Decorative Plating

Over 90% of plastic plated applications are decorative, so the appearance of the plastic is crucial to the plated piece. The most desired type of plating on plastics is decorative chrome plating, sometimes called nickel-chrome plating because nickel is electroplated on to the part before the chrome layer.

These two components work together to provide additional benefits to the part. The nickel layer provides smoothness, corrosion resistance, and most of the reflectivity. The chrome layer protects the nickel against tarnish, minimizes scratching, and also contributes to corrosion resistance.

Why should I plate my parts?

There are several reasons why you may wish to apply a plating such as a chrome coating to a plastic part. These include the following:

  • To create an attractive chrome aesthetic at a lower cost than creating chrome or metal parts.
  • Protecting the part from ultraviolet rays and other issues that may degrade it.
  • Improvement of the physical properties of the part, such as its ability to deflect water or its tensile strength.
  • To create a lighter weight, lower-cost part.

Key Plating Considerations

Questions to consider that lead to the highest quality molded components include:

  • What are the temperature requirements?
  • What are my design and aesthetic goals?
  • What external conditions will the end product be subject to?

Types of Plating

There are many types of plating available for substrates such as ABS and ABS/PC Blends. Finish and conductivity should be key concerns along with molding parameters for the resin. Plating methods provide many benefits including:

  • Chrome – protects nickel layer against corrosion and provides a clean decorative finish
  • Electroless Copper – an autocatalytic application that provides a conductive layer for subsequent electroplating processes
  • Semi-bright Copper Strike – adds thickness, improves plating adhesion, and protects against metal burn-off at the point of rack contact
  • Bright Acid Copper – provides leveling and good thermal cycling
  • Semi-Bright Nickel – protects copper and adds corrosion resistance
  • Bright Nickel – strengthens the plastic and provides a highly reflective finish
  • Satin Nickel – strengthens plastic and provides luster
  • Microporous Nickel – Increases corrosion resistance of the chrome layer in highly corrosive environments.

Learn more about chrome plating:

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