July 7, 2015 | By Alec

While the cost of 3D printing has been steadily decreasing over the past few years, this trend is almost entirely tied to FDM 3D printing. Desktop metal 3D printing, one of the few ‘holy grails’ of the industry, is still largely unaffordable. While a number of initatives have been launched in recent months to solve this ‘problem’, an easy solution might have already been launched in Italy. For Italian 3D printer manufacturers Robot Factory has just launched the Copperface kit, a low-cost option which will easily enable home users to coat plastic or resin 3D printed parts in metal. Could this be taking metal making into the hands of ordinary users?

As Andrea Martini, the director of Robot Factory explains to 3ders.org, they have bee studying low-cost options for the metallization of non-conductive materials (specifically those 3D printed in plastics or resins) for a while now. Not only, he says, will this offer users a wider range of aesthetic creative options, it will also add a nubmer of functional requirements to your prints; just think about protecting surfaces from abrasion or weather conditions. And a few weeks ago, the fruits of that hard work were launched: the CopperFace Kit, enabling the metalization of plastics through a small galvanic system made in Italy.

As the director explains, the galvanization process is relatively simple. ‘To galvanize something means to deposit particles by electrolysis, creating a thin layer of metal over an object (which is also normally metallic). However, it is also possible to metallize the plastic materials, by first making them conductive,’ he tells us. This process of ‘metallization’ with the CopperFace system is particularly simple for users, and can work with copper, nickel, and even silver, gold, and more. Once the plastic materials have been made conductive – through the use of an appropriate spray that forms an uniform smoothed layer of conductive material such as graphite or silver – you can start the  electrodeposition treatment process.

This electrolytic phase is no different from that you would use on metal parts. It revolves around an acid solution with metal salts and a constant current power supply, with the potential difference that is generated inside the glass tank between the cathode (object) and the anode determining the deposition of the metal on the surface of immersed model. By attacing a copper wire to the object suspended in the bath (and that wire to a power supply), you can start the galvanic phases with several metal like as rhodium, nickel, chromium, silver, gold and so on. With the Copperface, approximately 1 µm is deposited every 2 minutes, ad upon completion the part only needs to be washed in water and gently dried.

As you can imagine, the possible applications are manifold. In the context of jewellery, CopperFace can be used to create low cost pieces without involving an lengthy an expensive casting process. Perfect, in short, for the bijouterie industry, but also for high end manufacturers for inexpensive photo shoots and display models. In the model-making area, instead, CopperFace can be easily used for making small functional particulars of a large variety of metal parts.

Of course, a few electrolytic sets specifically marketed at 3D printing enthusiasts already exist, but few are as affordable as the Copperface (€450 excluding taxes and shipping, or just south of $500). And for that price, you not only get the complete set (including magnetic stirrer, bath, spray, the copper parts and acid solution and power supply), but also a detailed instruction CD complete with software and everything you need to get started. If you’re interested, be sure to make up your mind quickly, as this introductory price is set to go up in September 2015. For more ordering info, go to the Robot Factory website here.

Technical Specifications:

Dimension stirrer

155 x 153 x 290 mm (Lunghezza, Larghezza, Altezza)

Dimension power supply

205 x 85 x 160 mm (Lunghezza, Larghezza, Altezza)

Glass tank capacity

1000 ml

Stirring power supply

5V – 500 mA (positive pole on center)

Stirring power

110-240 V 47-63 Hz  - 150 mA (wall mount)

Power supply

220 – 240 V 50 – 60 Hz

Declaration of EC conformity



1 (one) year


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Craig wrote at 7/9/2015 12:21:39 PM:

I highly recommend they change their name if they want to get in the U.S. market. We have a 3D printer named "The CopperHead". Too close to our name in the same industry.

Craig Billings wrote at 7/7/2015 6:02:23 PM:

WHOA WHOA!!! We already have a 3D printer named "The Copperhead" and has been in production for over 1 year. Too close fellas. I will contact you.

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