Name: Juven H.
Why will electroplating not work with plastic? How can
plastic be plated?
The reason that plastic parts can not be easily electroplated is because
plastic is a nonconductor of electricity. Plastics can be metallized
though, through numerous plating processes. I will just outline some of
these process that are used in metallizing plastic parts for the
automotive industry. For starters, the parts must be perfectly clean from
any oil, grease or any plastic injection mold compounds. If the parts are
not cleaned properly, the metal will peel off over time from the plated
plastic part. Then you process the plastic part in a very aggressive
chromic/sulfuric acid bath to etch the plastic surface (make small pits on
the surface). Then you place the plastic part in a palladium chloride
bath to place metal particles in the previous pits made on the plastic
surface. After this palladium metal deposition, one can electroplate the
part with copper metal and then chrome plate or many other various metals
such as nickel or gold. I know that this is a very shortened process
list, but for your use, it should suffice. I hope that this helps!
By definition, electroplating requires that an electric current flow between
the part being plated and the chemical solution. If the part is
non-conductive then an electric current cannot flow.
How can one plate nonconductive materials like plastic? The answer is
"electroless" plating. These chemical baths deposit metal coatings but
do not' need electricity. After an electroless coating is produced, a normal
electroplating bath can be used to make the coating even thicker.
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Update: June 2012