Electroplating in Photopolymer Resin 3D Printing and Vat Photopolymerization

Electroplating is a process that can significantly enhance the properties of 3D printed parts made from photopolymer resins. This report provides an analysis of selected sources that contribute valuable insights into the role of electroplating in the context of stereolithography, vat photopolymerization, and polymer additive manufacturing. Each source is evaluated for its relevance, reliability, and significance to the research question.

Additive Manufacturing Media - Possibilities from Electroplating 3D Printed Plastic Parts

Relevance: This source provides a comprehensive overview of the applications and benefits of electroplating on 3D printed plastic parts. It emphasizes the functional enhancements that electroplating brings to polymer parts, such as improved strength, conductivity, and resistance to abrasion.

Reliability: The information is provided by Additive Manufacturing Media, a reputable publication in the field of additive manufacturing. The insights from Sean Wise, president of RePliForm, a company specializing in electroplating, lend credibility to the content.

Significance: The article discusses “structural electroplating,” a process that reinforces 3D printed parts to the point where their strength is comparable to metal prints. This is particularly significant for industries that require robust parts but wish to leverage the geometric capabilities of polymer 3D printing.

Key Points:

  • Electroplating can enhance the strength of polymer parts to levels similar to metal prints.
  • The process allows for the combination of complex geometries with metal-like properties.
  • Electroplating is compatible with most printable resins due to its low-temperature aqueous bath.

3D Adept - What's Electroplating and When Should We Use It for 3D Printed Parts?

Relevance: This source discusses the compatibility of various 3D printing technologies with electroplating. It highlights the challenges associated with different printing methods, such as the porosity of parts and surface roughness, which are critical factors in the success of electroplating.

Reliability: 3D Adept is a specialized media platform focused on 3D printing, providing industry-specific knowledge. The technical details presented are consistent with known challenges in the field.

Significance: Understanding the nuances of how different 3D printing technologies affect the electroplating process is crucial for researchers and practitioners. This source is valuable for identifying the pre-treatment steps necessary for successful electroplating.

Key Points:

  • Photopolymer parts are the easiest to plate but require thorough cleaning and curing.
  • Fused deposition modeling (FDM) presents challenges due to porosity and requires sealing before plating.
  • The surface preparation process for electroplating is extensive and includes multiple steps.

Frontiers in Materials - Vat-Photopolymerization of Ceramic Materials

Relevance: While this source focuses on vat-photopolymerization for ceramic materials, it provides a detailed understanding of the vat-photopolymerization process. This knowledge is applicable when considering the electroplating of photopolymer resin parts, as the underlying 3D printing technology is similar.

Reliability: Published in a peer-reviewed journal, this article offers a scholarly perspective on the subject. The information is research-based and contributes to academic discourse in the field.

Significance: The source is significant for understanding the intricacies of vat-photopolymerization, which is foundational knowledge when exploring the potential of electroplating in this context.

Key Points:

  • Vat-photopolymerization is known for high-quality surface finishing and resolution.
  • The process is attributed to Charles Hull and involves photoinduced polymerization of liquid resins.
  • Understanding the vat-photopolymerization process is essential for exploring its combination with electroplating.

ScienceDirect - Vat Photopolymerization with Functional Materials

Relevance: This source expands on the use of vat photopolymerization beyond rapid prototyping to include the printing of functional materials. It touches on the development of photopolymerizable functional resins and their curing mechanisms, which are relevant when considering the electroplating of such materials.

Reliability: ScienceDirect is a leading platform for peer-reviewed literature. The content is based on scientific research and provides a reliable account of advancements in the field.

Significance: The article is significant for understanding how vat photopolymerization has evolved to create functional materials, which may be further enhanced through electroplating.

Key Points:

  • Vat photopolymerization is not limited to prototyping; it has applications in creating functional materials.
  • The development of new resins and curing mechanisms is ongoing, which may influence electroplating techniques.
  • The precision and speed of vat photopolymerization make it a candidate for producing parts that could benefit from electroplating.

ScienceDirect - Challenges in Electroplating of Additive Manufactured ABS Plastics

Relevance: This source directly addresses the challenges of electroplating on 3D printed parts, specifically focusing on ABS plastics. It provides an in-depth look at the surface quality requirements for successful electroplating.

Reliability: The article is published in a peer-reviewed journal, ensuring that the research has been scrutinized by experts in the field. The methodologies and findings presented are scientifically sound.

Significance: The source is particularly significant for understanding the pre-treatment and surface quality challenges associated with electroplating 3D printed parts. It offers insights into achieving homogenous and well-adhering metal coatings.

Key Points:

  • Surface quality is critical for the success of electroplating on 3D printed plastics.
  • The additive manufacturing parameters, such as layer thickness and overlap, affect the electroplating outcome.
  • Pre-treatment steps, including leveling and sealing the surface, are identified as key challenges.

Additive Manufacturing Media - How Electroplating Works for Polymer 3D Printed Parts

Relevance: This source provides a practical overview of the electroplating process for polymer 3D printed parts, including design considerations and the benefits of electroplating.

Reliability: Additive Manufacturing Media is a trusted source within the industry, and the content is supported by examples from RePliForm’s work, adding real-world applicability to the information.

Significance: The source is significant for its practical guidance on designing for electroplating and understanding the workflow from part design through plating. It bridges the gap between theory and application.

Key Points:

  • Design for electroplating requires consideration for material addition and part cleanliness.
  • Electroplating can impart properties such as electrical conductivity and EMI shielding to polymer parts.
  • The process serves as an intermediate option between polymer and metal 3D printed parts.


The selected sources provide a multifaceted view of electroplating in the context of photopolymer resin 3D printing and vat photopolymerization. They offer insights into the technical challenges, process considerations, and functional benefits of electroplating on 3D printed parts. Researchers and practitioners in the field can rely on these sources to deepen their understanding of electroplating’s role in enhancing the properties of photopolymer-based 3D printed parts.