ELECTROFORMING SYSTEM AND METHOD
1. An electroforming reservoir, comprising:
- a housing defining a fluid passage;
an electroforming chamber within the housing and fluidly coupled to the fluid passage via a set of apertures in at least one wall of the electroforming chamber; and
anodes located within the electroforming chamber.
An electroforming system and method for electroforming a component includes an electroforming reservoir with a housing defining a fluid passage. An electroforming chamber can be located within the housing and fluidly coupled to the fluid passage via a set of apertures in at least one wall of the electroforming chamber.
- 1. An electroforming reservoir, comprising:
a housing defining a fluid passage; an electroforming chamber within the housing and fluidly coupled to the fluid passage via a set of apertures in at least one wall of the electroforming chamber; and anodes located within the electroforming chamber.
- View Dependent Claims (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
- 11. A system for electroforming a component, comprising:
a dissolution reservoir containing an electrolytic fluid and a first anode; a power source electrically coupled to the first anode; and an electroforming reservoir, comprising; a housing defining a fluid passage fluidly coupled to the dissolution reservoir; at least one second anode located within the electroforming chamber.
- View Dependent Claims (12, 13, 14, 15)
- 16. A method of electroforming a component, the method comprising:
supplying an electrolyte solution to a fluid passage in an electroforming reservoir; flowing the electrolyte solution from the fluid passage through a set of apertures to an electroforming chamber having a workpiece and at least one anode; and forming a metal layer on the workpiece to define an electroformed component.
- View Dependent Claims (17, 18, 19, 20)
An electroforming process can create, generate, or otherwise form a metallic layer of a desired component. In one example of the electroforming process, a mold or base for the desired component can be submerged in an electrolytic liquid and electrically charged. The electric charge of the mold or base can attract an oppositely-charged electroforming material through the electrolytic solution. The attraction of the electroforming material to the mold or base ultimately deposits the electroforming material on the exposed surfaces mold or base, creating an external metallic layer.
In one aspect, the disclosure relates to an electroforming reservoir. The electroforming reservoir includes a housing defining a fluid passage, an electroforming chamber within the housing and fluidly coupled to the fluid passage via a set of apertures in at least one wall of the electroforming chamber, and at least one anode located within the electroforming chamber.
In another aspect, the disclosure relates to a system for electroforming a component. The system includes a dissolution reservoir containing an electrolytic fluid and a first anode, a power source electrically coupled to the first anode, and an electroforming reservoir. The electroforming reservoir includes a housing defining a fluid passage fluidly coupled to the dissolution reservoir, an electroforming chamber within the housing and fluidly coupled to the fluid passage via a set of apertures in at least one wall of the electroforming chamber, and at least one second anode located within the electroforming chamber.
In yet another aspect, the disclosure relates to a method of electroforming a component. The method includes supplying an electrolyte solution to a fluid passage in an electroforming reservoir, flowing the electrolyte solution from the fluid passage through a set of apertures to an electroforming chamber having a workpiece and at least one anode, and forming a metal layer on the workpiece to define an electroformed component.
In the drawings:
Aspects of the present disclosure are directed to a system and method for electroforming a component. It will be understood that the disclosure can have general applicability in a variety of applications, including that the electroformed component can be utilized in any suitable mobile and non-mobile industrial, commercial, and residential applications.
As used herein, an element described as “conformable” will refer to that element having the ability to be positioned or formed with varying geometric profiles that match or otherwise are similar or conform to another piece. This can include that the element can be conformable strips or moldable elements. In addition, as used herein, “non-sacrificial anode” will refer to an inert or insoluble anode that does not dissolve in electrolytic fluid when supplied with current from a power source, while “sacrificial anode” will refer to an active or soluble anode that can dissolve in electrolytic fluid when supplied with current from a power source. Non-limiting examples of non-sacrificial anode materials can include titanium, gold, silver, platinum, and rhodium. Non-limiting examples of sacrificial anode materials can include nickel, cobalt, copper, iron, tungsten, zinc, and lead. It will be understood that various alloys of the metals listed above may be utilized as sacrificial or non-sacrificial anodes.
All directional references (e.g., radial, axial, proximal, distal, upper, lower, upward, downward, left, right, lateral, front, back, top, bottom, above, below, vertical, horizontal, clockwise, counterclockwise, upstream, downstream, aft, etc.) are only used for identification purposes to aid the reader'"'"'s understanding of the present disclosure, and do not create limitations, particularly as to the position, orientation, or use of the disclosure. Connection references (e.g., attached, coupled, connected, and joined) are to be construed broadly and can include intermediate members between a collection of elements and relative movement between elements unless otherwise indicated. As such, connection references do not necessarily infer that two elements are directly connected and in fixed relation to one another. In addition, as used herein “a set” can include any number of the respectively described elements, including only one element.
The exemplary drawings are for purposes of illustration only and the dimensions, positions, order, and relative sizes reflected in the drawings attached hereto can vary.
A prior art electroforming process is illustrated by way of an electrodeposition bath in
A prior art bath tank 1 carries a single metal constituent solution 2 having alloying metal ions. A soluble anode 3 spaced from a cathode 4 is provided in the bath tank 1. A component to be electroformed can form the cathode 4.
A controller 5, which can include a power supply, can electrically couple to the soluble anode 3 and the cathode 4 by electrical conduits 6 to form a circuit via the conductive single metal constituent solution 2. Optionally, a switch 7 or sub-controller can be included along the electrical conduits 6 between the controller 5, soluble anode 3, and cathode 4. During operation, a current can be supplied from the soluble anode 3 to the cathode 4 to electroform a body at the cathode 4. Supply of the current can cause metal ions from the single metal constituent solution 2 to form a metallic layer over the component at the cathode 4.
In a conventional electroplating process, the soluble anode 3 changes the shape as it dissolves, resulting in variations in the electric field between the soluble anode 3 and the cathode 4. Variations in the shape of the soluble anode 3 result in variations in the thickness of the deposited layer resulting in non-uniform thickness. Also, when the soluble anodes dissolves, particulates are released to the electrolyte. These particulates matter contaminate the cathodic surface for electrodeposition, resulting in non-uniform deposition. While not specifically illustrated, the prior art bath tank 1 can include the conventional technique of reducing particulate contamination from the soluble anode 3 by containing the soluble anode 3 in a porous anode bag. Even though the anode bag prevents large size contaminants being released into the plating solution, it fails to prevent smaller sized particulates from entering the plating solution and contaminating the cathodic plating surface. This results in a non-uniform deposition. Aspects of the present disclosure relate to a conformable non sacrificial anode system where the anode dissolution and the electroforming occurs in separate tanks. The chance of particulates being liberated at the anode dissolution tank reaching the cathode located at the electroforming tank is minimized.
The power source 20 can also include a controller module to control the flow of current through the electrical conduits 22; alternately, a separate controller may be provided and electrically coupled to the power source 20. In addition, a switch 28 can be provided between the sacrificial anode 18 and power source 20.
An electroforming reservoir 30 electrically coupled to the power source 20 can be included in the system 10. The electroforming reservoir 30 can also be fluidly coupled to the dissolution reservoir 14 by way of an inlet conduit 36 and a drain conduit 38. The electroforming reservoir 30 can be metallic or polymeric and can be formed by any suitable process, including machining or injection molding. The electroforming reservoir 30 can include at least one inlet 40 fluidly coupled to the inlet conduit 36 and at least one outlet 42 fluidly coupled to the drain conduit 38. The electroforming reservoir 30 can include a housing 50 (
A recirculation circuit 44 can be defined between the dissolution reservoir 14 and the electroforming reservoir 30, wherein electrolytic fluid 16 can flow from the dissolution reservoir 14 through the inlet conduit 36, flow through the electroforming reservoir 30, and flow through the drain conduit 38 back into the dissolution reservoir 14. Optionally, a pump 46 can be fluidly coupled to the recirculation circuit 44 and is schematically illustrated as being positioned along the drain conduit 38 although this need not be the case. The pump 46 can be utilized at any suitable position in the recirculation circuit 44 including at the inlet side of the electroforming reservoir; alternately, multiple pumps 46 can be utilized. In this manner, electrolytic fluid 16 can be supplied from the dissolution reservoir 14 to the electroforming reservoir 30. The electrolytic fluid 16 can be continuously supplied from the dissolution reservoir 14. This can include electrolytic fluid 16 being supplied in discrete portions at regular or irregular time intervals as desired. For example, the pump 46 can be instructed to supply a predetermined volume of electrolytic fluid (e.g. 2.0 liters) to the electroforming reservoir 30 at predetermined time intervals (e.g. every 35 minutes).
The electroforming chamber 70 can be defined by an interior wall 64 within the housing 50. The electroforming chamber 70 is configured to accommodate an exemplary workpiece 72 which is shown as including a bracket 73 coupled to a mandrel 74. A pedestal 76 can be located within the electroforming chamber 70 and configured to receive the workpiece 72 in a predetermined position within the electroforming chamber 70. In the illustrated example, the mandrel 74 can be positioned upon the pedestal 76 such that electrolytic fluid (
At least one conformable non-sacrificial anode 34 can be located about at least a portion of a periphery 78 of the workpiece 72. The conformable anode has been illustrated as a plurality of conformable non-sacrificial anodes 34 coupled to the interior wall 64 of the electroforming chamber 70. The conformable non-sacrificial anodes 34 can include any suitable metallic material including titanium strips that can be formed to have the same shape or geometric profile as the workpiece 72 or the interior wall 64.
A metal layer 80 is shown deposited onto the workpiece 72 to define the electroformed component 12. The metal layer 80 can have a layer thickness that can be tailored based on the apertures 66 directing the flow of electrolytic fluid 16 around the workpiece 72, as well as a spacing distance between the conformable anode 34 and the workpiece 72. In a non-limiting example the metal layer 80 can have a constant layer thickness; in another example, the metal layer 80 can have a variable thickness on different portions of the electroformed component 12.
In operation, the power source 20 supplies current from the sacrificial anode 18 which causes metal ions to enter the electrolytic fluid 16. The electrolytic fluid 16 flows from the dissolution reservoir 14 (
Aspects of the present disclosure provide for a variety of benefits including that locating a sacrificial anode in a separate tank or reservoir from the cathode can greatly reduce the chance of particulate matter reaching the cathode in the separate electroforming reservoir and therefore reduce any undesired irregularities in the electroformed component. Another advantage is that the set of apertures in the electroforming reservoir can be utilized to provide a variety of “throw angles” or impingement angles of the electrolyte solution on the workpiece. Such tailoring of throw angles can improves the coverage of electrolyte solution over hard to reach areas of the workpiece, as well as provide for custom metal layer thickness at various regions of the electroformed component. It can also be appreciated that tailoring an impingement angle in combination with a flow rate or speed onto the workpiece can further provide for customized metal layer thicknesses at various regions of the electroformed component.
Yet another advantage is that the electroforming reservoir can be configured to accommodate a wide variety of shapes and sizes for different workpieces. For example, the multiple-piece electroforming reservoir can be injection molded with any desired shape to accommodate brackets, duct sections, hardware, or manifolds, in non-limiting examples. In addition, another advantage is that multiple electroforming reservoirs can be fluidly coupled to a common dissolution reservoir such that multiple components can be simultaneously electroformed in their respective electroforming chambers. This can increase production speed and improve process efficiencies during formation of the electroformed components. Separation of the electroformed component and the dissolution reservoir can also provide for a less populated working area; e.g. small workpieces can be positioned in small reservoirs, and large workpieces within large reservoirs, instead of a small workpiece placed within a large electroforming bath tank. Still another advantage can be realized in that adjustment of the sacrificial anode or components within the dissolution reservoir can be more easily accomplished without disturbing the electroforming reservoirs or cathodes therein.
To the extent not already described, the different features and structures of the various embodiments can be used in combination with each other as desired. That one feature cannot be illustrated in all of the embodiments is not meant to be construed that it cannot be, but is done for brevity of description. Thus, the various features of the different embodiments can be mixed and matched as desired to form new embodiments, whether or not the new embodiments are expressly described. All combinations or permutations of features described herein are covered by this disclosure.
This written description uses examples to disclose the invention, including the best mode, and also to enable any person skilled in the art to practice the invention, including making and using any devices or systems and performing any incorporated methods. The patentable scope of the disclosure is defined by the claims, and may include other examples that occur to those skilled in the art. Such other examples are intended to be within the scope of the claims if they have structural elements that do not differ from the literal language of the claims, or if they include equivalent structural elements with insubstantial differences from the literal languages of the claims.