Yes, You Can Use Electroplating For Plastic, Here’s How

May 17, 2017
Posted in news
May 17, 2017 Bend Plating

Yes, You Can Use Electroplating For Plastic, Here’s How

There comes a time in any industrial project where you are building with plastic, but you want it to look like metal. This is where electroplating plastic comes in. By providing a metallic finish such as gold, nickel, copper, or chrome to a plastic base such as polycarbonate, polypropylene, phenolic, ABS, or Teflon Bend Plating can outsource and manage this project yo provide the finish and function of a metallic surface to plastic materials that may be used for a variety of industrial build-outs.

For instance: the gaming industry relies heavily on electroless plating techniques to apply chrome finishes to their plastic slot machines (in fact, if you’ve been to Las Vegas, you’ve probably already seen our work). Likewise, the automotive industry uses it to apply nickel or chrome detailing to plastic interiors and consoles. Even the retail industry has put the technique to good use plating everything from cell phones and laptops to jewelry and even makeup bottles. No matter the use case, a metallic finish provides decorative flair to otherwise dull or uninteresting plastic surfaces.

But it isn’t all about looks. Electroless plating actually provides all of the properties of metals—such as electric conductivity and corrosion resistance—to plastic surfaces, which makes the technique an ideal candidate for many plumbing, electrical, and even medical applications. For example, a copper finish would provide the same electrical conduction properties it’s known for when plated over plastic, and a 24k gold finish would stand up to excessive wear and corrosion resistance (not to mention it would look super stylish).

I know what you’re thinking. Can it really be done on plastic? The answer is yes. Though the process is similar to its cousin electroplating—whereby a metal finish adheres to a metal surface—Bend Plating uses a unique electroless process to prep plastic materials for the same standard electroplating operations used on metals. It works like this: a chromic-acid based solution is etched onto the surface as an adhesive followed by a solution of palladium and tin salts to activate the substrate surface. Nickel or copper is then applied as a base coat before the metal of your choice is then used to plate the plastic.

 

With careful application, electroplating plastic can benefit the gaming, automotive, retail, plumbing, and electrical industries looking to up their game—but it can also be used for many custom use cases (like firearms or musical instruments). Click here to contact us for more information about your specific use case or give us a call at (541) 388-3456. We’d love to help you find the finish that works best for your project and your price point.

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