3D Printing Speeds Up Vacuum Metallizing

Plastic-Metals Technologies, Inc’s (PMT) shielding solutions are a specialized service—the fabrication of custom electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI) shields. This type of shielding is often necessary for electronics or electronic devices that would otherwise suffer from crosstalk or interference as a result of electromagnetic or radio signals from other components within the assembly or other devices used nearby.



A specialty 3D-printed part, with pre-metallization on the left and post-metallization on the right.



Unlike electroplating, which can often be messy, potentially hazardous, and inexact, PMT’s proprietary vacuum metallizing service allows for precise application of copper and aluminum to prevent EMI and RFI. In order to ensure the metals are only applied to the proper portion, PMT masks the parts as they are applied to the metallizing rig. In some cases, simple squares of silicone are sufficient, but, with more sophisticated parts, PMT needs to have masks laser cut by a third party, a cost that has totaled roughly $30,000 so far this year. For one customer, Raugust pointed out that he shields about 90 parts at a time on a single rig. With a customer for whom he shields 1,000 parts a day, he needs to have six rigs, adding up to about 540 individual masks. For this reason, PMT has decided to 3D print custom masks in house.

In PMT’s search to find the right 3D printing platform, the dominant brand of fused filament fabrication printer (FFF) was too expensive to bring in house. Raugust, however, discovered a new generation of FFF 3D printers beginning to emerge that offered the quality expected from professional systems, but without the costs associated with the machines and materials.

His choice? The A2.


…PMT found the cost per part, quality of the parts, and overall price to be extremely attractive. Factoring in the annual costs of the printer, maintenance, and all the materials, PMT estimated the cost of 3D printing with the A2 to be 50 percent less than turning to a third-party laser cutting service and much less than many 3D printing service bureaus.


Read the full article here.


Thanks to engineering.com for the feature!