Many of the shiny “chrome” parts on car dashboards and toys are actually plastic that has been covered with a thin coat of aluminum through a process called vacuum metallizing. In this process, a part (plastic, glass or metal) is placed in a chamber and most of the air is pumped out. Metal vapor enters the chamber and condenses on the part to form a very thin and shiny metallic coating. A transparent topcoat is then applied to protect the part from scratching and humidity. A gold finish and other colors can be achieved by adding dye to the topcoat.
Vacuum metallizing, sometimes called sputtering, is used in a myriad of applications and many more will emerge as industry learns how cost effective it is to mass produce using this method. The three most popular applications for vacuum metallizing are:
1. Reflective finishes on road signs, emergency lights and flash lights.
2. Decorative chrome coatings on wheels, headlamps and interior and exterior car trim, as well as vacuum metallization on trophies, shower parts, jewelry, ipod cases and toys.
3. Shielding from heat, vapors, electro magnetic interference and radio interference on computers, cell phones and cameras.
Find out how the vacuum metallization process worksMany sites offer good information and other services for vacuum metallizing.
Purchase services from vacuum metallizing suppliersIf you just have just one application that needs to be metallized, outsourcing is ideal. Most vacuum metallizing suppliers offer a full line of services.
Find vacuum metallizing equipment suppliersIt may be more cost effective in the long term to coat your own vacuum metallized parts. The newest technology allows the part to be pretreated, metallized and top coated in a single processing cycle. There are also vacuum metallizing systems that work in conjunction with an injection molding press to further increase efficiencies.
- Vacuum metallization processes are greener than other applications such as electroplating because they generate no air or water pollution.
- Aluminum is the metal of choice in most vacuum metallizing applications because it has high adherence properties, is relatively inexpensive and has a silvery brilliance.