Chrome Finish

What is the latest word on high polished chrome plating? I know chromium is nasty environmentally and is not RHOS Compliant. Is it better to go to nickel plating for plastic to get a high polished chrome finish?

I know it is a bit different to plate ABS as opposed to plating magnesium or other metal.

Thanks for any insight.

tried house of kolor’s chrome paint?

Without sounding like an infomercial, I know Oxford instruments - Formerly CMI is a great resource for plating information.

They have a full application department because they measure the thickness of coatings on surfaces.

We all know information is not totally free but they might be a good place to start. I say that because, they sell thickness standards traceable to NIST. If a certain coating is not requested anymore, they would have a better opinion on new or applications that are taking the place of previous coatings.

Hope that helps.

OK…digging a bit more, it seems as though it is more likely that we would go with vacuum metalizing if we go this route. Price more than anything.

Any thoughts on this?

I will also check out Oxford. Thanks for the lead.

vacuum metallizing is pretty good, a few issues.

Outgassing: metalizer may comment on applicable plastics and/or conditioning required.

It is still a bit directional: the metal atoms when knocked off the source still ‘fall’ onto the target. Parts with surface detail, undercuts, may not get even plating. It looks a bit like very fine paint overspray.

I don’t remember if this procedure also puts a charge on the target parts, some vacuum/vapor deposition doesn’t; but your plastic has to be held and take the charge.

My limited experience had fairly high fallout of parts not adequately plated.

A sports helmet company I used to work for had great success with vacu-plating chrome. It’s the process used to make those cheap plastic trophies look metallic. I would google some trophy makers and check it out.

another option is cobalt nickel plating. A cheaper alternative to the high price of chrome with similar results. From what I have seen it is a darker result (almost a plated nickel in color) but I’m sure it can be tweaked.

Here’s a bit more insight.

This is a product that is in the “Green Zone”. We are wanting to do everything we can to design it to be as recyclable as possible…easy to disassemble, marking all parts with its respective recycling icons, etc.

The big challenge I am finding is that designing electronics to be “green” seems to have a Holy Grail feel to it. You can only do so much.

Add on top of that, the client wants it to be “like the iPod” (betcha haven’t heard that one before). Enter the chrome finish.

Now…my first goal is to create a product that is as sustainable as possible but still be able to maintain all the “must-haves” of a high volume, hand-held product: PC/ABS for the housing for drop resistance, rechargable battery (for obvious reasons), etc.

My second goal is to create a unique product that matches the purpose of the product and try to avoid “making it like the iPod” for the sake of “making it like the iPod”.

So, what my question(s) is(are):

  1. Is a plastic part that is metallized, painted, etc. recyclable? It is my understanding that once you coat a part. Is this true?

  2. What more can a designer do other than what I mentioned above, to make an electronic product more “sustainable”?

I have no clue how recyclable vacuum-plating is. I do know that the only legal metal-plating in Europe is nickel plating, for what that is worth.

Maybe you could use something like this:

Again, I don’t know how recyclable the material is, however, since it is a colorant, I would suppose it is. It’s not chrome, but the images do suggest a kind of anodized look. To me, that is and iPod finish as it is used on the nano/mini and shuffle.

We electroplate over PolyC plastic with a lot of success. Our parts see all the elements, and holds the tint well.

We checked into vacuum as well, but thought the chrome was a bit too matte for the look we wanted. More than silver paint, but less than mirror BLING we were looking for.

currenlty most of the “chrome wheels” you see are powdercoated, yup the fooled me big time…if you base stock can handle the temps it might be a way to go.

You can powder coat plastic???

Yes you can! It’s a proprietary process. I’ve only been introduced to one company here in Canada, but they were all ‘hush, hush’ with the process so my little tour that I took through their office was basically an informational tour. Anyway, long story short, I haven’t gotten any plastic products powder-coated with them since I had the impression it might be very expensive (especially when the company you work for has a HIGH profit margin)

Here they are:


They had some great samples including chrome, and what I thought was cool, a “wood” finish on metal corner posts.

You might try Alsa Corp.

They used to have a pretty cool video on creating chrome cell phone covers.
Now they are pushing “Killer cans”.
I’m sure it’s still available in bulk.

Does anyone have an update on this, environmental friendly and/or food contact compliant plastic metallization?

Ralph, you certainly can get “chrome” plastic silverware, but I don’t I don’t know the all the rules of food safe. Since the silverware has limited mucosal contact I would like to think cytotox would be a minimum, but that is for medical devices and not necessarily for food safe.

At any rate, it is typically up to the company who owns the finished good to prove an item is food safe, not the OEM. Extractable and leachable testing will need to be done, on top of cytotox (if needed). Not horribly expensive, a few thousand per material. I know a US lab if you are interested.

You may get lucky and find an OEM who has done the testing, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Ralph, the update is metallization by sputtering rather than evaporation, using stainless steel. This is what’s used on the metallized silverware. Sputter equipment manufacturers:

Thanks for the information. If the product could receive a top coat I would definitely imagine products will be safe to use with food. I will look into those companies.

That’s a 12 year old bump…just goes to show, there ain’t nothing new :wink:

That can be a dangerous assumption.

I’d more than assume you will need to run the necessary tests to prove it. Medical devices just got hit with more rigorous regulations with MDR in the EU. In the US, the FDA regulates both food and medical devices, but I don’t know the regulatory body for food in the EU. If you are required to create a DHR for food, expect to add 8-12 weeks to your timeline.