Trimite has developed a highly reflective coating which gives plastic a chrome or silver-like appearance. It is the first time chrome-effect coatings have been successfully applied to plastics.
The coating has been enthusiastically received by designers. `That’s why there’s been a trend in using chrome-look finishes with hi-fis, mobile phones and even televisions,’ said Philip Lai, product manager at Trimite.
The coating consists of tiny flakes of aluminium held in a runny, low-viscosity suspension by resin. Previous attempts to make highly reflective silver coatings ran into difficulties because the technology was not available to produce consistently sized aluminium flakes. Also, the inaccuracies in the lay-down process meant flakes were aligned in different directions, breaking up reflections.
The coating is delicately applied layer by layer so the flakes lie in an uniform pattern. Light hitting each flake on the coating surface is reflected back in the same direction, producing the smooth, metallic effect.
The coating can be applied at a rate of 10m2 per litre, creating a layer about 5 microns thick. Two coats give a metallic finish while chrome finish requires three coats. A two-coat clear lacquer is applied to protect the surface.
Lai predicts that car manufacturers will eventually adopt the technology, although he admits paint shop spraying machines would have to be adapted.
He believes the coating is a significantly cheaper and environmentally friendlier alternative to vacuum metallisation and chrome plating.