FreeMe project will examine two revolutionary approaches for the metallization of polymeric (plastic or resins) surfaces. The two main technologies, along with the supporting modelling and monitoring technologies that will be applied, will be validated and demonstrated in three different end users in the automotive, aerospace and home appliances industries.
Sprayable Composites resins process
The Ultraviolet (UV) curing process will be applied to epoxy and epoxy-acrylate resins for the preparation of epoxy polymer nanocomposite films with embedded Ni precursors.
A pre-treatment of the plastic substrate will be applied prior to the resin application, to achieve proper wetting conditions and excellent adhesion. The application of the resin on the surface through a spraying method shall be limited to a thin layer in order not to affect the recyclability of the polymer. Finally, milling processes are required to further decrease the size of the Ni salt particles, achieving a homogenous distribution in the resin.
The reducing agents will allow the etching of the resin and the formation of cavities on the surface, as well as the reduction of NiCl2 to Ni nuclei. The final step of the metallization process is the application of a thin Ni-P layer on the substrate through an electroless Ni bath.
Cr6+ & Pd free metallization processes
Based on the type of plastic substrate, the substitution of chromic acid from the surface etching process is performed using different type of solutions. The treated substrate is then rinsed to remove any residues of the solution used.
For the surface activation process, a nickel-based solution will be utilized to substitute the Pd. A reducing agent will then lead to the reduction of Ni2+ and generation of dispersed nucleation sites.
The metallization of the ABS substrate is achieved by immersing the pre-treated substrate into a Ni electroless plating bath.