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Author Topic: Using a PC power supply for electroplating?  (Read 4461 times)
Professor J. Cogsworthy
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« on: March 24, 2013, 04:07:58 pm »

I just had to install a new video card in my PC and the new card needed a higher wattage power supply.

The old power supply still works and it has  5v 25a, 5 v  2a  and 3.3v 18a outputs at 165 watts

Can I use it for small electroplating projects?
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Dr cornelius quack
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« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2013, 05:02:27 pm »

No reason why not.
Any d.c. supply will work.

A point to note is that the speed of the plating is directly linked to the flow of current across the circuit.
This means that the factors that affect the process are things like;-

Potential difference (Voltage of the supply).

Maximum current rating of the unit.

Surface area of the electrodes.

Separation distance of the plates.

Type and strength of the electrolyte being used.

I've found that the PSU that I'm using at the moment for etching works perfectly well with a very dilute Sulphuric Acid solution and a plate spacing of 100mm or so.
The area of the plates is a bit more difficult to figure, as it changes from job to job.

One other thing I've found is that the metal being plated does not always form a secure bond with the base metal piece. Doesn't matter to me at the moment, 'cos I'm mostly interested in etching metal away. But it's something to consider when you're after a durable coating to a work piece.
The best results I've had so far have been by running the process in reverse for a while to etch down to a clean metal surface on the piece and then swapping over the polarity to plate back on.

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Professor J. Cogsworthy
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« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2013, 05:08:40 pm »


The best results I've had so far have been by running the process in reverse for a while to etch down to a clean metal surface on the piece and then swapping over the polarity to plate back on.



define for a while please....
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Professor J. Cogsworthy
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« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2013, 05:09:59 pm »

Am I also correct in thinking I could use the power supply for etching brass as well?
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Dr cornelius quack
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« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2013, 05:27:12 pm »

Till the work surface is free of any tarnish.
I've only tried this a couple of times so far and I'm sure there must be better ways of surface prep for plating.

My instinct is to think that reducing the current flow will give a better adhesion of the plating metal.

Putting some sort of series resistance into the circuit is the easiest way to do this. A light bulb in the line would do.

Yep. Works a treat for etching.

Couple of threads which might help.

http://brassgoggles.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,37670.0.html

http://brassgoggles.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,38764.0.html
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Professor J. Cogsworthy
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« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2013, 02:07:44 am »

Also curious about your vinyl plotter. I am reading the other threads but I wanted to ask about the brand and the place you purchased it from.....
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Dr cornelius quack
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« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2013, 08:40:12 am »

I think it's called a PixMax cutter. Bought it from a supplier on Ebay.
Fairly cheap, domestic/hobby use only model.
Wouldn't want to have it running all day long.
Does the job I need it to do.
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jcbanner
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« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2013, 08:48:45 pm »

when I worked for a jewelry company,  I was in charge of doing the polishing and electroplating.  For plating, the rings first had to be polished to provide a good tarnish free surface, then cleaned in a hot sonic cleaner bath then steamed before being ready to go over to the fume hood for plating. the rings would first be dipped into an electro-clean solution, essentially a base. rinsed in distilled water, dipped into a pickle solution, rinsed again, then finally dipped in the plating solution, metal dissolved in sulfuric acid.  for a good shine, the voltage needs to be on the lower end, around 4-7 volts. if it was too high, then the rings would get a hazy "burned" look.

with etching the goal is to remove material so getting pristinely clean might not be as critical, but getting the reverse to happen, getting metal to bond to the surface, it is very critical to get the surface pristinely clean. for plates I'd suggest lightly buffing with ultra-fine stealwool, remember polishing and buffing, not sanding) then cleaning with a degreaser, then rinse everything off with distilled water (if no steamer available) electroclean or quickly etch (10-30 seconds) to open up the structure, rinse, pickle, rinse then plate.

it's worth noting that different combinations of metals and acid solutions will work best at different voltages. but start lower and increase untill it stops looking good then bring it back down a bit. 
« Last Edit: March 26, 2013, 08:54:56 pm by jcbanner » Logged
Professor J. Cogsworthy
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« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2013, 05:50:37 am »

Low voltage.... ok

What about amperage?
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von Corax
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« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2013, 07:12:58 am »

Low voltage.... ok

What about amperage?

Well, if the electrolyte boils and the workpiece starts to melt, your amperage is probably a bit too high…

Seriously, though, current is pulled, not pushed, so your power supply can only provide "enough" or "not enough." The current actually drawn is a function of the degree of saturation of your electrolyte solution and the distance between the electrodes. Etchers usually put some sort of resistive load between the PSU and the work (a lightbulb seems to be the most popular) to limit the current draw and keep the PSU from releasing its Magic Blue Smoke.
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jcbanner
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« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2013, 07:25:25 am »

If you can avoid it, don't let the magic blue smoke escape. Electronics don't work once all the smoke leaks out and it's awfully hard to put it back.
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