New technology achieves a light-transmitting metal surface

Japanese company Gikodo Co Ltd has developed a novel screen-printed metal-finish that can be applied onto transparent plastic films to give them the look of complex metallic textures, like brushed aluminium, yet lets light shine through.

The technology called “Metalface” gives a surface that appears to be real metal. When used as an overlay over a display or some discrete LEDs, it turns the raw metal-looking interface into a modern human machine interface that remains hidden when off. The ink layer not only transmits light but also radio waves, so it could be applied to wireless devices including contactless card readers and wearable devices, without noise issues or signal shielding. Although it looks like metal, the front plate consists of lightweight plastic.

The new ink and printing technology could be used to create unobtrusive interfaces for home appliances, instrument panels in cars but also for wearable devices. It also supports touch panels, and combined with drawing software, could make interesting light-based interactive metallic surfaces.