Chroming a printed part

Does anyone have a suggestion for chroming a printed part? I tried with 2 shops, neither could do it. One shop, I imagine, didn’t try very hard seeing as he didn’t even want to be bothered. The other said his formulations weren’t adhering to the piece and he didn’t have experience with non metal substrates.

So, has anyone here done this with success?

You can’t chrome plastic. True chroming, or Chrome plating is an electroplating process that works on metals. For plastics, the process is quite different, and it’s called Aluminium Evaporation Metallization or Vacuum Metallizing.

So you need to look for a company that does Vacuum Metallizing,

Try Repliform. Some on this forum have had some experience with them.

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Is that for eastetics purposes or does it have to be strong enough to make a functional difference? There are deposition techniques in the PVD family that are suitable for plastics, I’ve seen Chrome-like and reflective coating being applied on prototype parts for the automotive industry.

I think looking for a pvd specialist will yield good results. If you have issues with the supplier not being interested in working with you, I’m sure contacting a prototyping specialist will allow you to use their suppliers for that kind of stuff… They’ll get their cut of course.

Actually you can electroplate plastic fairly easily - all you need is some decent conductive paint - this stuff works really well

see my post on electroplating printed parts from a while back - I wasn’t chroming, but I’m fairly sure you can Chrome a nickel plated part, although a mirror surface finish might be difficult.

you can plate plastic if you cover it with a conductive paint- but the the plating is stuck to the paint- not the plastic.
It will flake off.

The best way to get a bright mirror metal surface on plastic is the process Dudemeister refers to- however- in the plastics industry the more common term used for the process is Vapor Deposition.

Or Vapor Dep.

Those plastic air vents in your car that LOOK like metal but are actually not?
They are vapor depped.

Most of this work went to china- where most fake chromed plastic parts are made… But any company near you that can still produce those plastic car trim parts that look like shiny metal should have a Vapor Dep tank…
Essentially, the parts are placed in a vaccum chamber, and thin aluminum wire is vaporized thru an electric arc to fill the chamber and coat the parts.

@Sculptingman maybe - if you’re doing large parts with large flat areas, but the form2 is a machine with a fairly small build volume. My parts did not flake…

@ themedulla;
Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll look them up.

@ JohnHue;
It isn’t for the strength, it is for the aesthetics with ability to resist fingerprint oils and swirl marks/scratches.
Headlights have vacuum metalized plastic which I suspect is similar to vapor depositing and for a sealed vessel like a headlight, this is ok but in my application, I suspect the finish wouldn’t last long.

@ KevinHolmes;
This is the approach I have used for parts cast from a mold. The chrome is bonded to the primer, not the true substrate and if you were to cut the chrome, it would delaminate right away. Luckily it will encapsulate the print so this should be a non issue.

I will look at some home kits but I’m clueless as to how its done, I’d rather farm it out!

You guys have given me some areas to explore, thank you.

@ KevinHolmes;

Would this be a viable setup? The variable being getting the conductive primer onto my 3D part.
Can that conductive silver be sprayed?

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@Zenica you mention you’ve done plating before - so presumably you have materials already - frankly that kit you linked is a level of sophistication beyond what I was using - which was a materials kit with a bucket, an air bubbler, and a very crude variable resistor and power supply.

I was painting the silver conductive by hand. I’ve never actually used an air brush - but my feeling is no, the silver particles in that paint are very fine, but they still separate from the carrier very quickly. I found that I had to take care refreshing the brush to be sure of an even coat. Also it’s very expensive, so even if it was sprayable, I’m not sure you’d want to.

The first thing that comes to mind is electroless plating. I don’t know whether you could electroless plate chrome directly onto the part or whether you’d need to first deposit a copper and/or nickel and then electroless/electroplate the chrome.

Here are a couple of links I found from a quick bit of ‘Googling’:
Do a search on electroless plating SLA prints and see what you can find.

Yes it’s a technique in the same family. PVD means physical vapor deposition and it is often performed under vacuum. However there are a range of different types of coating and application methods and I’m sure there are some that are much more mechanically resistant than others.

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We’ve used RePliForm, they are able to plate nickel and bright chrome-like finishes onto parts. They offer various thicknesses as well, in case you want your parts to gain more strength through plating.

Plating plastic parts involves etching the plastic, and then pre-coating it in a conductive layer. The etch (I believe) gives you a stronger mechanical bond between the metal and the plastic. It will definitely not flake off.