Skip to main content

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

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - freeCr6plat (Chrome plating without toxic Cr(VI). An ecofriendly electroplating for automotive plastic parts.)

Reporting period: 2020-09-01 to 2021-04-30

freeCr6Plat is an advanced technology that aims to eliminate the use of hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) in the plating process of materials. freeCr6Plat will directly plate a wide variety of plastic surfaces. Hexavalent chromium is a proved carcinogenic, toxic and hazardous for the environment material, but there are not currently competitive technologies to plate plastic parts without using this chemical. freeCr6Plat wants to be the alternative solution for plating without Cr(VI), due to the use of the same installations and the few modifications implied in the new developed process.

The main objectives of freeCr6Plat are:
- Eliminate the use of hexavalent chromium from the surface pre-treatment process.
- Direct metallisation without using expensive palladium catalysts.
- Reduce the use of electroless nickel, creating savings for the companies.
- Reduce wastewater and chemicals as total change in the steps involved.
- Great flexibility in plating different types of polymers such as ABS, ABS/PC, PVC...
- The pre-treatment open a window to be used in other process that are needed certain conductivity like painting or printing.

The development of the project has allowed to obtain the following conclusions:
- freeCr6Plat is completely free of chromium (VI), and offer a comparable quality of coating.
- freeCr6Plat reduces the impact in ecotoxicity and human toxicity in more than a 99%
- The adhesion of the treatment complies with automotive standard with a less toxic compound.
- The treatment was tested with ABS, ABS/PC, PA and PP, offering good results for all of them.
Regarding the technical part of the project, Avanzare has completed the adaptation of the technology developed, trying to improve the waste water treatment, in order to obtain the most environmental-friendly results. Moreover, Avanzare has tested different finishing and conditions whose results have been checked against certification automotive standards. Multiple trials have been developed to understand the best conditions used for each step in terms of concentration of the product, temperature and/or time.

The regulatory behind the new product is being checked through REACH. Avanzare has registered one substance used as an alternative to chromium (VI). Life Cycle Analysis and ecolabel of the project are developed. LCA results showed a high reduction of the impact on ecotoxicity and human toxicity.

Avanzare has also developed the market strategy, using tools such as Porter's value chain and Porter's five forces. These studies have helped to understand the stakeholders’ engagement and communication strategy has designed for each stakeholder. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the strategy has based on direct contact with interesting partners, and development of online activities.

Avanzare has also patented the results of the project. IPR has already been protected and granted in EU and USA and is under evaluation in national phases worldwide.
Current plating technologies implies the use of multiple steps to create the final aspect of the finishing. The key step is the etching process where the plastic surface is activated in order to be attached to other metals and create a conductive coating needed for the electroplating of the plastic part.

The technology developed in freeCr6Plat goes beyond the state of the art, using alternative materials to chromium VI to develop the etching process of plastic materials. The following steps have been also modified by including other type of additives less hazardous for the environment. The product is almost ready for the market launch, and it can be used as an alternative to conventional plating of plastic parts, but with a reduction of toxic wastes, water consumption and most cost-effective.

freeCr6Plat is aligned with the ECHA and REACH regulations, that aim at forbidding the use of chromium VI as soon as alternative technologies appear in the market. The launch of freeCr6Plat in the coming months will allow to work towards this goal.