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topic 1020

How to do Chrome plating on plastics


TUTORIAL FOR NEWBIES:

Numerous ways to metallize non-metallic materials are introduced in our FAQ, "Alternate Ways to Plate Non-metal Items".

But most methods do not offer the outstanding adhesion and robustness needed for exterior automotive parts. The method used by auto makers on auto grills is discussed in letter 31550 "Introduction to Automotive Quality Plating on Plastics".

(1998)

Q. I'm working at a chrome plating shop located in Montevideo Uruguay (South America). Now I'm thinking to do other things, like chrome plating on plastics.

The question is: Would you tell me methods to chrome plating on plastics? Please explain the non-electrolytic steps, or tell me where can I find an explanation of them (the problem we have here is that not all the books you recommend can be found here).

Your help will be very appreciated.

Regards.

Tommy K [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Montevideo, Uruguay


(1997)

A. Dear Tommy,

Generally, plating on ABS plastics ABS consists of the following steps:

Conventional technology
 
Cleaning (optional)
Water rinse
Chromosulfuric etch
Drag out rinse
Water rinse
Hexavalent chrome reduction
Water rinse
HCl predip
Pd/Sn activation
Water rinse
Acceleration
Water rinse
Electroless Nickel
Water rinse
Cu or Ni strike
Water rinse
Acid Cu plating
New technology
 
Cleaning (optional)
Water rinse
Chromosulfuric etch
Drag out rinse
Water rinse
Hexavalent chrome reduction
Water rinse
HCl predip
Pd/Sn activation
Water rinse
Sn/Cu exchange
Water rinse
( Skip )
( Skip )
( Skip )
( Skip )
Acid Cu plating

Standards and Guidelines for Electroplated Plastics


Electroless Plating
Mallory & Hajdu



Further electrolytic plating depending on requirements.

Mentioned above new technology is just released 2 years ago with saving a lot of money in getting rid of the most troublesome EN step; and in most cases, it reduces rejects down to less than 1%.

There are a lot of supplier houses that can offer you the whole conventional process, but new technology belongs to Atotech.

Best Regards

Ricks Lam
- Hong Kong



Hi Tommy. While books aren't cheap nor always readily available, they are hundreds of pages long, and represent the work of months or years towards organizing the material into non-repetitive tutorial fashion. Those hundreds of pages can't be replaced by a couple of paragraphs in an internet forum, but if you have the patience to read through hundreds of the 50,000 threads on this site, you can probably eventually find everything you need :-)

Thanks, Ricks. Are you sure the EN step is the most troublesome step in plating on plastic and the cause of the most rejects? My experience isn't as extensive as yours, but does not seem to indicate that at all. Please no more proprietary pitches! We could fill the site to unbearable in a week if we posted the sales spam we receive. Thanks again.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



Vacuum plating vs. electroplating

Plating on Plastics
Don Baudrand & Gurd Mueller

(1998)

Q. Do you know where I can find out what companies are using this technology? I have a current supplier who is giving me 35% rejected product. I'm desperate! Can you help? I'm currently producing an ABS product which is being chrome and brass plated through the vacuum plating process. Is there another relatively inexpensive process I should be looking to use? How can I find other companies employing these processes? Thanks!

Susan Speed


(2003) -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. What's the difference in the finished product, between Electroless plating of plastic, and vacuum plating? How does vacuum plating of plastic work? I'm currently contemplating replating many plastic pieces from my vintage car, but I'm afraid of the plating wearing off again. Is Electroless plating thicker or tougher than vacuum plating?

Thanks,

Neil Brommell
- Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


A. Hi, Susan. Our Directory of Jobshops includes shops that can handle your work -- whether vacuum plating or electroplating.

Hi, Neil. Real electroplating on plastic is a very different thing than vacuum plating, and much much more expensive. Electroplating is for difficult applications such as exterior automotive bright work like grills and tail light bezels. Vacuum plating is for interior use, and low contact or preferably non-contact.

Vacuum plating involves application of a smooth inorganic base coat (paint), followed by a very thin layer of vacuum deposited aluminum, followed by an organic clearcoat (for chrome color) or a brass-tinted translucent topcoat for a brass look. Automotive quality electroplating of plastic involves, as a minimum, an electroless metal layer, a layer of copper, two layers of nickel, and a layer of chrome -- at least 5 layers (and usually 5 or 6) of real metal, not paint. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



Who sells vacuum metallizing equipment?

(2000)

Q. Hi, I have a question. I collect and restore old automotive toys. I would like to know if you can put me in touch with someone who sells new (or preferably used) equipment for chrome plating plastic with vacuum metallizing. Thank you, Glenn

Glenn Reis
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


 

A. Hi, Glenn

Gold Touch

J G Nikolas

Our Equipment directory lists some manufacturers of equipment.

Vacuum metallizing equipment tends not to be in a hobbyist's price range though. You might consider "chrome-look paint" =>

... which is about equivalent to vacuum metallizing in appearance and performance, because it involves the same 3-layer process (base coat, thin metal layer, clearcoat) but is perhaps better suited to low-volume application because the middle layer is applied with paint spraying equipment rather than vacuum equipment. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



Plating plastic with metal parts already attached to it?

(2000)

Q. I'm a chemical Engineer in a company. My company is interested in plating of ABS plastics. We want to plate plastic pencil pieces using electroless Nickel and palladium baths. Could we take information on necessary steps and chemicals (But pencil piece have a metallic tip --is it possible to save the metallic part from ABS plating bath especially in etching and conditioning bath?)

If you send me information I will be very pleased .

With my best regards.

Yim Yazarel
gift products - Ankara,Turkey



A. Hi Yim. The chromic-sulphuric etch bath is extremely aggressive, and I suspect that trying to mask the metal parts during immersion will be highly impractical and very expensive. Please give long and full consideration to assembling the parts only after the plating is completed.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



Books about plating on plastic

April 15, 2009 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Can you please send me plastic plating information, their types, parameters in brief -- or suggest any books related to it?
I'm a trainee. It's urgent, for my project.
Regards.

anuradha ghode
tech. apprentice - pune, India.


April 15, 2009

A. Hi, Anuradha. "Standards and Guidelines for Electroplated Plastic" is out of print and hard to find, but it is just exactly what you are looking for. The Don Baudrand book on Amazon is another good one. Search every library! Happy hunting.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



January 6, 2010 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Hey there, I'm venero and I've been doing electroplating for 12 years. I did bright nickel plating, gold plating, brass plating, zinc plating and recently cyanide copper and acid copper plating.

I'd like to know what is the procedure to plate copper (acid copper) on plastic?

venero antonio
plating shop - cape town, south Africa


January 2014

A. Hi Venero. Industrial quality / automotive quality plating on plastic is described above. Lower quality, hobbyist plating can probably just start with copper or silver paint followed by acid copper plating. But it will not have nearly the adhesion that a properly etched and activated ABS plastic will exhibit. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



How long does it take to electroplate plastic?

January 13, 2010

Q. Hi, I've been reading all this information, and I have a question. At my work I need to estimate a lot of costs and processes for the automotive industry, there is information for almost every process, however, in plastic plating I've been finding little information, and I was wondering if someone can help me to determine how long it takes to chrome a plastic grill.

Thanks in advance

Priscila Sandoval
cost estimator engineer - Queretaro, Mexico


January 14, 2010

A. Hi, Priscila. You can take the pretreatment cycles shown by Ricks Lam, above, and finish the cycle by adding nickel plating (at least 2 layers, probably 3 for OEMs), rinsing, chrome plating, and very good final rinsing and then drying.

It's been a while since I've watched this, but it probably takes somewhere around 1-3/4 to 2 hours from loading onto the plating line to unloading from the plating line. This is not labor hours though, because the processing is usually done by programmed hoist and the load may consist of a half-dozen or more grills. The production capacity of such a line varies by the size of the tanks and how many programmed hoists are employed, but 100 grills per hour is probably about medium to large size (say a $2-$3 million dollar plating line)

If you can find one of the suggested books, I think you'll find it invaluable. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



What plastics are plateable?

March 30, 2011

Q. Howdy,

Could you please provide the types of plastics that are practical for chroming? I.e., is Zytel 33 (glass reinforced nylon) a good chroming base?

Also, I am designing a new diving regulator housing out of either Zytel 33 or ABS -- does this technology shown above provide a finish that is as durable as chroming over brass?

Thanks

Michael

michael l story
wholesale/resale - fort worth, texas usa


March 31, 2011

A. Hi, Michael.

wikipedia
ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)

Some glass reinforced nylon is plateable, but you need to contact the plastics maker to be sure. Most times if it's plateable they will call it "plating grade" or the resin number will end with "PG".

But ABS is the ideal substrate for plating because the chrome-sulphuric etch dissolves one of its 3 constituent plastics so well that it gives a good spongey base for great adhesion. While it's hard to compare plastic with brass, many (maybe most) of the world's automobiles have nickel-chrome plated ABS grills, so it's certainly very robust.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



June 10, 2015

Q. Hi ,

I have question in regards chrome mirror like plating on plastic material. Is there any effective method for chrome plating for plastic toy industry?

Thank you,

Dian Budijono
- Melbourne, Australia


June 2015

A. Hi Dian. Aluminum vacuum metallizing has been a common answer for decades, but answers to vague questions are often of only limited value. Help us help you by telling us your situation in detail.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



January 20, 2016

Q. We are in to electroplating business. after electroless nickel layer and a layer of copper there are small sparkling spot appearing on our product how can we improve that? Please help.

Govind M.
- Mumbai, India


January 2016

? Hi Govind. A picture is going to be worth a thousand words I think. I don't know what you are trying to describe.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



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