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Name: Juven H.
Status: student
Age: 13
Location: N/A 
Country: N/A
Date: 10/16/2004

Why will electroplating not work with plastic? How can plastic be plated?

Electroplating uses an electrical current to "place" another metal onto the surface of another metal. The metal that is going to be coated needs to be able to conduct electricity. Most plastics are nonconducting, so electroplating will not work. I am not sure why you would want to plate plastic anyway. Electroplating is usually done to crate a surface that is more able to withstand unfavorable environmental conditions. That is, say you want to build a steel frame that is in a corrosive environment. You might want to plate carbon steel with zinc in order to minimize the corrosion of the steel since zinc has better corrosion resistance, but you will not make the frame out of zinc because it is too soft to hold a decent load. Plastics by their nature are already immune to many forms of corrosion. There are other types of coatings for plastics, but they are usually applied much like paint is applied to surfaces.

Hope this helped, and thanks for using NEWTON.

Chris Murphy, P.E.

Electroplating of plastics will not occur because the plastic electrode will not conduct electricity, thus the electrical circuit cannot be completed. That is not to say that there may be some electrical conductive plastic out there which will conduct electricity, but I do not know of one. Some plastics are plated by condensing metallic vapor onto the plastic by vapor deposition.

Vince Calder

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