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Plating on Exotic and Hybrid Materials

There are many metal finishing shops that can do an adequate job of plating with "traditional" metals such as tin, copper, nickel and zinc. But while these metals can meet the finishing requirements for most manufacturers, there are certain applications involving exotic materials such as plastics and ceramics where the use of superior metals will provide better long-term results in critical areas such as corrosion resistance, electrical conductivity and wear protection.

During our more than 90 years in business, Sharretts Plating Company has been able to master surface finishing techniques using precious metals such as gold, silver, palladium and platinum and various precious metal alloys. Our services also include refractory metals plating. We’re one of the few companies that can effectively plate other metals onto tungsten, as well as co-deposit tungsten with nickel and other standard metals. This has enabled us to make the transition from a traditional plating shop to a specialized, highly advanced metal finishing operation to meet the needs of industries such as medical, defense, aerospace and electronics.

Precious Metal Finishing Services

While plating with precious metals can result in a greater upfront expense due to the high economic value and relative scarcity of these materials, their ability to provide superior long-term results can make their use more cost-effective over time. Examples of our premium precious metal finishing services include gold plating for enhanced corrosion resistance and electrical conductivity, and silver plating for greater thermal protection and low-contact resistance. Of course, a coating of any precious metal will improve the aesthetic appeal of a product.

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Plating on Exotic Materials

Plating on Plastics

Plating on plastic materials first gained prominence in the automotive industry in the 1960s and remains a widespread practice to this day. SPC has developed a revolutionary process for plating on plastic materials that entails the application of an electroless nickel coating to serve as an undercoat, which is followed by a traditional electroplating technique. The benefits of plating on plastics include making the surface electrically conductive, increasing the wear resistance of the plastic part and the ability to create a shiny metallic surface that adds to the product's visual appeal.

Plating on Ceramics and Glass

Plating onto ceramic materials poses another difficult metal finishing challenge. As when plating on plastics, the process generally requires an initial application of an electroless nickel coating to promote adhesion. Once this underlying coat is applied, virtually any type of metal can be plated onto a ceramic substrate, including precious metals such as gold and silver. As with plating on plastics, plating for ceramics will metallize the substrate to make it electrically conductive, as well as increase its durability and resistance to wear and tear.


In addition to working with exotic materials like plastics and ceramics, SPC understands the importance of plating on hybrid materials, especially in rapidly evolving technological fields such as the electronics and medical industries.

Hybrid materials are composite materials made up of two or more constituents. Unlike regular composites, they're combined at the molecular or nanoscale level, making these materials essentially homogeneous throughout. Often, hybrid materials are made using one inorganic component and one organic component. For example, engineers might use carbon fibers to reinforce an inorganic plastic.

By combining inorganic and organic components at a molecular level, engineers and manufacturers are able to create materials with new and useful properties. Hybrid materials usually possess properties somewhere between their two constituent parts, though sometimes they attain new properties altogether.

Hybrid materials may be stronger and more resistant to corrosion and heat than other materials, making them perfect for use in extreme environments. To give you a sense of the application potential of hybrid materials, here are a few well-known examples:

  • Carbon-filled PEEK: This high-performance plastic is popular for its high thermal conductivity, structural integrity and resistance to harsh chemicals, water and steam.
  • Glass or carbon-filled Ultem: This heat-resistant plastic resin is often used for medical and chemical tools since it retains strength even in high temperatures and when exposed to solvents.
  • Reinforced nylon: Carbon-filled nylon is often used in 3D printing due to its strength. It allows for the manufacturing of stiff but lightweight products.

In essence, a hybrid material is any molecular combination of organic and inorganic materials, so the possibilities are endless. Engineers sometimes create new hybrid materials to solve a particular problem with a product or industry. As a result, no single hybrid material works for every situation.

Why Plate Onto Hybrid Materials?

Hybrid materials allow engineers to create products that perform well in unique environments. For products dedicated to excellent performance and durability, a metal coating may also be necessary. Some metal coatings, such as gold, can increase corrosion resistance and provide electrical conductivity. Whether a metal finishing is essential to the product's function or simply meant to extend its lifespan, hybrid materials can benefit from plating.

Like plating onto exotic materials, plating onto hybrid materials takes a specialized process. Since the components of hybrid materials vary widely, SPC works with each individual client to determine an effective plating process. In general, the process will involve applying an electroless nickel coating to aid in electroplating, since most hybrid materials won't conduct electricity on their own.

At SPC, we're dedicated to finding plating solutions that work, regardless of the materials you rely on. As hybrid materials create new options for a variety of high-tech industries, we strive to meet our clients' evolving needs.

SPC Has the Expertise to Take on Your Most Challenging Materials

Whether you need reliable solutions for plating on plastics, ceramics, hybrid materials or virtually any other exotic material, you can count on SPC to provide results that will exceed your expectations. Contact us to learn more about our exotic material finishing capabilities and our wide range of advanced precious metal finishing services today.

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Contact SPC today to receive your no-obligation plating quote or to learn more about how our many valuable magnesium plating services can help you maximize your manufacturing processes.


"I would like to thank you for the help you have provided us in developing an electroless nickel plating technique on an unusual substrate. The sample platings you provided show that we should be able to reach our goals. I especially appreciate your willingness to take on an unusual job, with the uncertainties that that entails...We are looking forward to working with you in the future on our plating needs."

– Robert K.