How is Plastic Chrome Plated?

Written by erika becklin
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How is Plastic Chrome Plated?
Chrome-plated plastic is identical in appearance to metal, but lighter weight. (chrome all over image by FotoWorx from

Traditionally, plastic is plated with chrome in an electrolytic process after being pretreated in an electroless process. In another process, vacuum metallising, plating is achieved when metal bonds with plastic in a vacuum chamber.

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Electroless Process

This first step of the chrome plating process coats plastic with electroless nickel by using a chemical solution to make the plastic conductive for the electrolytic process. The electroless process is completed in several steps in the following order: clean, etch, neutralise, apply a catalyst, apply an accelerator and add electroless nickel.

Electrolytic Process

After the plastic has been pre-plated using the electroless process, it is placed in a solution and subjected to an electric current to add the chrome layer. This is also a lengthy process that proceeds in the following order: sulphuric acid etching, semi-bright nickel application, a sulphuric acid bath, bright acid copper application, bright nickel application and finally, ending in the application of the chrome layer.

Vaccum Metalizing

Vacuum metallising is a lower cost alternative for plating plastic. This method is physical rather than chemical and therefor eliminates the need to use toxic chemicals in the process. During this process, the plastic part bonds with metal when placed in a special vacuum chamber, coating the plastic.

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