Developed by Lacks in 1994, the high impact plated plastic was molded as the world’s first flexible chrome grille for that year’s Chrysler New Yorker.
Chrysler found that the HIPP-140 grille offered more resistance to impact, and gave the New Yorker a more stylish and aerodynamic look because designers were able to move the grille into the impact zone.
Since then, Lacks has patented the plating process, copyrighted the name, expanded the product line, and added more automakers as customers.
The HIPP-140 is a high-impact, high-temperature plastic that is specially treated and chrome plated to a mirror-like finish, and used in a number of automotive trim applications. It is lighter, less expensive, more resistant to dents and corrosion than metal, and is more flexible than bright metals.
The plastic can withstand 14 foot-pounds of impact — a very high rating — and can hold its shape at temperatures that reach 230 degrees F in high-stress situations, and up to 260 degrees Fahrenheit under low-stress circumstances.
“It can take a lot more heat than standard ABS,” said Garry Van Houten, director of engineering for Lacks Wheel Trim Division, of the polycarbonate/ABS blend product that resembles metal.
“It is used to replace parts that were traditionally made of stainless steel, die cast and some glass-filled materials.
“With the chrome plating on it, it looks like metal, and in some cases, it is actually more imperfection-free,” said Van Houten.
The plating process allows Lacks to reach the deep and tiny crevices of a trim part. Being able to do so adds protection against corrosion and extends the life of a part.
The polish Lacks uses in its copper-nickel chrome plating process gives trim parts a shiny and smooth finish, and does so for less money than what similar metal parts cost to be plated. Lacks can also cut an automaker’s parts inventory with its line of HIPP-140 products.
“What we can do there is reduce the number of parts because a lot of times we can mold in fasteners, like snap tabs,” he said.
“We can also mold in complex geometries that sometimes you can’t with certain metal-forming techniques, because you just can’t get down in there to polish and buff it. Once we polish our tools very well in the beginning, the polish stays very good for its life.”
Lacks can also add painted surfaces to the bright, chrome-plated finish to create accented trim, meaning that a certain area of, say, a grille can have the same color as a car.
And because HIPP-140 products are lighter compared with metal pieces, the Lacks trim makes it easier for automakers to build more fuel-efficient vehicles.
All three Lacks divisions — plastic plate, exterior trim and wheel trim — use HIPP-140 and its plating process in their product lines. In addition to grilles, door handles, bumper trim, taillight vessels, and decorative wheel ornaments also get the treatment.
So do Lacks Chromtec products. For this line, which the firm has registered, the plate is bonded to aluminum and steel wheels instead of plastic, and results in what automakers call a chrome-clad wheel. These wheels can also have a painted portion on the chrome surface.
“It’s permanently bonded and it gives the appearance of a nice, bright, chrome-plated wheel. It’s less expensive (than chrome-plated wheels) and the corrosion protection is excellent — as is the dent resistance and high-heat resistance,” said Van Houten.
General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Volvo, BMW and Jaguar are a sampling of current customers for Lacks HIPP-140 line.
“A lot of our product has evolved more toward the Chromtec permanently bonded plating. We still do some wheelcovers, as well as a lot of center-wheel ornamentation — you know that as the hubcap,” said Van Houten.
Van Houten said that Lacks continues to explore other automotive applications for the HIPP-140, and one that the firm is taking a real close look at is a full-size bumper system that would be reinforced and decorative.
“We have a design freedom,” said Van Houten of the product potential at Lacks. “Basically, if it can be molded, we can make it out of HIPP-140.”