what is Electroforming

Learn everything about the technique, types and benefits of Electroforming

introduction

electroforming depositionElectroforming is a method used to form metal parts with high precision, similar to processes like electroplating and electrorefining. This method allows for the creation of metal parts with detailed designs and unmatched accuracy, by building them up atom by atom. It can achieve precision down to 1 to 2 microns, which is more precise than many other manufacturing technologies.

Unlike traditional methods such as casting, stamping, deep drawing, or forging, Electroforming can deliver mass volume at superior accuracy and extreme design complexity, since it can replicate the shape of the mandrel at extreme accuracy.

Veco Precision is the leading company in the electroforming industry, operating the largest production facility in the world. We specialize in Advanced Lithographic Electroforming, primarily using materials like nickel, but also palladium nickel or copper as needed to meet specific requirements. We are proud to push the industry forward with our extensive experience and advanced knowledge in electroforming and related technologies. Explore the cutting-edge electroforming solutions and find out more about how we can meet your specific needs with our range of materials.

from traditional Electroforming to Advanced Lithographic Electroforming

Photolithography refers to the process where a geometric design pattern is projected to a photosensitive resist on a substrate by the means of light. Traditionally, this is done by placing a mask on the photoresist layer and exposing light to the entire mask. Laser Direct Imaging is the next step in the evolution of the Photolithography technology. 

As the world leader in Electroforming technology, Veco is the first in the industry to apply advanced Laser Direct Imaging technology in high precision metal parts manufacturing. The combination of LDI and our leading Electroforming technology has enabled us to further push the boundaries of the industry with our Advanced Lithographic Electroforming, providing our customer with high precision metal components in higher quality, at lower cost, and with quicker turnaround.

higher quality

lower costs

quicker turnaround

Higher resolution (between 25.400 and 63.500 dpi) is possible with LDI, which is beyond traditional film quality and can potentially replace glass masks.

Moreover, In case of multi-layer electroforming, the second/additional layer needs to be perfectly aligned. Doing this manually is inaccurate and time consuming. With the Laser Direct Imager, perfect alignment can be done automatically and efficiently.

Laser Direct Imaging (LDI) is a maskless photolithography technology. Compared to the conventional way that needs a mask for exposure, using the maskless photolithography process means reduction of the costs of glass masks. One such mask costs around 5000 dollar.

In product development and prototyping , it is common to have corrections or different versions of product designs, which means more masks will be required, and more costs involved.

The elimination of traditional masks in the procedure not only reduces tooling costs, but also reduces lead time.

Production of one mask needed takes up to a week, and when there’s corrections the procedure needs to be repeated again. With maskless LDI, on the contrary, corrections can be processed immediately in the next exposure. The LDI is capable of projecting high resolution images directly from a CAD file, thus allows fast and easy adjustments to be done to new photoresists.

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Electroforming key features

conical hole shape

unique hole configuration

besides straight holes, it is also possible to achieve special bell mouth hole shape

thickness range

thickness range 5 – 1200 micron

feature size

feature size down to 2 micron

tight tolerance

tight tolerance down to +- 1 micron

design flexibility

complex shapes and design configurations with different materials

3D structures

complex 3D structures can be achieved by growing additional layers in different directions

high quality

burr-free, stress-free components with ultra smooth surface and clear edges

cost efficiency

highly cost efficient from prototyping to industrial scale mass production

benefits of Electroforming

Electroforming minimizes initial investment in equipment, rendering it cost-effective for both prototyping and mass production. It permits the simultaneous development of numerous high-tolerance parts, reducing lead times and production costs, in contrast to other fabrication methods like laser cutting or milling which handle pieces individually.

Electroforming stands out for its precise duplicability and reproducibility, allowing for exact replications of the mandrel and facilitating high-quality production with very high repeatability. This technology is especially relevant when numerous high-tolerance metal pieces are needed, providing high-precision replication cost-effectively in large volumes.

Electroforming, coupled with advanced lithography, satisfies the growing demand for high-precision metal parts required due to the trend of miniaturization, producing components at micron or submicron level with unparalleled accuracy. It fulfills needs unmet by conventional techniques like laser cutting or stamping.

Electroforming enables the production of high-precision components directly from CAD design files without substantial investment. It serves as a one-stop solution from prototyping to industrial production, fostering a flexible and experimental approach to product design and development.

Electroforming is time-efficient compared to other manufacturing technologies, enabling the realization of components within a significantly shorter timeframe. Components can usually be created and delivered within three weeks, depending on project complexity and procedures.

Electroforming facilitates the production of multi-layer structures by repeating the deposition process, offering enhanced durability and versatility in creating complex precision metal solutions. This is especially crucial for industries requiring delicate and intricate designs.

Electroforming guarantees straight side walls with no burr or stress. This is beneficial where precision is critical, overcoming the limitations of other methods like traditional laser processing that can produce rough edges due to heat influence.

Electroforming allows the creation of components with unique conical hole shapes beneficial for high-performance filtration sieves and various industrial applications, including medical, ensuring longer, more efficient use. For instance, it is vital in our state-of-the-art nebulizer, creating a fine mist for precise lung delivery.

Electroforming provides the flexibility to alter material properties. When needed, coatings like palladium or gold can be applied for special applications requiring high corrosive resistance or bio-compatibility.

Curious about the advantages and disadvantages compared to other techniques? Visit our Electroforming vs. other techniques page and discover the best solution for your project!

the Electroforming process

Veco’s Advanced Electroforming process is a unique combination of unparalleled industry experience of Electroforming, advanced lithography technology, and accumulated knowledge of metallurgy. It comprises 6 steps.

1) Cleaning

A mandrel (metal sheet substrate) is cleaned and degreased.

2) Coating

The cleaned mandrel is then coated with a light-sensitive photoresist.

3) Exposing

The photoresist covered mandrel is then exposed to ultra-violet light for creating the product images in the photoresist.

4) Developing

After the image is transferred by UV exposure the mandrel is developed, rinsed and dried.

5) Deposition

An electrolytic bath is used to deposit metal onto the patterned surface.

6) Harvesting

The electroformed part can be harvested from the mandrel, once the material is plated in the desired thickness.

7) Inspection

Dimensional and visual inspection by dedicated equipment and experts.

Electroforming techniques

Veco guarantees the highest quality

To always provide our customers with the best quality, Veco has been certified with the latest version of the ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001.

Electroforming solutions for various industries

We are proud to serve the world’s most innovative, high-tech companies in a diverse range of industries from -medical and automotive to food and beverage to aerospace- that demand high quality and precision.

aerospace

automotive

electronics

filtration

industrial automation

digital printing

medical

renewable energy

got ideas, questions or just want to learn more about electroforming? talk to one of our engineers and learn more about Electroforming