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Advice on buying low volume Vacuum Plating equipment/supplies

Q. Hello!

I've been have 6x9" plastic model parts chrome and gold plated for about $10 a frame. Unfortunately the plater is pretty far away and the turn around time with shipping is approaching 6 weeks.

I'm interested in buying new or used Vacuum plating equipment to set up a shop locally. From my discussions with the one man shop, I get the impression he's just doing this in a garage. I only need small volume. and the size of the parts are pretty small.

So, could someone knowledgable in vacuum plating plastic run down the equipment and materials I would need to buy?

Also a estimate of the cost.

I have 10 cases of plastic parts on order and the cost of shipping them, plating and the long wait will go a long way to paying for the equipment. I'm in San Diego, and my short survey of shops that can vacuum plate don't really want my low volume business.

Any advice will be appreciated.

Mac Legrandi
- Escondido, California

A. Mac, in my opinion, it will be too expensive to buy and run a vacuum equipment for small quantities. Some people who can build such equipment and run it themselves as a garage shop, it is feasible. Besides equipment, you will need a vacuum technician to maintain it. If you need further details, I could explain.

Mandar Sunthankar
- Fort Collins, Colorado

A. Hi Mac.

Electroplating on plastic is a very robust process suitable for exterior automotive use for grills and other components. Vacuum metallizing is not as robust, but can be fine for models and even for interior automotive use. But if vacuum metallizing is impractical in small volume, as Mandar relates, you might consider chrome-look paint. It looks quite good these days and is suitable for fairly small operations. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
May 28, 2012

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