New Technology Realizes Light-transmitting Metallic Surface

Gikodo Co Ltd developed a technology to realize a surface that looks metal but transmits light.

The technology, which is called “Metalface,” is a kind of silk screen printing technology and prints a metallic pattern on a transparent base material such as a plastic film.

It is a new technology that realizes a metallic texture and enables to draw characters, figures, drawings, etc on the surface. Also, it enables metallic decorative finishing such as hairline and spin.

A surface processed by using the technology appears to be a real metal, but its ink layer transmits light. When light is applied from the back side, it looks as if light is passing through a metal. Gikodo, which is a Tokyo-based printing company, expects that the new technology will be used for user interfaces such as the displays of home appliances, the instrument panels of vehicles and wearable devices.

Transmittance adjusted by compounding ink

There have already been metallic printing technologies. But the most distinguishing feature of the Metalface is that it transmits light beautifully.

Though Gikodo did not disclose the details of the technology because it is currently applying for patents for it, the company used (1) a special original plate that realizes a metallic pattern and (2) dedicated metallic ink and performed a printing process several times.

“We analyzes a metallic pattern and makes a plate that other companies do not have,” Gikodo said. “Also, it is possible to adjust transmittance by compounding an ink in accordance with the intensity of light to be transmitted.”

The base material is plastic and transmits radio waves. So, the new technology can be applied to devices having a wireless function such as contactless card readers and wearable devices without paying attention to problems such as noise and antenna blocking. Also, it has an advantage over real metals in terms of weight reduction.

Furthermore, the new technology supports touch panels. If it is combined with drawing software of smartphones, tablet computers, etc and a pen or finger is moved on the metallic surface, its trajectory emits light.

The base materials to which the new technology can currently be applied are polycarbonate (PC) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). But Gikodo plans to advance the development of the technology in the aim of applying it to poly methyl methacrylate resin and glass.

In addition, Gikodo will conduct the quantitative evaluations of light/radio wave transmittance, weather resistance, etc for applying the technology to products. There are many products having curved surfaces such as parts of automotive instrument panels. So, the company is considering supporting film insert molding, etc.

Photo Description: An application to a tablet computer. It is possible to draw characters and drawings on the surface of the metallic plate because the trajectory of a finger emits light.

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