Chrome Plated Plastic Parts
Who’s afraid of chrome plating a plastic prototype? Think it can’t be done? Yes it can. And done correctly a chrome finish can make your prototype design “pop”.
Shiny and sleek components often are far more desirable depending upon the product. Electroplating plastic gives a surface finish that can’t be matched by any other method. High price point luxury products often have the chrome look. Products at a lower price point can also benefit from the trend. Especially, as this is a cost effective way of adding value.
A lightweight plastic prototype is highly marketable to end users who prefer or need a product that is easier to handle. Chrome visually imparts a bulk that makes the product seem far more substantial that it is adding to the desirability.
Even just a few chrome finish highlights will give an interesting texture contrast that can make the product stand out from the rest. The possible design combination’s are endless. Chrome can grab the eye and highlight a curve or a sharp corner detail depending upon the intent of the design and the target demographic.
Practical Reasons to Chrome Plastic
Chrome electroplating can be for more practical reasons other than “making it pretty” or appealing to ones sense of “keeping up with the Jones”. For instance chrome plating can produce electrical conductivity. This is because it’s a real metal finish. The cost savings are realized in not only avoiding the secondary operation of metal inserts in the injection molding process; the actual cost of the metal insert is also eliminated.
Another practical reason would be for durability. Chrome lasts longer and wears better than a regular plastic part. Which is why it is used so often in automotive details like grills and trim work.
A lightweight component has the added benefit of helping to create more fuel-efficient vehicles. Chrome electroplated plastic components can stand up to outdoor conditions due to chromium’s anti-rust properties. Not only can they take environmental conditions, these parts are very durable and constant handling will not affect them. From a control button on a stereo to the door handle on a vehicle, the chrome finished plastic part won’t show any wear.
Lightweight plastic parts don’t just benefit fuel-efficient vehicles. Reducing weight in a plastic part by eliminating metal and instead using chrome electroplating reduces transportation / shipping costs. These cost reductions can be realized through actual reduced weight to ship costs or reduced fuel costs.
Less weight = easy usage by the consumer. As our lives get consumed by “must have” devices we are similarly “weighed down” by these devices. Many purchasing decisions are based upon usage factors like lower weight. This is especially prevalent in the female purchasing market. Most carry several lb’s in a purse, adding to that weight is not a real selling point. This is where a small, sleek, light weight device is appreciated.
In the world of rapid prototyping there are many levels of quality. For a chrome-plated prototype, the plastic part has to be of a very high quality. Any little flaw or blemish will stand out and in many instances be magnified. This is because chrome plating just coats the plastic, it does not fill in defects like scratches, sink or stress marks etc.
Rapid prototyping and chromed plastic parts aren’t usually put into the same sentence in the plastic world. Normally this surface finish is thought to only be available to traditional injection molded plastic parts. This stereotype is due mainly to the misconception that an aluminum tool cannot be polished enough to accomplish a class A surface of fine enough quality for chrome plating. Aluminum’s thermal conductivity creates a more even flow of material which results in a quality part that looks great when chromed.
Just like there are resins specifically made for other applications, there is plating grade ABS or PC/ABS and many more plastic resins designed specifically for smoother mold flow and better adhesion of the chrome to the plastic. Always make sure you are using the correct resin for your needs. Resin manufacturers have easily found “spec” sheets that will state all the best uses and properties. In this case a standard ABS or PC/ABS plastic part will not take chrome electroplating as well as plating grade ABS or PC/ABS.
PHOENIX PROTO does offer different types of alloys for cavities like stainless steel and P-20 for customers that request them, our core business is Aluminum Tooling but we do offer alternatives for those who request them. Our IPP™ technique can achieve a surface suitable for chrome plated plastic. This is a direct cost saving and time saving technique that yields the same level of quality found in traditional tooling methods.