The increasing popularity of the use of plastics and plastic composites in a wide variety of manufacturing processes has also led to a greater demand for plating on plastic. Plating plastic with a metal surface enhances the appearance of the material and creates the impression of higher quality. As a result, it is often selected when a highly decorative look is desired.
Additionally, plating on plastic can be an effective means of protecting a substrate against the forces of corrosion and make it more resistant to damage from chemicals used in the manufacturing process. In some instances, plating on plastic can increase the strength and wear resistance of the substrate.
As we’ve seen in the automotive industry, an important benefit of plating on plastic is that it can significantly enhance the appearance of the substrate. Most industrial plastics tend to have a dull finish. While colorizing the plastic can make it more visually appealing, it still will not produce the bright, shiny appearance that many product owners desire. While plating with chrome has long been a popular technique in automotive applications, the potential health hazards posed by the hexavalent chromium plating process has led many metal finishing providers to employ safer alternatives, particularly nickel plating.
Electroplating can also give a non-conductive plastic surface the ability to conduct electricity, a property that is invaluable to the manufacturers of electronic parts and components used in automobiles, aircraft and a multitude of other products. A metal coating can also reflect potentially damaging light away from the surface of a plastic substrate and serve as a protective barrier against harmful gases and corrosion. Additionally, metallization can help to control the dissipation of energy.