Guide to Aluminum Metallization in the Auto Industry
Aluminum metalized parts are a common sight to see in cars, trucks, buses, and bikes running on the roads daily. These parts may include vehicle logos, touch screens, optics, or some type of interior or exterior decorative part. Though they seem like aluminum at first glance, once you hold them, you will find out they are not really metallic. In fact, most of them are plastic-based. This article will provide further insight into the use of aluminum metalized parts in the auto industry.
What Is Aluminum Metallization Process?
Aluminum metallization is a form of Physical Vapor Deposition. It involves a sputtering and evaporation process that takes materials like hard alloys and aluminum from a condensed phase to a vapor phase. Eventually, we revert to a condense phase where a thin film forms on the object like a coat. We refer to this as Vacuum Metalizing. At Creatingway, we use the aluminum metalized finish to coat aluminum onto a non-metallic substrate via vaporization. The substrates must be vacuum-compatible for the process to be viable. A few good examples of such materials include tool materials, glass, steel, brass, zinc, polycarbonate plastic, and ABS.
An aluminum coating is an excellent option for parts that need very thin working coatings. During the coating process, we deposit a layer of high-density material that is just a few microns thick. Once we apply it, it is difficult to remove and does not wear off easily.
Why Is an Aluminum Metalized Finish a Great Option for Vehicle Parts?
The use of aluminum metalized in the auto industry has been growing over the years due to several reasons. This is since it firstly provides an awesome aesthetic look for metal parts despite being at a low cost. Secondly, it is a much safer process than others since it does not involve the mixing of dangerous chemicals. Thirdly, since it is a pure process, it lowers the risk of chemicals in parts causing issues for people. In addition, it offers a much higher resistance level than metal coating in other forms. Last but not least, it provides features that are of benefit to the base material. These features include high hardness despite high operating temperatures and high wear resistance. It also has high oxidation resistance, anti-sticking, low friction, and high scratch resistance.
Almost all creators, including those in the auto industry, face a common problem. They find it tasking to achieve the perfect balance between the lighter weight and higher strength. Aluminum is thus an awesome catch instead of other metals due to its good sturdiness and lightweight feature. Vacuum metalizing allows us to easily apply it in vehicles. We especially do it on plastic parts in an attempt to replace their metal versions.
Instances of Aluminum Metallized Parts
One example of auto parts we subject to aluminum metallization is auto headlight reflectors. They are usually prototypes for carrying out the optical test. We usually make them using CNC machining and later finish off the process with PVD Aluminum Metallizing. The finishing process allows us to achieve the proper optical functions and also has a host of other pros. One pro is with regards to the aesthetic effect of aluminum metalizing plastic. It confers a better brilliant mirror effect than mirror hand-polished aluminum. Another pro is with regards to the weight. A metalized version of the same volume is two times lighter than its aluminum version counterpart. It thus favors the trend for lighter-weight vehicle producers. Finally, in terms of the cost, aluminum has a higher cost than aluminum metalized parts. Besides, since it is heavier, it is likely to have higher freight costs.
Other than lamp reflectors, an aluminum metalized finish is of benefit to luxury parts as well as working parts. Exhaust pipes are an example of working parts.
How Does it Differ from Other Coating Processes?
Aluminum metallization is a dry coating process. In normal coating processes, we transfer the coating to the substrate using a medium like a solvent. Meanwhile, in this process, we generate the aluminum vapor, transfer in the gas phase and deposit it as a coating directly to the substrate without the help of a solvent. The process only needs electrical power and cooling to operate.
How Can We Achieve Different Surface Finishes?
Aluminum metallization usually follows the surface topology. It does not add or remove any surface roughness. The PVD finish thus depends on the substrate’s surface finish. A mirror or polished surface results in polished aluminum metalized finishes. Meanwhile, satin or brushed surfaces will result in a matt or satin aluminum metalized finish. If you are looking for a smooth glossy finish, we can pre-treat it with a polymer powder coating.
Can We Remove the Aluminum Coatings?
We can remove most PVD aluminum coatings through the de-coating process. The process removes the coating layers without affecting most of the objects. This makes it a safe finishing process for all manner of parts as you can always remove if you do not find it appealing. Consider working with us if you are seeking special surface treatment services and any other form of the custom prototype project.
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