How is Plastic Chrome Plated?

by Erika Becklin

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

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, neutralize, 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: sulfuric acid etching, semi-bright nickel application, a sulfuric acid bath, bright acid copper application, bright nickel application and finally, ending in the application of the chrome layer.

Vaccum Metalizing

Vacuum metalizing 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.

About the Author

Making the complex understandable, Erika Becklin has written on parenting, education, small business, manufacturing, food service, and travel as a small-business owner and manager since 1996. Her articles appear on eHow and Answerbag. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a focus on professional and technical writing from the University of South Florida.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera chrome all over image by FotoWorx from