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Aluminum vacuum metallizing of motorcycle helmets

I am looking into aluminum vacuum metallizing on motorcycle helmets. I am a graphic artist and have been custom painting helmets for about five years. For about the past year I've seen several painters having chrome plating done to the helmets before they apply the designs. In looking into the process I was told that it is not actually a chroming process, but aluminum vacuum metallizing. Any help would be appreciated.

p.s. can a helmet be anodized after it has been aluminum plated?

Grant King
-Willmar, Minnesota

March 7, 2009

Hi, Grant. Vacuum metallizing with aluminum is a 3-step process. A paint-like basecoat is laid down; then the helmets are placed in a vacuum chamber for the deposition of a very thin coating of aluminum on them; then a clear paint-like topcoat is applied. The process is rather inexpensive when done in volume (it's even applied to mylar party balloons), but it does require an investment in a metallizing system.

The aluminum is too thin to be anodized, and the process isn't really designed to allow it since there is an organic clear coating over the aluminum.

A more viable alternative for low volumes these days may be chrome-look paint. In a way, it's rather similar -- the big difference being that the shiny layer is sprayed on with paint spray guns rather than vacuum deposited. The banner at the top right corner of the page will lead you to suppliers of chrome-look painting systems. Good luck.


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

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