Ion plating

Applying a metal surface to plastic is a high-precision process which can have performance and decorative benefits. Monitoring is required to ensure product quality.

Commonly viewed as a finishing process for metals, ion plating can be used with great success on non-conducting materials such as plastic. This requires a more specialized process than plating onto metal, to ensure a strong bond between the plastic substrate and metal coating.

To improve its adhesive qualities, the substrate is ‘metallized’ by depositing metal onto the surface without an electric current. This may include an etchant to increase the plastic surface area, making absorption easier. Partially ionized metal vapor is then applied to provide the final coating.

Poor adhesion, over-etching, and inadequate plating are common problems with this process. An automated process monitoring system which can inspect the surface accurately will support quality control of the ion plating process, reducing waste product.
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