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Shiny Metal "Like" Parts

Plated, Vacuum Metallized or Painted, 3D Printed Parts.

September 21, 2016

There are many reasons to have parts with a bright chrome, or other metal "like" and actual metal based finishes, such as; Marketing, display models, reflectivity testing, EMI shielding, structural enhancements, as well as, final production parts. 

When it comes to making your 3D printed thermolastic parts shine, CIDEAS provides three different metal and metal-like finishing processes: Vacuum Metallizing, Electroplating, and Painting.

Vacuum Metallizing is the thinnest (dimensionally speaking) real metal finish we offer.  The parts are primed and sprayed with a base coat.  The part is placed into a vacuum chamber, in which the metal is evaporated. The atoms condense on the part creating the bright metal aluminum finish (then post processed, to look like bright chrome).

Typically bright chrome is ordered, but there are other available finishes, such as, but not limited to: Brushed aluminum, brass, gold, bronze and antique. Due to a very thin layer (including the base coat approximately 0.001") vacuum metallizing enables extremely small parts to be finished with great detail. It offers the highest reflectivity (perfect for reflectors and headlamps).  Unfortunately, the same thin layer (even with a clear coat) can be susceptible to scratching, making it the most fragile metallizing process.


Electroplating is a process in which a conductive substrate is applied to the part.  The part is then placed into a bath which is electrically charged, where a copper and/or nickel coating is attracted to the conductive coating.

Once completed, the parts can be polished to look like chrome (also available in other metal finishes) or used as a structural enhancement.  The parts can be heavy, extremely durable and feel exactly like metal.  The coating, in some cases can be customized to add from 0.002" up to 0.020" depending on the desired effect.  Note* a mounting surface (usually a non aesthetic or hidden surface) which is not polished, is necessary for attaching the part to an electrode.


Painting is the quickest and least expensive of the three listed.  Faux painted metal finishes are great for appliances, sinks, profile extrusions, bent metal mock-ups etc.  Available in a number of colors its most often: Bright silver, matte silver, steel, bronze or bright gold (like the image in the banner of this article).  CIDEAS also offers conductive metal coatings for EMI shielding.


If you have questions regarding your specific application phone us at 847-639-1000.

  • Metallizing for Scale Models

    Ideal for display models. Vacuum Metallizing doesn't distort dimensional tolerances and polishes brightly.

  • Focus Group Friendly

    Indistinguishable from most production parts, plating is ideal for marketing and focus groups.

  • Patina and Polish

    Combining a patina with polish aids in realistic models.

  • "Metal Like" Painted Parts

    CIDEAS can paint your parts to look like polished steel, aluminum metal castings or other faux finishes.

"The team at BuildParts has become an important partner in developing 3D printed parts and prototypes for my business."

K.S. , Singulate