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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