 created with its sneak peak in 2014, was quite understandable. While several portions of the machine were still wrapped in mystery, this electroplating machine seemed to be a perfect addition to any desktop-based (and therefore financially limited) manufacturing space. The prototype shown was capable of wrapping ABS plastic objects (and other 3D printing materials) in up to an impressive four different metals: copper, nickel, lead and gold. Key is a desktop-version of  the typical electroplating process used in a large scale on lots of household objects such as knives and forks: the objects are placed in an electrolytic bath filled with a metal solution (if you’re looking to coat something in copper, it will be a copper sulfate solution), along with a piece of metal (copper). Through electrolysis, the metal particles then adhere themselves to the object, forming a great metal coating.

The Orbit 1 thus essentially has the power to turn 3D printed objects into metal creations without the need to invest in the crazily expensive metal 3D printers, and the public response is understandable. And now with the launch of their Kickstarter campaign, more is finally becoming known about its exact workings.

As the Taiwanese creators from Monolith explain, the Orbit1 works in just three simple steps. ‘First, clean and polish your object, next spray the conductive paint, then click start. Orbit1 will metallize your design, empowering you with the Midas touch from your tabletop. Orbit1 is a step forward in the 3D printing world,’ they explain. ‘Applicable to jewellery design, industrial design, rapid prototyping, mechanical parts, specialty electrical parts, molding/casting kits, and more. Make your own PCB right at home; create presentable jewellery models. With just one touch.’

The Monolith team

And the final product definitely looks about as good as was initially promised. The app-based operating system can be used on Android and iOS and takes just about all the work from your hands. All you need to do is clean and prepare the model (max size of 200 by 150 mmm) you’re looking to coat using a conductive spray, which will ensure that the metal particles properly adhere to the surface. This means that just about every type of object can be process with the Orbit1, though its designers are specifically marketing to the 3D printing community. Though you will need to find a way to heat this coated object to 60 degrees Celsius before attaching it to the Orbit1, the machine will essentially do the rest over a two hour process.

Timelapse of the Orbit1 in action.

This entire process will ensure that creating metal objects at home will be cheaper than ever – in fact, its developers estimate it will only cost $2 per gram (excluding machine costs). And while only copper and nickel are currently available for the Orbit1, successful funding will also be used to enable coating in gold, palladium and other materials. This means that the Orbit1 definitely has the potential to become a crucial manufacturing tool for jewelry designers everywhere.

Really we can only discover just one problem with the entire Orbit1 concept, and that is working with the toxic chemical solution used as a coating bath. For the plating solution needs to be replenished every three to six months to ensure successful use over time. To make that easier, Monolith will set up a solution recycling service in the US, China and Taiwan through which users can replenish the plating solutions used by the Orbit1. ‘The user who doesn’t return the used plating solution over a period of time may loss the validity of the Orbit1 account and the support from us, including the update of software and firmware. The machine may not be functional anymore,’ they write.

While full details of this process are not known (for instance, what costs are attached to this service?) it is great to see that the manufacturer will at least cover this portion of this delicate process as well. For, and they have included a big warning about this, the solution is definitely harmful to the environment: ‘Should you not reside in the three countries mentioned above, PLEASE NOTE: NEVER use your own plating solutions unless you have a holistic recycling method. In other words, NEVER dispose any plating solutions in a way that may harm the environment, i.e. go down the drain, near any soil, or cause any possible pollution to the environment. […] Please join us in protecting the earth as you electroplate away,’ they write.

While that practical side of this cool electroplating machine still needs to be fully worked out, it’s definitely understandable why the Orbit1 is doing so well. While the Kickstarter campaign to raise $200,000 has only just launched (closing date is 19 June), an impressive $42,000 has already been pledged to Monolith. It can therefore logically be expected that this campaign will succeed, so if you’re thinking about getting onboard – make up your mind! An Orbit1 can be yours for a pledge of as little as $1,999 for an early bird package. 



Posted in 3D Printer Accessories


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Pete wrote at 10/12/2017 3:10:07 PM:

Very nice. Whats the warranty?

randy@celcoatings.com wrote at 9/3/2015 3:01:49 AM:

Good Morning, We are keen to provide plating over 3D printed part. your process is quite interesting. Could you send us more information, prices and process. Can it be done on complicated shape and also to plate internally? Your feedback will be appreciated. My contact: Randy Lim randy@celcoatings.com

Oldfrog wrote at 4/24/2015 7:27:48 AM:

$2000? I guess they paid too much for app development. You can get a copper plating kit from caswell for $200. They also sell copper conductive paint for about $40. With the caswell kit and conductive paint you can plate anything from flowers to baby shoes.

manko wrote at 4/22/2015 7:25:58 AM:

I would not have even considered at 2K, but $1999 - definitely.

arsdmthe wrote at 4/21/2015 3:34:32 PM:

1999$ for electro-plating lolol

Moneyhoarder wrote at 4/21/2015 1:31:55 PM:

2K$?! Wow, thats quite a lot for the simple hardware that is actually needed to electroplate. It's not like this is in any way something new or exclusive, every multilayer circuit board goes at least once thru that "copper plating on non conductive surface" process to connect the vias, and usually they do nickel/gold or chemical tin coatings all day long too. The sentence saying that you will get kicked from the service if you don't follow the exact "rules" they force on you does leave a bad taste in my mouth. Why not just spray your plastic part with copper spray directly, instead of using another conductive spray that gets coated with copper? Anyway, good luck with that adventure...

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