Decorative electroplated chrome coatings on plastics have been produced for decades. For environmental reasons, there has been a shift away from hexavalent chrome (Cr6) to trivalent chrome (Cr3) with increased investments towards elemental chrome PVD coatings to maintain the true chrome appearance. Stylists within industries such as automotive, still pine for the chrome look, but are looking for alternative solutions without the negative health impact of chrome electroplating and its processing effluents. For applications that must endure the sun, sand and highway, the acceptance criteria is increasing with exposures to a wider temperature range (from -70 to +150° C), higher levels of chemical attack from new highway deicing systems and from aggressive cleaning techniques. John A. Thornton [1] reported direct sputter deposition of chrome and other metals on ABS and base-coated ABS in 1975 and new developments continue to evolve to replace traditional decorative chrome plating

ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) has been widely used as substrates for vacuum deposition and electroplating since the 1960s. The material is relatively inexpensive and can be easily injection molded, but for most applications where the part is directly exposed, or viewed through a clear lens, a base coating (of paint) to smooth the surface of blush and flow lines prior to vacuum deposition has been required. A more expensive plating grade ABS is used for components to be electroplated. PVD processing has greatly opened up the materials that can be directly coated including: ABS with polycarbonate (PC) blends, polyamide (PA), polyetherimide (PEI), polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), polystryrene (PS) and others.

Decorative electroplated chrome coatings on plastics have been produced for decades. For environmental reasons, there has been a shift away from hexavalent chrome (Cr6) to trivalent chrome (Cr3) with increased investments towards elemental chrome PVD coatings to maintain the true chrome appearance.