Electroforming:
a tremendously accurate additive process

How does electroforming work?

A cleaned mandrel is coated with a photo sensitive material to UV light ?. The image of the part to manufacture is transferred by insolation on the mandrel through a photo-tool as a mask ? ?. During the development of the image, the non-exposed areas to be plated are removed ?. The electrodeposition of metal atoms on the matrix is made by electrolysis to build the parts ?. Separation from the mandrel of the electroformed product completes the manufacturing process ?.

With electroforming unrivalled accuracy can be achieved: close-tolerance of +/- 3 µm with 3 up to 80 µm thickness. It enables to achieve openings narrower than electrodeposition's thickness. For optical applications, we can offer deep black surface treatment on one or both sides of the product.

Exemple 1 découpe chimique
Optical sight
Thickness 50µm
Fence 60µm
One side black
surface treatment
  
Exemple 2 découpe chimique
Optical grid
Thickness 25µm
Dam 90µm
Aperture 110µm
One side black
surface treatment
Exemple 3 découpe chimique
Evaporating mask
Thickness 30µm
Dam 100µm
Exemple 4 découpe chimique
Optical encoder
Thickness 15µm
Dam 70µm

How does electroforming work?

  • An additive process enables to build the part atom-by-atom which ensures unrivalled micrometric accuracy.
  • Compatible with extreme complex shape, very narrow dam and very small opening.
  • A unique technology that guarantees burrs and stress free, no break point and no heat-affected zone (HAZ).
  • Low tooling cost.
  • High flexibility in case of design modification.
  • Short manufacturing time.
  • A process available for nickel or copper materials and compatible with an optical black surface treatment.

What are the advantages of electroforming compared to alternative processes?

Electroforming and chemical etching compete with alternative cutting processes: laser cutting, stamping, wire EDM and water jet cutting. Some processes are suitable for very thin metal strips and some others for thick metal sheets. Some are best suited for mass production and some for samples or medium quantities. The cutting quality and accuracy depend on the selected process.

Filter
Thickness 30µm
Dam 100µm
Aperture 400µm
Optical fence
Thickness 110µm
Fence 100µm
Both sides black surface treatment

Electroforming is characterized by an unrivalled accuracy. No other process offers the same high performance: very complex shapes, perfect cutting quality, extreme narrow dams and very small openings.

Quantities Electroforming Laser cutting Stamping Wire EDM Water jet cutting Photo etching
Samples or small quantities
VERY SUITABLE
VERY SUITABLE
NOT ADEQUATE TOO EXPENSIVE
ADEQUATE BUT
DEPENDS ON THE NUMBER
OF OPENING
VERY SUITABLE
VERY SUITABLE
Medium quantities
VERY SUITABLE
ADEQUATE
NOT ADEQUATE TOO EXPENSIVE
ADEQUATE BUT
DEPENDS ON THE NUMBER
OF OPENING
ADEQUATE
VERY SUITABLE
Big quantities
ADEQUATE
NOT ADEQUATE TOO SLOW
VERY SUITABLE
NOT ADEQUATE TOO SLOW
NOT ADEQUATE TOO SLOW
ADEQUATE
Material Electroforming Laser cutting Stamping Wire EDM Water jet cutting Photo etching
Compatibility with thin material
YES
NO
YES
NO
NO
YES
Compatibility with thick material
NO
YES
YES
YES
YES
MEDIUM
Hardness of material
ONLY
NICKEL AND COPPER
COMPATIBLE
NOT ALWAYS
COMPATIBLE
NOT ALWAYS
COMPATIBLE
NOT ALWAYS
COMPATIBLE
COMPATIBLE
Cutting quality Electroforming Laser cutting Stamping Wire EDM Water jet cutting Photo etching
Burrs
NONE
WITH
WITH
WITH
WITH
NONE
Stress and breaking point
NONE
NONE
WITH
MEDIUM
MEDIUM
NONE
Heat-affected zone (HAZ)
NONE
WITH
NONE
WITH
NONE
NONE
Accuracy and flexibility Electroforming Laser cutting Stamping Wire EDM Water jet cutting Photo etching
Average accuracy (% of the thickness)
+/- 5%
+/- 5%
+/- 10%
+/- 10%
+/- 25%
+/- 10%
Narrow dams
VERY SUITABLE
NOT ADEQUATE TOO SLOW
NOT ADEQUATE TOO SLOW
NOT ADEQUATE TOO SLOW
SUITABLE
VERY SUITABLE
Design changes
EASY
EASY
EXPENSIVE
AND TIME CONSUMING
EASY
EASY
EASY