vacuum metallization

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Chris Passanante, GMN
By Chris Passanante | Feb 16, 2017
Vacuum metallized plastic part.

In this fourth part of our plastic decorating series, we will take a look at vacuum metallization. Vacuum metallization is a unique decorating technology that bonds a metallic layer to the plastic substrate through a vacuum vapor deposition process. This capability has both functional and decorative uses, such as EMI/RFI shielding or providing a chrome metallic finish.

Vacuum metallization is applied to the back side of a clear plastic part, but it appears to be chrome on the front side (looking through the clear material). This approach has allowed GMN to provide customers with some unique looking parts due to the 3-dimensional floating effect it that can be achieved with the right design inputs.  In some instances, we combine printing techniques and debossed lettering or images on the backside of the part and then vacuum metallize it for an additional effect.

At GMN, our team of plastic experts can include translucent backlighting on vacuum metallized parts to achieve a dead-front effect. This means that graphics or an LCD display will show through the chrome when the part is backlit, but will disappear behind the chrome when the lighting is turned off. 

Some considerations for this capability are that vacuum metallized parts can pick up fingerprints easily and depending on the detail of the part, the process of masking can be labor intensive. Overall, vacuum metallization is a bit more costly than other decorative options, but it achieves a very distinct and unique look that will allow your product to stand out from the competition.

Next, we’ll discuss the dual technologies of painting and laser etching plastic components.

Check out other blogs from this series to learn about more plastic decorative options:

Chris Passanante, GMN
By Chris Passanante | Dec 6, 2016
This plastic part was decorated using hot stamping.

In part three of our plastic decorating series, we will discuss hot stamping. This is a mature technology that continues to produce high quality parts year after year. Hot stamping utilizes heat and pressure to transfer predried ink or foil from a roll of film to a plastic part. The process is achieved by running the foil between the hot stamping die, then heating the die, and finally pressing the die down to apply the foil to the part. The decorative foil will only be applied to whichever part of the plastic is raised the highest.

Through hot stamping, a two-color, two-tone part can be decorated without having to do the time-consuming tasks of masking or painting. Another benefit of this process is that the ink doesn’t need to cure. Since the foil is transferred to the plastic part via heat, there is no need to run it through an oven afterwards. Intricate details can be achieved through this process as well. However, due to machine limitations there are restrictions on size.

This is an optimal technology for achieving metallic colors, and the shiny ink tones produced are unique within plastic decorating. In addition, the foil applied during hot stamping is durable and can withstand harsh environmental conditions.  

In our next article, we’ll explore the unique technology of vacuum metallization. 

Check out other blogs from this series to learn about more plastic decorative options: