What Manufacturers Need to Know About Modern Electroplating Methods

February 23, 2016 Electroplating

Over the last few decades the metal finishing industry has experienced tremendous technological and scientific progress. Modern electroplating, a type of metal finishing, is used in a variety of industries, including aerospace, automotive, electronics, jewelry and consumer goods manufacturing. Electroplating enhances or alters the properties of a metallic part.

Metal ions in solution are bonded to a metal substrate to modify the metal’s surface properties through the process of electrodeposition. Before beginning the electroplating process, the substrate parts must be cleaned in a series of chemical rinses that help improve adhesion. Once the parts are cleaned they are submerged in an electroplating bath, which must be closely monitored to maintain consistency. A power supply provides a flow of direct current to the parts in the bath, which initiates the attraction of ions in the solution to the parts’ surface. A redox reaction occurs on the surface of the part as the dissolved metal ions in the bath adhere to the parts.

How is Electroplating Beneficial?

Electroplating can enhance overall aesthetics and alter the mechanical or functional properties of a metallic part. Finish options include striking precious metals, vibrant colors, and economical alternatives. Depending on the goals of the manufacturer, electroplating can help produce better wear and abrasion resistance, protection from corrosion, greater lubricity and lower friction, improved EMI/RFI shielding, temperature and impact resistance, improved conductivity, improved solderability, reduced porosity, added hardness or strength, and can build up thickness on small or undersized parts.

What are the Different Types and Methods of Electroplating?

Specialty plating facilities are able to plate different base materials utilizing various surface finishes according to a customer’s desires:

Common Base Materials:

  • Aluminum
  • Brass
  • Cast White Metal
  • Copper
  • Stainless Steel
  • Steel
  • Sterling Silver
  • Zinc

Common Surface Finishes:

  • 14kt Gold
  • 24kt Gold
  • Almond Gold
  • Black Nickel
  • Brass
  • Bronze
  • Champagne Gold
  • Chrome
  • Copper
  • Dark Ruthenium
  • Nickel
  • Rose Gold
  • Silver

Common Pre-Finishing Options:

  • Polishing
  • Sandblasting
  • Sanding
  • Satin
  • Stripping

Gold plating is a very popular option for luxury goods including jewelry and architectural finishing. Tanury can apply heavy gold finishes in a spectrum of shades to meet every preference.

Silver plating is another common aesthetic choice for consumer goods. It is often used for decorative goods for its snow white color.

Nickel plating offers a bright surface finish that can be adjusted depending on the customer’s desires. It offers superior chemical and corrosion resistance along with greater wear resistance. This increases product lifecycles, and for this reason, nickel plating is a common choice.

Copper plating is typically utilized as a plating layer before the final layer of metal is deposited, which can improve overall aesthetics of the finished part. For “nickel free” plating, bright copper plating is used as a replacement for nickel followed by a barrier layer of palladium.

What Manufacturers and Designers Should Consider Before Electroplating

Before beginning an electroplating project, you should think about the finished parts’ end use. The finish metal type will determine key characteristics of the finished part including hardness, conductivity, resistance to corrosion, etc. Plating thickness also determines a finish’s durability and should be factored into the overall design and assembly requirements. The shape of the piece will affect the electrical current distribution or density across the part’s surface while it is in the plating bath. The finished metal tends to build up on bends, sharp corners, threads, and other such features. However, advanced plating processes can prevent buildup issues.

How to Find the Electroplating Company That Matches Your Needs

When looking for a plating company, it is important to consider what your project requires and the plating company’s capabilities. There are many criteria to consider, including:

  • Desired aesthetic or functional use
  • Size and volume of the piece(s)
  • Capabilities and quality of laboratory testing
  • Industry standards and compliance

It is also important to consider the electroplating method, as not all facilities offer the same processes. Here are some of the plating options:

Rack plating is used for both delicate, complex, and large parts. Parts are attached to a “rack” with metal wire and submerged in a plating bath. This method is frequently used for large, complex, or fragile parts.

Two-tone plating is a popular method for decorative styles. It allows the same piece to have two different finish colors or styles.

Barrel plating is an efficient process for plating large and small volumes of parts. However, it is not ideal for flat parts that can stack and parts that could be damaged by part-to-part contact as the parts are tumbled during the process.

Tanury Industries exemplifies a specialty plating facility that provides high quality gold, silver, copper, and nickel electroplating. With a combination of cutting-edge capabilities and extensive and unparalleled experience, Tanury provides high-level finishing services for a wide range of applications. Tanury is committed to technology, development of new solutions, and finding ways to deliver for their customers. Tanury Industries creates finishes to customer specifications that perform and last.