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topic 1029

Metallizing fiberglass sculptures to allow electroplating

chrome paint   Gold Touch   J G Nikolas   M and M Metallizing

(1998)

Q. I need to electroplate some of my sculptures made from fiberglass. I need to know the different conducting paints available in the market. I also need to know the process to be used to electroplate the fiberglass sculptures.

Expecting a reply. Thanks in advance

Sushil Saraf



Midas Silver Conductive Paint

(1997)

A. Hello, Sushil. We have a FAQ on this at www.finishing.com/faqs/organic.shtml. Three common metallization approaches are:
1. - silver paint (or copper, graphite, or other conductive paint) paint;
2. - two-part silvering process which uses a soluble silver salt plus a reducing solution as in mirror making; and
3. - catalyzing with a palladium chloride salt (the most complicated and robust, and used for automotive exterior parts).

Your first job is to decide which approach is most appropriate for your product. One thing not to be dismissed is that it may be necessary to lacquer or otherwise seal the fiberglass if the resin system isn't suitable for immersion in electroplating solutions. Good luck.Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



TUTORIAL FOR NEWBIES:

This thread introduces several different concepts. Hopefully this sidebar will help readers not get lost ...

First, please recognize that not every shiny plastic surface is real chrome plating. One alternative to chrome plating for strictly decorative use is painting the plastic with very shiny, or "chrome look" paint -- and both real chrome plating and "chrome look paint" are discussed on this page.

Secondly, even when we are talking about real chrome electroplating, there are several alternative procedures to make the plastic conductive (as mentioned in the first answer above). The simplest ways may be fine for a sculpture kept indoors, but for the robust needs of an automotive grill (blazing hot sun to frigid winters, road salt, gravel impacts, carwash brushes, multi-year guarantees) rather exotic metallization is required.

(2001)

Q. I own a replica Ferrari Dino which is supplied with fiberglass bumpers. I need to find a method of chrome plating these items to make the vehicle look more like the original.

Thanks for any help.

Derek E [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- London, England


(2002)

RFQ: I am looking to do chrome on fiberglass too. Please tell the name of the company. Thanks for your help.

Marthese Demicoli
- England
outdated


July 24, 2012

A. Hi.

It is not impossible for an OEM to chrome plate fiberglass (please see our FAQs on Chrome Plating and on Plating Non-metallic Materials). But it can prove impractical to affordably electroplate tightly adherent nickel-chrome plating on a onesy-twosy basis when the plater has no control over the selection of the type of resin or the manufacturing process. Letter 1020 explains the production steps involved in chrome plating of plastics.

All things considered, I think "chrome look paint" will be a more promising approach for these replica cars. Good luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



(2005)

RFQ: Hi,

I'm a hobbyist and am planning to build my own armor with fiberglass. I would like to have my armor electroplated with bronze to make it looks more real metal.
Can anyone suggest where I can go in Ottawa Ontario to have it done? and how much it will cost?

Thank you very much,

Charles Leung
Hobbyist - Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
outdated



February 19, 2013 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Hi,

I have recently been interested in learning more about electroplating, and specifically for prop making. Due to safety concerns, many events do not permit Weapons or props made from metal, and so I have been searching for ways in which to electroplate props made of fiberglass/carbon/resin.

My main concern is the Current and Voltage Requirements per surface area that would be required in order to electroplate these pieces which will be predominantly Over-Sized swords with a surface area of up to 32 sq feet. If it is ridiculous to put together a system that would cover that much area I'd like to make my mistake before I purchase the components.

I am entirely new to the concept of electroplating though I understand that the current requirements might also vary by the surface material as well as the plating. I foresee predominantly using chrome, nickel, and tin for the plating material

Thank you for your responses,

Etienne van Wyk
College Student, Hobbyist - Harrison, Tennessee, United States of America


February 21, 2013

A. Hi Etienne. Considering that you are only going for the look of metal, I think you will find today's "chrome look paint" entirely satisfactory and much easier and less hazardous than real electroplating. Good luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


February 24, 2013

A. I've got two pieces of advice to throw in to this discussion.

1. Materials selection.
If you're going for a metallic look, use mylar or some other metal looking plastic or foil for your final coat on the finished piece. There are a great many types of plastics that can be used in lieu of plating for similar visual results.

2. Conductive coating of non-metallic objects.
I've had good results from using zinc paint for my initial coatings over non-metallic objects. A word of advice though, there is a reason such is not industry standard, it's not going to hold up as well as a professional plating job.

Marc Banks
- Boone


October 20, 2013

Q. Dear Mr. Mooney
Would you please clear what is exactly Palladium to sensitizing the base coat?
And would please inform me what is the base coat for silvering plastic the best.

Amir

Amir hassan
computer company - Dubai Emirate


October 23, 2013

A. Hi cousin Amir. If you can present the details of your own situation, I am pretty sure that we can help you. But I must apologize that little progress will probably be made here without you providing careful details :-)

A doctor can usually diagnose what is wrong with you from body temperature, blood pressure, cholesterol, electrolytes, respiration rate, and other vital signs. But if you ask him how you can diagnose what is wrong with other people, he'd tell you that short of you going to medical school he can't really help you. Metal finishing questions are a bit like that, but I'll try ...

Palladium sensitizing may be vital to your needs or completely irrelevant, as there are many different ways to metallize plastic -- but it is almost universally used for automotive quality nickel-chrome plating of exterior plastics such as grills because the adhesion is spectacular, and the adhesion of other methods is usually questionable.

Palladium is a precious metal, element no. 46. But in this context we're talking about palladium chloride, a liquid. Usually it's bought from a metal finishing process supplier as part of the whole pre-plate cycle, rather than made up from raw chemicals by a plating shop because there are many steps in the preplate cycle, and the supplier will not take any responsibility for your palladium chloride to work after their etch step, or for their electroless nickel process to work on your palladium chloride.

After the plastic is suitably etched, so that it is spongy, it is immersed in tin chloride followed by this palladium chloride solution (or in some cases, mixed into it). The absorbed tin salt causes the palladium to precipitate as metallic "seeds". In the simplest theory, the plastic is then immersed in an autocatalytic electroless nickel solution, such that the palladium "seeds" initiate the catalytic deposition of the electroless nickel layer. But the various proprietary solution providers often suggest additional steps such as immersion in ammonium bifluoride accelerator. After electroless nickel, the item will be copper electroplated, semi-bright nickel plated, bright nickel plated, and chrome plated.

If I am correctly guessing at your situation, though, palladium has nothing to do with it, as it plays no part in "chrome-look" paint, which your other sentence seems to be talking about.

Chrome-look paint is also highly proprietary and involves the three general steps of
1). application of a smoothing organic base coat,
2). either a two-part silvering step or the deposition of a layer of tiny properly aligned aluminum flakes,
3). a hard UV-resistant top coat.

The general order and intention of the steps is widely known, but the details of how to best formulate and apply each layer naturally includes trade secrets. Each supplier will have their own tricks developed through years of research and trial & error. Nothing prevents you from trying to formulate the layers yourself, but when you ask for "best", you are asking people to spend years in research and then give you the product of their efforts for free; and, sorry, but that's probably not going to happen :-)

Best of luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



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