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Chroming carbon fiber/plastic

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Q. I WOULD LIKE TO BE ABLE TO CHROME CARBON FIBER AND PLASTIC MOTORCYCLE PARTS. I'VE BEEN TOLD THIS IS NOW POSSIBLE. IS THERE AN INEXPENSIVE WAY TO ACCOMPLISH THIS.

CHARLES R. LAMM
- CORBIN, Kentucky, USA
2003

Ed. note: Sorry, this RFQ is old & outdated, so contact info is no longer available. However, if you feel that something technical should be said in reply, please post it; no public commercial suggestions please ( huh? why?)


A. Inexpensive is relative. Done in ones and twos, it is expensive to most people.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


A. To chrome plastics is not really what you want. Using a process called vacuum metallizing you can achieve the reflective chrome look you are looking for.

Glenn Mueller
- East Bridgewater, Massachusetts


A. Good point, Glenn! There is sometimes a semantics problem when a consumer asks about chrome plating or chroming because our reaction is to assume when they say 'chrome' they mean real coper-nickel-chrome electroplating. But what they sometimes mean is just "something shiny and metallic looking".

Mr. Watts is certainly correct that chrome plating of plastics is expensive, especially in low volume. Glenn is correct that vacuum metallizing is another approach to a shiny metallic-looking finish, but usually not practical for one or two items, and the shops tend to be afraid of contaminating their very expensive high vacuum chamber.

There is also chrome-look paint / spray chrome [this product on eBay or Amazon affil links] that is quite shiny and metallic looking, and this may be the most practical approach. They produce essentially the same thing as vacuum metallizing but at a higher unit labor cost but lower capital cost.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey






Q. Yes I am trying to get chrome finish side trim and front trim for a C7 Corvette they only come in carbon fiber. Does anybody know if this can be coated or plated to have a chrome finish?

20193-1

Daniel Livesay
- Springfield Missouri
September 16, 2021

Ed. note: Sorry, this RFQ is old & outdated, so contact info is no longer available. However, if you feel that something technical should be said in reply, please post it; no public commercial suggestions please ( huh? why?)


A. Hi. "Chrome-look paint" [this product on eBay or Amazon affil links] is perhaps the most practical answer because real chrome electroplating will be very expensive and probably impractical; and although vacuum metallizing could theoretically work, vacuum processing is usually not practical for onesy-twosy stuff, only high volume stuff.

Luck & Regards,

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


A. Carbon fiber is conductive and should be quite conducive to electroplating. Just need to sand through any gel coat.

Topic has my interest as well, many uses.

Keith Donaldson
Consultant - California
March 30, 2024


A. Thanks Keith. I'm sure it's possible, but I wouldn't want to imply that it's anything close to easy :-)

The hard part about copper plating, nickel plating, then chrome plating on non-metallic substrates is not simply getting it to deposit, but getting it to look good and, especially in the case of automotive plating, getting it to adhere sufficiently to withstand freezing & baking temperatures, car washes, gravel strikes, etc. Chrome plating on steel is an actual chemical bond; on carbon fiber it's probably just a mechanical bond.
Luck & Regards,

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




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