At i.materialise.com, you can already 3D print your designs in gold. But, there are a coupled issues with this that you should be aware of. One, as you undoubtably already know, is that gold is very expensive. It’s not bad when printing small items of jewelry, but if you want to print a larger 3D model, with gold over $1,500 USD an ounce, it will cost you a pretty penny. The other issue is that it’s not really a typical 3D printing process — there is no extruder printing the molten gold into you complex design. Instead, your 3D design is inversely printed into a wax mold, and then the molten 14 carat gold is poured into this mold. Works great, but it does mean that you cannot print such things a “ball within a ball” or chain links.
But i.materialise has just introduced a new finishing process that will make your low-cost, and fully 3D-printed stainless steel model at least look as if they are solid gold. The process is called Gold Plated Stainless Steel, and what happens is that after your your stainless steel object is printed, it is then dipped into a gold bath, giving it that gold plated look. It comes in both polished or unpolished, with the polished pieces feeling smoother and shinier.
The cost of gold plating is only an extra $6.00 over and above the stainless steel pricing. (The cost of the stainless steel printing is $35 for n up to 5 cm³ model volume, plus $8.00 per each extra cm³. Not bad.)
One downside to keep in mind with Gold Plated Stainless Steel is that the gold layer does eventually begin to rub off if it’s constantly coming in contact with other surfaces. This is something to think about if you are going to be 3D printing things like chains in jewelry. But if you’re printing something that is not going to have constant surface friction, this is a very cool process for just six bucks.
If you would like to get a feel for it, quite literally, you can have i.materialise send you a sample for 12 euros (about $15 USD). In fact, you can inexpensively get sample of lots of their materials on this page. You can even get a sample of dyed polyamide, wheat penny, medieval pewter, unpolished silver, old silver, gold plated silver, polished gold plated silver and titanium for just $40; plus, you get a voucher worth $32 towards any 3D printing purchase.
— 3DPrinter.net (@3DPrinter_net) June 13, 2012