Is there an affordable way to DIY gold plate plastic?
Needs to be gold plating, can be stingy, ok to use some kind of base coat or base layer. A little extra work and or creative scrounging is ok, but the base cost of kit, chemicals, materials needs to be kept low.
Foiling is not a good alternative for the application.
You might search via google for "electro less" plating. This is, reportedly, a misnomer that referes to a non external electrical process. Copper and nickel varieties, and I believe I've heard reference to gold types, exist.
Billy Wa> Is there an affordable way to DIY gold plate plastic?
Hul Tytus fired this volley in news:lfit74$s9j$ email@example.com:
It's not so much of a misnomer. "Electro-less" plating has to do with the molecular affinity of certain salts for surfaces which are of a different dielectric charge. No current flows, only molecular and atomic attractions are at work to cause the deposition of metals or salts on the surfaces.
The most common way to plate plastics is to apply a very mildly- conductive coating of a metal salt by means of an electro-less "seeding" process. After that, first vanishingly small, then greater currents are drawn in a plating solution to cause real metal to be deposited upon the surface. Usually, that first plating is a more base metal like copper or tin. After a suitable layer of the base is there, it is polished, and then the precious metal is plated over that by normal means.
Someone with a little chemistry skills could "mirror" a surface with a silver deposition solution similar to what is sometimes used to (actually) "silver" mirrors. Then the silver can be used as the first conductive base layer.
If you scrape nearly any metal-plated plastic item (like trim on cars), you'll see a copper layer beneath the chromium.
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That's also how they do telescope mirrors, but IIRC they draw a very hard vaccum on the box. Some amateurs have set up their own rig, which is an experiment in itself (everything has to be just so or you get uneven coatings), but most just send it off to a vacuum plater for a fee.
That vacuum is *far* from partial. Any noticeable amount of air left in there will slow the flow of molecules which you are trying to coat things with. For a large enough bell jar to be useful, figure perhaps 24 hours or more of roughing pumping with a good vacuum pump. A bit less if you have a really expensive turbo-pump which you can fire up when you get down to a low enough vacuum to speed the remaining pumping. Otherwise, you get down to a certain level and then start alternately chilling vac-sorb type pumps with liquid Nitrogen to adsorb what little gas is left, and then valving them off and heating them to refresh the core. Or an oil diffusion pump is a possible approach. All high vacuum equipment is quite expensive.
Then you need a vacuum tight set of electrodes capable of 20 to
200 Amps, depending on the size of the "boat" (the part which holds the aluminum or other metal to be evaporate. The boat is a folded piece of something like nichrome clamped at the ends in the electrodes and spread out in the middle to resemble a small boat, and filled with the material to be evaporated. An alternative is a helix of wire (again like Nichrome) with the ends clamped in the electrodes. A wire of the material to be evaporated is wrapped around the helix of the wire, and is evaporated when it reaches at least a red heat.
If the thickness of the coating is critical (it may be to reduce your costs, given that you are using gold) you want a crystal oscillator with the crystal surface exposed on one side, and to measure the frequency shift to gauge the thickness deposited. And beware that a lot more of your expensive material (gold) goes onto the inside of the bell jar, and anywhere else inside (the clamps, and everything else).
The units which we used at work for making optical coatings onto glass had a big Variac or Powerstat (at least 20A 240 VAC) controlling the input to big transformers with really high current secondaries. (Big enough so copper bus bar of about 3/8" thickness and 1-1/2" width was used to conduct into the jar. And the "bell jar" was in reality a bit stainless steel container with windows attached using Varian high vacuum fittings with perhaps 12 or so stainless steel bolts holding them together, with copper rings at the interface with a circular knife edge from each side biting into it. And the copper rings had to be replaced every time it was disassembled. (And it was disassembled and put into a reflow "fume hood" where rather nasty acids were used to dissolve the metals from the inside of the container.
So the requirement:
"but the base cost of kit, chemicals, materials needs to be kept low."
Is not that easy to meet. Chemicals don't apply until you start cleaning the bell jar. The fume hood is an expensive installation, especially since it has to be stainless steel to resist the acid fumes. A big squirrel cage blower on the roof, and away from where anyone will be breathing.
The "materials" would include the gold, including what was wasted.
But the "kit" (equipment) would be very expensive.
If you luck into all that hardware, you still need replacement boats or helical wires, lots of power to feed into the pumps and so on.
Vacuum coat with copper (much less expensive) and then electroplate with the gold, where you can control where it all goes.
You are absolutely correct, but the term partial vacuum is a commonly used to mean the sort of vacuum you might use to vacuum bag epoxy resin, or degas resins. I do not say it is right, just that it is often used.
For vacuum depositing you need a vacuum where the mean free path is about as long as the diameter of the vacuum chamber.
Of course -- you can't get rid of the last few molecules, even if you could stop the container from outgassing.
But when I hear "partial vacuum" thrown out casually (as it was in the post to which I was following up) I read it as something between what you can get with a shop-vac and a graphite vane pump. Not a serious hard vacuum. Not enough to get a thermocouple vacuum gauge off the "ATM" pin. :-)
A roughing pump, however, would get it fairly far down the scale.
Any particular reason for swatting at me?
I was simply suggesting that the vacuum needed was not trivial to accomplish with the contents of the average home shop. Yes, I have a roughing pump in mine, but none of the other things needed to get a
"DoN. Nichols" fired this volley in news: snipped-for-privacy@Katana.d-and-d.com:
No, Don. It wasn't directed specifically at you, except in the case that you were the one who uttered the term.
I was 'swatting' at casual and careless use of terms that have specific meaning. YOU may know what a 'partial vacuum' is, but many folks less well versed may not.
If I were talking to someone, about the same subject, I'd _try_ to use terms that actually described the vacuum. But I do it, too. I'd probably just say "pull a good, hard vacuum below 10 microns Hg", or something vague and imprecise like that.