Earlier this month, specialty chemicals supplier MacDermid Industrial Solutions, Waterbury, Conn., hosted a two-day Plating-On-Plastic (POP) summit at the impressive Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, Mich. MacDermid specializes in surface finishing, pretreatments and is a leader in POP technology for the automotive, electronic, aerospace, plumbing and other industries.
The company updated attendees on the latest advancements in POP technology. Included is the company’s new Electrolac UV process. It allows for curing a colored lacquer by UV instead of at high temperatures so that the coatings can be used effectively on plastics. POP advances in double-shot molding, and a qualification process for decorative fashion finishes were also discussed. Of particular interest were presentations on molding and plastics by Mitch Gordon, OEM account manager at Synvective Molding Solutions, Livonia, Mich., and Brian Grosser, business director USA/Mexico of Samsung Chemical USA, Detroit, respectively. A round table discussion with officials from Chrysler, Ford and General Motors was another highlight on the topic.
The decorative or functional applications of plating metal on plastic substrates is accomplished with the electroplating process. Before electroplating, plastics need to be metalized which is achieved by etching the surface to provide a tough bond and then coating the roughened surface with traces of a precious metal. Nickel and chromium are the most commonly applied, normally called ‘chrome plating’ or ‘plastic chrome plating’. This coating provides both technical and aesthetic benefits and can be applied to meet the criteria of a broad range of applications.
For example, highly-visible and corrosion-resistant exterior automotive components are often chrome plated plastics, which provide a lower weight option to metal components. Plastic chrome plating has also been found to be ideal for sanitary fittings that require a durable and wear-resistant coating to resist the humid bathroom environment. Similarly, electronic devices often benefit from EMI-RFI shielding of sensitive electronic components for which plating on plastic can be ideal.