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Old 21-03-05, 09:21 PM
PV5150 PV5150 is offline
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Customise your case with anodising

Hi Guys this guide has been broken up into a couple of posts due to the size, but you'll get the idea-PV

Disclaimer

Elecrified chemicals aren't toys, kids. So be very careful, when undertaking the things shown here. You're on your own if you hurt yourself, SysXtreme will not be held responsible for any injury or damage resulting from this tutorial.



What is anodising and what can be anodised?

The truth is that DIY anodising is that it is surprisingly easy. Sure, there is the matter of highly toxic chemicals such as Sulphuric acid, and the real possibility of experiencing a Hydrogen gas explosion, but the process itself is easily within the realms of most computer modders. When you are aware of them, and take precautions, the dangers just add to the fun of doing something that most people wouldn't attempt.

Aluminium is a reactive metal, but it doesn't corrode as quickly as most ferrous products. This is because an oxide layer quickly forms on its surface, protecting the base metal underneath. When Aluminium Oxide forms in air the result is a white powdery layer that can be easily scraped off. Conversely, anodising is an electro-chemical process that forms a structured, chrystalline "surface skin", which is extremely durable. Basically any aluminium can be treated, however this process is most successful with flat-sheet or turned products - so if you have anything Aluminium that you want to change the colour of, this is how to do it!!! Some of my action pics didn't come out as well as I had hoped, so I borrowed a couple from here.

Requirements

* A plastic container-$5 from Big W or Kmart;

*Sulphuric acid (battery acid is fine)-$2/litre from a battery wholesaler;

*Sodium Hydroxide (Drain cleaner)-$6 from your local supermarket:

*Sheet lead-$7/metre available from most hardware stores:

*12V DC power supply (8A battery charger)-$40 from your local auto stockist;

*Anodising dye- free samples should be available from your local anodiser;

*Assorted nuts, bolts, washers and 30A hook-up wire; and

*some thin Aluminium wire-MIG welding wire is perfect.

Safety Rules

The safety rules go something like this:

*Always connect up to the annodising tank before turning on the power supply, to prevent sparking;

*Safety googles, rubber gloves and long sleeves are a must (we are dealing with acid here people, and splashing is a risk);

*No smoking, naked flames or sparks (Hydrogen is a highly explosive gas given off during the process); and

*Plenty of ventilation.

# It is advisable when working with any form of chemical to obtain MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets), these should be freely available from the manufacturer, via the net or the reseller. These will help you understand and assess any heath risks that the product/s may have, and provide first aid options if the situation should arise.




Step 1 Preparing the container

Step one is to prepare the container-turning it into an effective cathode. It is important to note that any metal immersed in the acisd should only consist of lead or aluminium. I would suggest using cathodes, to lessen the volume of aluminium sulphate being released into the acid solution. Cut the sheet lead into shape, drill 3/16" holes through the container and lead and bolt them together with the nuts on the outside so they can be used as the power connectors.



Step 2 Keep the acid solution under 2/3rds capacity

The bolt holes should be kept as high as possible to avoid acid seeping out of them, and the volume of the solution should should be no more than 2/3rds of the containers capacity. The reason for using two cathodes is to ensure that th anodising process occurs more evenly over the surface of the work-piece... a lead lined tank would be perfect, as long as there was no "metal-to-metal" contact resulting in short circuits.



Step 3 Dilute acid slowly to avoid boiling

The most easily procured form of Sulphuric acid is from a battery wholesaler, and will be 35% strength (WW) with a specific gravity (SG) of 1.28. This is overkill, as 10% WW/ 1.2SG is enough to get a good oxide layer, however I have spoken to people using the stronger concentration with good results. If using acid worries you, you can dilute to a ratio of 2:1 water/acid, but add the acid to the water slowly so the resultant thermal reaction doesn't cause the solution to "boil" over.



Step 4 Positive and negative connections

Hook up the lead plates with a length of 30A wire, using spade connectors under the external nuts. This is the cathode pole, and will be connected to the battery charger's (or suitable 12V DC power suppliy's) negative lead. The aluminium bar across the tank is the anode pole, and is attached to the positive connection. As mentioned previously, everything in the tank should be either aluminium or lead, and external connections should be copper to avoid sparks from arcing.



Step 5 A potentially explosive situation

When the tank is connected and working correctly, there will be a "sheet" of hydrogen bubbles generated across the lead sheet by the electrolysis action. With good ventilation this is not a major issue, but if it occurs in a confined space then the build-up of highly flammable hydrogen gas over several hours is an explosive situation. Especially if the explosion then sprays sulphuric acid all over the place...so there are a few rules worth following.

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Old 21-03-05, 09:22 PM
PV5150 PV5150 is offline
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Step 6 Prepare the aluminium for treatment

With the tank constructed the next step is to prepare the aluminium for treatment. If the components are in a clean, non-corroded condition then they can be anodised without any pre-treatment - if not, then a caustic solution of Sodium Hydroxide (drain cleaner) at about 15% WW can be used as a dip to brighten the metal.



# Important note: keep the acid and alkali baths well seperated.

Step 7 Handy tip

During anodising it is normal to see small bubbles forming on the work-piece, but if any large bubbles form in one spot there is a chance that they will effect the final finish. It may be necessary to stir the solution occasionally or, especially in the case of concave shapes, you could use an aquarium air-pump to continually agitate the acid bath. The wire I've used to suspend components is 0.8mm shaved aluminium MIG welding "rod"...ferrous wire is a definite "not".

Step 8 Its all in the timing

The time it takes to anodise a piece depends on several factors including its size, the amperage of the power supply and the required thickness of the oxide layer-the thicker the layer the more durable the finish and the more dense the final colour. The layer of anodising is measured in microns, and to get a very deep colour, especially "absolute black", will require a layer of at least 12 to 15 microns. This is one of the benefits of anodising-you get colour without the surface build-up of paint.

Step 9 Developing electrical resistance

When the oxide chrystallises it develops a progressively higher resistance to electrical current, as the anodised surface is a layer of aluminium oxide rather than actual metal. By placing a multi-meter into the circuit you will be able to see the current drop as it occurs. The main point is to ensure a good electrical connection is maintained right throughout the anodising process.



Step 10 Water gets rid of any residual acid

Once the part has been anodised, it needs to be thoroughly flushed to remove all residual acid. At this stage of the process the oxide layer is porous, at a molecular level, so soak it for a few minutes in demineralised water, so the acid is dispersed from the chrystalline structure. Demineralised water is the suggested medium, so thats what I used at first, but when it ran out I found that tap water works just as well.

Step 11 Parts take on a milky grey colour during anodisation

You will notice that during the electro-chemical process the anodising part will take on a milky grey appearance as the oxide layer is forming. This look will become even more evident afterwards, when the part has been washed and dried. As mentioned, the anodised layer is very porous at this point, so don't handle it with your bare fingers as this will result in there being "stains" in the final finish.



Step 12 When it comes to dyeing: alfoil bad, plastic good

Time to dye!!! There are several different products that can be used to colour anodised parts-vegetable based dyes, diluted writing inks, histological dyes and commercial anodising dyes; the latter being used here. The dyes come in powder form and are mixed with demineralised water. To ensure maximum penetration into the chrystalline layer they should be kept at a temperature of 80 Deg C. A word of warning, when left overnight they eat through alfoil containers...use plastic!!!



Step 13 Appearances are deceiving-green turns out gold

The colour of the solution can differ markedly from the finished product-green actually turns out gold!!! The solution is a true dye, that is, it changes the colour of the actual metal, and therefore it takes a few minutes for the pigment to penetrate the actual oxide layer-which at this point has a "sponge" like porosity. The longer the part is left in the dye the darker the finish, so if you are anodising several parts it is tricky to get an exact match unless you use a stopwatch.

Step 14 Boil or steam the part till its well done

After you have achieved the colour that you want, the next step is to either boil or steam the part for around 20 mins. If the colour washes off then something has gone seriously wrong-such as a lost electrical connection has occurred part way through the anodising process. Boiling converts the oxide into a different chrystalline chemical form, sealing the porous layer and permanently trapping the dye underneath, below the surface of the metal.



Step 15 Polishing with a cloth reveals a deep lustre

After sealing, the part will air-dry to a matt finish that looks fairly ordinary. Fear not, this is just the residual dye left on the surface, and polishing it over with a cloth will reveal the deep lustre that you were hoping for. Additional shine can be achieved by using a soft abrasive-car polish is perfect-to remove any small imperfections and add some "reflective" properties to the oxide surface. Anodising won't chip, peel or scratch easily, making it one of the most durable finishes you can get.

In conclusion

Some ideas for anodising could be a 5.25in faceplate from a Nexus Superpanel, which only shipped in silver. Checker plate and expanded metal are some others that rate a mention, and would look cool for a case mod, but ultimately its up to you. Not too long after you have finished admiring your handiwork, you will realise that you are now left with an ecological issue-getting rid of the toxic chemicals all over your workshop. Disposing of the Sodium Hydroxide is a cinch...its made for cleaning drains, so thats the best way of getting your money's worth. Just make sure to follow the instructions on the bottle. The dyes are non-toxic, so they can be poured down the drain with plenty of water, or into a hole in the garden to disperse over time. The big issue is the sulphuric acid. It is nasty, toxic and dangerous to have hanging around the house, and shouldn't go down the drain either :shock: . The answer is to return it to the place of purchase, or dispose of it responsibly.

# HOT TIP: Wear safety equipment and slowly pour the acid into a container of anhydrous lime, it will turn into a neutralised paste. Let the pate dry off to a "play dough" onsistency, wrap it in newspaper and put it in a garbage bag. It can then be disposed of through the normal refuse system. So, be planet friendly.

Here are some other ideas if you are keen, and a demonstration of the colours available









Have fun and above all...enjoy-PV
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"Jonathan 'Fatal1ty' Wendel may be 12-time world gaming champ, but how does he cope inside a 50c hot box sucking on a heavy load?":rocker::rocker:
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Old 21-03-05, 09:36 PM
JN JN is offline
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Damn that is one cool guide!!!

That last pic tho...it looks like an annodised pink beretta!! lol
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Old 21-03-05, 09:44 PM
PV5150 PV5150 is offline
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Hi XMS

Thank you for the feedback as always, and I'm unsure what type of pistol it is. The pic was just used to show whats possible more than anything

PV
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Old 21-03-05, 11:33 PM
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FragTek FragTek is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by XMS
Damn that is one cool guide!!!

That last pic tho...it looks like an annodised pink beretta!! lol
That last pic is of an oldschool Angel LED You're talkin' to the master of all things paintball, w00t!
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Old 23-03-05, 12:44 AM
PV5150 PV5150 is offline
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Thanks for the heads up FragTek, paintball is somethingI wanna get into

PV
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"Jonathan 'Fatal1ty' Wendel may be 12-time world gaming champ, but how does he cope inside a 50c hot box sucking on a heavy load?":rocker::rocker:
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Old 15-04-06, 09:04 AM
PV5150 PV5150 is offline
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This guide has now been updated to the front page

Click Here

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Originally Posted by name='Jim'
"Jonathan 'Fatal1ty' Wendel may be 12-time world gaming champ, but how does he cope inside a 50c hot box sucking on a heavy load?":rocker::rocker:
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Old 15-04-06, 12:08 PM
Raging Raging is offline
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i think a de-anodizing guide would be cool too in case someone just wants to take anodizing off their part or if they mess it up,ime guessing you know how its done if you know how to anodize

caustic soda FTW!

awesome guide my man

cheers.
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Old 15-04-06, 12:46 PM
PV5150 PV5150 is offline
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I hear ya mate, once I finish updating the guide I'm working on at the moment I'll do one for removing the annodised finish. I should have done that a little while ago, when XMS needed a hand Thanks for the feedback raging-savage, and I'm glad you enjoyed the guide
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Originally Posted by name='Jim'
"Jonathan 'Fatal1ty' Wendel may be 12-time world gaming champ, but how does he cope inside a 50c hot box sucking on a heavy load?":rocker::rocker:
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Old 15-04-06, 01:29 PM
FarFarAway FarFarAway is offline
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Its a great guide Peevs

I'm getting well tempted for a new case but lack of room restricts me at the moment. Once I get some more room then I'll buy a new case and get some annodising done
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