The key difference between electroforming and electroplating is that in an electroforming process, we are making a separate object whereas, in an electroplating process, we are depositing a metal on an existing object.
Although both these processes are industrial processes using electricity as the main source of energy, there are differences between electroforming and electroplating.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Electroforming
3. What is Electroplating
4. Electroforming vs Electroplating in Tabular Form
5. Summary – Electroforming vs Electroplating
What is Electroforming?
Electroforming is an industrial process in which objects can be fabricated using the electrodeposition method used on a mandrel. A mandrel is a model that is useful in industries. Mandrels are metallic and conductive models. We need to treat these mandrels to create a mechanical parting layer. If not, we can chemically passivate it to limit its electroform adhesion. This allows the subsequent separation process of the electroform from the mandrel. However, the nonconductive mandrels made of glass, silicon and plastic need the deposition of the conductive layer prior to electrodeposition. We can make these layers deposited chemically or through a vacuum deposition technique. Typically, the outer surface of the mandrel forms the inner surface of the form.
The Electroforming process includes the passing of a direct current through an electrolyte consisting of salts of the metal which is being electroformed. In this process, the anode is the solid metal we are using, and the cathode is the mandrel. During the process, the solid metal is deposited on the mandrel surface, and it continues until the desired electroform thickness is created. Thereafter, this mandrel can be separated through the intact method, by melting away or by chemically dissolving it.
What is Electroplating
Electroplating is an industrial process in which the coating of one metal on another metal is done using electrical energy. This industrial process involves an electrochemical cell consisting of two electrodes that are immersed in the same electrolyte. Moreover, we need to use the object (that we are going to coat with the metal) as the cathode, and the anode is the metal that we are going to apply on the cathode, or it can be an inert electrode.
During the process of electroplating, the system is first given an electrical current from the outside, which makes the electrons in the electrolyte pass from the anode to the cathode. The cathode has removable electrons. In the electrolytic solution, there are metal ions that can receive electrons. Thereafter, these metal ions undergo reduction and become metal atoms. Then, these metal atoms can deposit on the surface of the cathode. This whole process is called “plating”.
However, we need to carefully choose the electrolyte. If the electrolyte contains other metal ions that can deposit along with the desired metal ion, the plating will be inaccurate. Therefore, the cathode on which the metal is plated should be clean and free of contaminants. Otherwise, the plating becomes uneven. The major uses of the electroplating process are for decorative purposes or for the prevention of corrosion.
What is the Difference Between Electroforming and Electroplating?
Although both electroforming and electroplating processes are industrial processes using electricity as the main source of energy, there are several differences between them. The key difference between electroforming and electroplating is that in an electroforming process, we are making a separate object, whereas, in an electroplating process, we are depositing a metal on an existing object. In addition to this difference, another difference between electroforming and electroplating is that electroforming makes a copy of an object, while electroplating can help to clean a surface or modify the surface of an object.
The below infographic lists the differences between electroforming and electroplating in tabular form for side by side comparison.
Summary – Electroforming vs Electroplating
Electroforming is an industrial process in which objects can be fabricated using the electrodeposition method used on a mandrel. Electroplating is an industrial process that involves coating one metal on another metal using electrical energy. The key difference between electroforming and electroplating is that electroforming creates a new object, whereas the electroplating process modifies an existing object.
1. “Electroforming.” Rotoplas Ltd, 26 Nov. 2020.
1. “Eformschematic” By Maestro Sargento (original); Pbroks13 (redraw) – (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Electroplating Cell” (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
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