Coatings over Plastic Substrates

Coatings on Plastic Substrates


As plastics have become more ubiquitous throughout the 21st century, the demand for plating metals onto plastics has markedly increased. With needs ranging from purely aesthetic reasons to demands for high-performance plastics in critical electronic applications, many industries – including, but not limited to, automotive, electrical, plumbing, and medical – are in the market for metalizing plastic.

In addition to improving appearance, metal coatings on plastics protect the substrate against corrosion and chemical attack, impart electrical conductivity, and add increased strength and durability. Additionally, the prospect of substituting traditional materials with low-cost plastics that have been imbued with the properties offered by metal plating has further driven up the demand for metalized plastics.

Numerous techniques allow for the deposition of metal onto plastic. While traditional electroplating processes have been used for years to deposit metal onto plastic, we are increasingly seeing the development and implementation of heavily specialized techniques. Vapor deposition methods can create metal thin films down to the nanometer scale – useful for applications such as creating EMI and RFI shielding layers for small, plastic-enclosed electronic components as well as lining food packaging to preserve quality. Various in-mold processes combine the metal plating and plastic molding into a single step, seamlessly integrating the metal coating with the plastic surface.

X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) allows for a quick and reliable method to accurately measure the thickness and composition of metal layers on plastic substrates. All of Bowman's XRF systems are equipped with Silicon Drift Detectors (SDDs) capable of measuring multilayer thin films on a wide variety of plastic parts. Additionally, XRF is non-destructive and has minimal sample preparation time, especially in comparison to methods such as cross-sectioning and SEM.

Read our coatings over plastics application note to learn more about the application performance.


Bowman XRF systems are versatile analytical tools for measuring chromate conversion coatings, along with other plating thickness and composition as well as solution analysis. The reduced costs of time, personnel, and instrumentation required by other methods make Bowman XRF an excellent alternative. Call our support Team for more information.