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Developments in Electroplating of Plastics

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The problem with electroplating onto plastics is they are not electrically conductive and can’t be put into a plating solution using the same process as metal. A method using a conductive film capable of being deposited onto the surface of the plastic was required. The surface layer had to adhere well with the substrate for good adhesion to be achieved.

The Process

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Many improvements and refinements have been made to the process for plating on plastics but the basic technology is still the same. Chrome electroplating services have advanced as well. The first step in the process is using a chromic acid based solution to ensure adhesion. The excess chromic acid is neutralized.

The surface of the plastic is activated with palladium and tin salts. The surface is then coated with copper or nickel with the use of an electroless plating solution. The plastic can now be coated with conventional technology.

The Metals

Originally copper was followed with a thin layer of nickel. Now only thin nickel was required since the surface was not subject to corrosion. There have also been two extremely significant developments regarding the technology used for chromium electroplating. This has highly improved the quality of plastics that have been electroplated.

Corrosion Resistance
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A double layer nickel system with an under layer that is semi-bright combined with a nickel topcoat greatly improves the resistance to corrosion. The corrosion resistance on a single layer of nickel with the same thickness was much lower. A micro discontinuous chromium system that has a layer of chromium with a micro cracked structure or a system that is microporous increases the resistance to corrosion even more.

A double layer of nickel combined with micro discontinuous chromium is specified for all electroplated plastics that will be used in severe environments. For all additional questions please consult with a law firm.

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