A Super Defense Against Corrosion and Abrasion

This eco-friendly PVD coating protects plastics without producing harmful fumes and waste.
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It may not be faster than a speeding bullet or more powerful than a locomotive, but the strength of Vergason Technology’s new SuperChrome PVD coating is the abrasion and corrosion resistance it provides in decorative plastic applications. Plus, the process used to apply it does not produce harmful fumes and waste, the company says, making it an eco-friendly replacement for electroplated hexavalent chromium.

Peter Witte, executive managing director at Mankiewicz Gebr. & Co., a manufacturer and supplier of coating systems for the industrial market, says he is sold on the coating. “Until experiencing SuperChrome PVD, we have not seen this level of success in replacing decorative electroplated chrome on polymer substrates,” he says.

Eight years in the making, the two-layer, patented process currently is being used by European automakers on mirror housings and exterior trim components, says Gary Vergason, VTI’s CEO. He says the Van Etten, New York, company received S1 OEM approval from Daimler earlier this year and is well into S2-level testing on service vehicles.

“Multiple Tier-One automotive suppliers have performed a thorough analysis of the SuperChrome PVD coating technology and concluded it offers at least a 10 percent cost advantage over traditional chrome plating on most parts,” VTI President Mark Fitch says.

The coating is a direct color match for hexavalent chromium (by the GM 150 specification), and it is lighter in weight, Vergason says. “The two-step process uses a paint base coating that is 25–40 microns thick and a PVD layer that is 1 ⁄3 -micron thick.” 

SuperChrome also is easier to recycle, provides the “feel” of metal, is comparable or lower in cost to produce, and offers lower scrap rates, he adds. It also does not require a protective topcoat, so users don’t have to be concerned about interference with a chrome finish. 

According to VTI, a variety of finishes, from bright to dark chrome, can be deposited using reactive magnetron sputtering, a PVD method. And because the PVD layer doesn’t produce microcracking, it offers superior chemical resistance over electroplated chrome, Vergason says, easily passing copper-accelerated acetic acid (CASS) salt spray testing and Russian Mud testing at more than 300 hours (a standard for chloride resistance).

SuperChrome’s abrasion resistance makes it suitable for both interior and exterior automotive applications. VTI says the coating has passed Gravelometer testing, designed to evaluate resistance to chipping caused by the impact of flying gravel and other debris, and 2,000 strokes of Crockmeter testing, which evaluates rub abrasion, scuffs and marring. 

To apply the coating, VTI offers the SC660 SuperChrome sputtering system, which features a large coating zone of 2.5 square meters (660 mm in diameter by 1,220 mm in height), allowing for increased batch sizes and price points that Vergason says are lower than traditional chrome plating. The unit is available with manual doors, automatic doors or single-point loading for robotically controlled operation. A standard system can process parts as long as 1.2 meters; longer parts would simply require a taller vacuum chamber, he says.

In addition to plastics, SuperChrome PVD can be deposited on metallic substrates that can be base-coated with wet-chemistry paint or powder coating,” he adds.

Vergason Technology Inc. | Van Etten, New York
607-589-4429  |  vergason.com