3 Methods for Plating Plastic with Metal

Decorative Molding Features: Part 2

Great women and metallic plating have a lot in common. Foremost, they add strength to whatever/whoever they bond too. Secondly, they protect those around them from the corrosion of storms and bad weather. Finally, they are aesthetically pleasing. As much as I love giving honor to strong, protective, beautiful women… However, today let’s focus on plating plastic with metal as our topic of conversation today.

Why Plate Plastic with Metal?

chrome plating of plastic car door handle
Door handle – Chrome Plated

Plating Plastic is a secondary decorative molding feature that provides a part with a metallic and durable surface. Metallic plating of plastic is a slightly more difficult process than metallic plating of metal. In order for the metallic plating to bond to the plastic, the part has to have an electrical charge or undergo a chemical process. Thus, metallic plating gives plastic a competitive advantage over metal, especially in the automotive and toy industries. Vehicles can have chrome plated plastic parts that are lighter and more cost effective than metal. Meanwhile, proving as durable and strong as their metal counterpart.

3 Methods of Plating Plastic with Metal:

Chrome Plating

Traditional chrome plating gives objects a mirrored, chrome look. It is great for wheel covers, and other automobile parts. Chrome plating is a very durable option. However, it is a little more expensive than some other metallic applications to plastic. Chrome plating requires a part to be painted or dipped, require more time per part produced. Typically, this also creates a very high quality look and a very strong surface.

Vacuum Metalizing

In addition to traditional chrome plating, vacuum metalizing offers a different approach to adding metal to the surface of plastic. Vacuum metalizing can offer a more cost effective approach. This process minimizes the exposure of toxins from processes like chrome plating. It provides an aesthetic appeal. Also, it provides the resilience and conductivity of the metallic plating. The process of vacuum metalizing is simple! To begin, the plastic parts are placed on a wire rack in a vacuum chamber. Secondly, the wire rack is charged with an electrical current. Finally, aluminum (most commonly used) or another metal is evaporated into particles that cling to the plastic surface leaving a very solid and even coated surface.


Electroplating uses electrodepositing from one metallic source onto an object. This process is similar to traditional metallic plating. However, it uses the ionic particle depositing technique. Plastics that work best with electroplating include:

  • ABS
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) – commonly referred to as Teflon
  • Phenolic
  • Polycarbonate
  • Polysulfone
  • Polyoxymethylene (Polyacetal)

Applications of Plastic Plating of Metal

  • Automotive industry
  • Electronics
  • Plumbing
  • Household Items
  • Kitchenware
  • Apparel

How We Can Help

If you have a plastic part that needs to conduct electricity, have a metallic aesthetic, and/or be weather and chemical resistant, chat with one of our product development engineers today. We can decide the plating process that works best for your project.

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