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Chrome plating without toxic Cr(VI). An ecofriendly electroplating for automotive plastic parts.

Project description

A sustainable alternative to electroplating plastic parts

Electroplating, a process that produces a metal coating on a solid substrate, offers a non-conductive plastic surface the ability to conduct electricity. Metallic coatings are used for increasing resistance to wear and corrosion of plastic parts, together with creating an appealing aspect mainly in the automotive sector. The EU-funded freeCr6plat project will apply a molecular self-assembly technique that can directly metallise a wide variety of plastic surfaces. The proposed method will eliminate the use of hexavalent chromium, which is toxic, mutagenic and cancerogenic, and reduce the number of steps in the plating process. As a result, the technology will help reduce the use of chemicals by 30 %, wastewater generation by 35 % and energy consumption by 50 %.


Electroplating is one of the most advanced techniques to create plated plastics with wide industrial applications. However, current electroplating techniques use hexavalent chromium (Cr [VI]) as etching agent. Hexavalent chromium has been proved to have toxic, mutagenic and cancerogenic effects for human health. As a result, the European Union has included this compound within the list of restricted substances under the Directive 76/769/EEC (REACH Directive) and banned its use from 2017 onwards, while strengthening environmental, health and safety legislations on hazardous waste. This has left the plating industry in a very delicate position with dark future prospects unless new solutions that are both effective and environmentally friendly are discovered. freeCr6plat is an advanced and demonstrated technology that applies a patented Molecular Self Assembly (SAM) technique for ‘direct metallization’ of a wide variety of plastic surfaces, eliminating the use of Cr (VI) and simplifying the number of steps in the plating process. This allows to reduce the use of chemicals (-30%), rinsing water inputs and wastewater generation and associated treatment (-35%), and energy consumption (-50%), resulting in environmental performance and time (-20%) optimization, while reducing overall plating and wastewater treatment costs by 20% compared to the conventional system. Besides, this technique maintains adhesion promotion within the process, resulting in high quality finishing results comparable to the conventional process. freeCr6plat project aims to reach short term market uptake for automotive applications by adapting the process to automotive plating lines, obtaining specific certifications required by the sector and strengthening our environmental awareness, commercial and networking strategy. We expect Cr6-FreePlat to reach a market penetration from 6% to 16% in five years, with M€105.6 cumulative turnover and M€ 21.1 profits, resulting in a ROI of 8.6.

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Net EU contribution
€ 1 235 087,00
26370 Navarrete

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The organization defined itself as SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) at the time the Grant Agreement was signed.

Noreste La Rioja La Rioja
Activity type
Private for-profit entities (excluding Higher or Secondary Education Establishments)
Total cost
€ 1 764 410,00