The current metallization technology primarily used in automotive industry is vacuum deposition. Vacuum metallizing of plastic materials and its limitations are well known. Problems with the metallizing operations are usually due to problems in: substrates (material quality, water affinity…), applied coatings (poor adhesion, iridescence, shadowing, spatters), equipment operations (human and equipment errors), fixturing, pumping/firing procedures, plastic part design and environment (humidity, dust).
In contrast to the current vacuum coating technology that is used for surface metallization, our novel technology does not require complex and expensive vacuum coating facilities, harsh chemicals and high temperatures that add up to a high environmental impact. Instead, the polymer objects are immersed in the aqueous medium containing salts and algae and when exposed to the light, the metal layer forms on the surface of the immersed object.
Our main market strategy was to target the injection moulding industry in Europe that is in recession and where there is a clear need to take action with disruptive solutions. One way to add value to the moulded products is the surface treatment from which the objects get additional functional and/or aesthetic properties. The surface treatment industry, where the automotive market is one of the biggest customers, shows an increasing interest in novel solutions for deposition of metallic layers on polymers.
However, we recently realized that the technology could also be applied to glass surface treatment. The need for novel solutions and innovations in glass surface functionalization came from industrial leaders in this segment that contacted us. Because of the market assessment study and because testing of metalized plastic parts by using algae showed several weak spots, we decided to focus entirely on the metallization of glass.