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What is Surface Activation®?

Surface Activation® is a method for metalizing hard to plate plastics without the need for chromic acid or mechanical etching. Plastics that can be treated by Surface Activation® that would be very difficult by other methods include PEEK, Nylon, Acetal, and new polymers such as direct digital manufacturing Ultem® 9085 and UV curable SLA materials.

Download our technical paper

Which type of plastics can be treated by Surface Activation®?

  • Acetal
  • Nylon
  • PE
  • PEEK
  • PPP
  • PPS
  • TPO
  • Ultem®

Why metalize (plate) plastic?

Plastic can replace metal such as aluminum or zinc castings due to its:

  • Lower weight
  • Cost
  • Ability to be moulded into complicated shapes

Examples of this can be seen in aerospace connectors, automotive door furniture and medical devices.

In many cases, a metallic coating needs to be applied to improve aesthetics and electrical conductivity. Surface Activation® provides the perfect method for achieving this as the substrate finish and dimensions are retained, while giving exceptional deposit adhesion when compared to other pretreatment methods.

Surface Characteristics

Properties of Surface Activated components

The 2 primary characteristics of surface activated parts compared to chemical etched and mechanical abraded are:

  • High adhesion values
  • Smooth surface which retains the substrate profile

Solder pull test is often used to test adhesion strength in recessed areas, where testing by traditional peel strength machines can't access.

Our gallery of parts plated after Surface Activation® demonstrate the retention of the substrate profile.

The Technology

What is Surface Activation®?

Surface Activation® is a method for metalizing plastic without the need for chromic acid or mechanical etching. It exposes the surfaces of the polymer to a mixture of reactive gases that change the atomic structure of the polymer surface down to 25 microns. The surface becomes polar making it water wettable. This results from an increase in the surface energy, or dyne level, and a reduction in surface tension.

Advantages of Surface Activation®

  • Exceptional adhesion of metal plated layer through chemical instead of mechanical bonding
  • Minimizes any degradation to the polymer surface
  • No change in the dimensions of the component, therefore suitable for intricate shapes
  • Permanent treatment
  • Components can be selectively plated

How would these advantages benefit me?

  • Improved adhesion extends component life, particularly in harsher environments
  • The smooth surface is retained, therefore giving a more aesthetically pleasing finish
  • Even parts with very fine dimension holes can be treated
  • Parts can be batch activated and stored before metallization process
  • Fine detail can be plated onto the surface, for example on MID components

Approved Applicators

MacDermid and Surface Activation® Technologies, working with our customers, have set up a network of surface finishing applicators who can satisfy your plated plastic requirements.