Environmental Electroplating & Plating on Plastics

Environmental Electroplating & How It Applies to Plating on Plastics

Being friendlier to the environment is a significant concern in many manufacturing operations these days for legal as well as health and safety reasons. Consequently, metal finishing companies have needed to find ways to alter their processes to ensure compliance with increasingly stringent environmental regulations and to create a safer work environment.

One specific area where metal finishers have had to make major alterations is the process of electroplating onto plastics. Electroplating on plastics gained prominence in the 1960s in the automotive industry, but it extends into several different industries now. Any company producing plastic parts, including polypropylene, polycarbonate, Teflon and ABS, may need to plate them to give them electrical conductivity, higher strength, more durability and better corrosion-resistance. Using the right plating techniques and materials is essential.

The Dangers of Hexavalent Chromium When Plating on Plastics

Over time, it became apparent that the hexavalent chromium used for chrome plating resulted in significant health hazards. Specifically, it was determined that the health effects of exposure to hexavalent chromium in an occupational setting included eye irritation and damage, perforated eardrums, respiratory irritation, kidney and liver damage and respiratory cancer, to name just a few.

Implementation of OSHA Regulations Restricts the Practice of Plating With Chrome

Because of the health issues related to hexavalent chromium, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration developed and instituted a series of regulations regarding its use in the workplace. Companies that used chrome to plate plastics and other materials are now required to adhere to strict environmental guidelines to protect their workers. In many cases, companies will need to bear the expense of altering the processes and purchasing new equipment if they wish to continue plating with chrome.

Environmentally Friendly Alternatives When Plating on Plastic

Instead of incurring an increase in costs that can negatively impact their bottom line, many manufacturers and metal finishers are turning to more environmentally friendly materials for plastic electroplating. Currently, a trivalent chromium plating process is being used across the industry. In addition, certain metals like copper and gold can provide a coating that gives many plastics higher functionality, including greater strength, conductivity and durability, without posing such environmental threats.

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Contact SPC for All Your Plastic Plating Needs

SPC has developed an effective, environmentally friendly process for plating onto plastics for manufacturers in several fields as well as companies in a wide variety of industries — we don’t engage in the practice of plating with chrome. We use an eco-friendly revolutionary plastic electroplating technique, and at this point, we’ve perfected it. Contact us to learn more today.