Why reflectors are not chrome-plated

A lot of people want to have their reflectors chrome-plated.

Please read below why we don’t chrome them.

Reflectors have originally in the old days been silver plated which produces white light. Continual polishing though was a bit of a bugger. So they decided to give the silver a “flash” of rhodium (a platinum metal). This stopped it from tarnishing. Silver plating in those days needed to be polished prior to the rhodium flash = labour cost. Thereafter it required an additional cleaning process prior to the rhodium flash = more labour and process costs.

Silver started to get expensive, so they turned to nickel instead.

This still required a rhodium flash to stop it from tarnishing. Instead of rhodium on top of nickel they could have used chrome. However using chrome would have given off a blue light which has a different wave length to the white light produced by silver, nickel with or without the rhodium flash, thus reducing greatly the distance that the light would travel = no good for driving around at night! In the meantime reflectors are made of plastic and not steel.

Like everything else in life people endeavour to produce smarter, cheaper, faster and better. “Vacuum Metallising” solved all these problems. In the process they were able to reduce the environmental impact caused by the plating process. Importantly though it gives off a white light!

Vacuum metallising covers the substrate with a very thin coat of aluminium. This is then coated with a weather and UV resistant lacquer.

The whole process is carried out under vacuum. Aluminium is then evaporated and deposited onto the substrate, which would be the reflector. The set up for such an automated process is extremely expensive and are mainly tied up with large in-house production facilities of car manufacturers.

Recommendation: try to find a “job shop” close to you.

It’s not all bad news though: Should you have any item made of plastic or fibre glass and you require a hard wearing and durable surface that will be handled a lot. Then our process is the way to go with an average of 150 um of copper, 30 um of nickel and a generous coat of chrome (usually measured in angstroms)1 angstrom = one hundred millionth of one centimetre.

Don’t ask me how many angstroms there are on the item, I really don’t know!

However we make sure that there is no nickel exposed. This is also referred to as a “nickel blow”.

We hope to have addressed your question adequately.

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