EXPLORE THE MANY BENEFITS THAT ELECTROPLATING CAN PROVIDE FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Sharretts Plating Company has been providing a wide range of industry-best metal finishing and plating solutions since 1925. Over the years, we have developed and perfected our industrial electroplating processes that make use of various metals and metal alloys to achieve the desired result for our customers. Electroplating can offer a number of important features and benefits that can help you improve the quality of your manufacturing processes and enhance your competitive position in the marketplace.
|Forms a Protective Barrier||Many types of industrial electroplating create a barrier on the substrate that protects it against atmospheric conditions such as corrosion.||Plated parts can last longer and need to be replaced less frequently, and are more likely to hold up under extreme conditions.|
|Enhances Appearance||Jewelry is often plated with a thin layer of a precious metal to make it more lustrous and attractive to potential buyers.||Manufacturers have a cost-effective way to make products more aesthetically appealing. Jewelers can sell products that look like pure gold or other precious metals at a much lower price.|
|Reduces Friction||Nickel plating can reduce the build-up of friction in certain materials such as electrical connectors.||Nickel plating improves performance and reduces premature wear and tear.|
|Conducts Electricity||Plating with silver can enhance electrical conductivity, making it a highly-effective process for the manufacturing of electronics and electrical components.||It is a cost-effective and efficient conductivity solution.|
|Absorbs Excess Hydrogen||Plating with palladium can absorb excess oxygen that commonly results during the manufacturing of catalytic converters for automobiles.||This can improve catalytic converter performance.|
|Prevents Formation of Whiskers||A zinc-nickel alloy can prevent the formation of sharp protrusions known as whiskers that can occur during certain types of manufacturing operations.||Damage caused by arcing and shorts in electrical parts and components due to whiskers breaking away from materials can be significantly reduced.|
|Resists Heat||Plating processes such as gold or zinc-nickel are capable of withstanding extremely high temperatures.||Plating with these metals protect engine parts and components from damage caused by extreme temperatures, which can increase their lifespan.|
|Is Magnetic||Electroless nickel plating is commonly used in magnetic applications such as the manufacturing of computer hard drives.||Magnetic properties make it easier for discs to be read.|
|Increases Hardness||Electroplating is sometimes used to make brittle materials stronger and more durable.||Plated surfaces are less susceptible to damage when struck or dropped, which can increase their lifespan.|
|Absorbs Light and Energy||Black electroless nickel plating absorbs the light and energy essential to many manufacturing processes in industries such as aviation, automotive and aerospace.||It ensures compliance with Department of Defense guidelines and other industry standards.|
|Promotes Adhesion||Copper plating is an ideal solution for providing an undercoating that facilitates adhesion with additional coatings.||It provides a smooth and uniform surface finish.|
|Increases Thickness||Palladium plating is becoming an increasingly popular choice in manufacturing processes where extreme thickness is required.||It improves overall quality and increases longevity of the substrate.|
|Prevents Tarnishing||Some types of electroplating protect against premature tarnishing in certain kinds of metals and also reduce the likelihood of scratching.||Products such as silverware retain their attractiveness and hold their value over time.|
The process of electroplating, which in simple terms involves using an electrical charge to attach a thin metal layer or coating to an object such as an industrial part, is nothing new. For decades, many industries have benefited from the way that electroplating can increase the durability or improve the appearance of the plated piece. Sharretts Plating Company is widely recognized as a leader and innovator in the industrial use of electroplating for businesses of all types and sizes.
One common industrial application of electroplating is in the automotive industry. Electroplating is frequently used to refurbish old parts such as bumpers, grills and tire rims to make them look brand new. Electroplating on plastic is also used for chrome-plating the lightweight but sturdy parts that are a staple of the modern automobile. Palladium plating is used in the manufacturing of catalytic converters due to its ability to absorb excess hydrogen. *Please note that Sharretts Plating does not plate with chrome. This content is for educational purposes only.
The industrial use of electroplating is also a popular choice in businesses when corrosion against protection is necessary to prevent the premature demise of metal materials. Nickel plating, Tin plating and their various alloys are all used for corrosion protection on nuts, bolts, housings, brackets and many other metal parts and components. Gold electroplating also provides superior corrosion and tarnish protection, although it is more expensive than other plating processes.
Industrial applications of electroplating include use on electrical parts and components. Silver electroplating, for example, is often used on copper or brass connectors due to its superior conductivity. Other precious metals such as gold and palladium plating are commonly used for switchgear in the telecommunications industry.
OUR INDUSTRIAL ELECTROPLATING CAPABILITIES ENCOMPASS A WIDE RANGE OF MATERIALS
Over the course of nine decades in business, SPC has developed and perfected cost-effective electroplating techniques for many different types of metals and metal alloys. We’ve also mastered the difficult process of plating on challenging materials such as titanium and plastic. We even provide electroless plating services, which involve the deposition of metals onto a substrate without the use of electricity. Each plating material has its own unique characteristics and specific user benefits. Read on to learn more about our capabilities for specific types of plating materials.
We’re all familiar with copper pennies and the use of copper in electrical wiring. Copper is a soft, malleable metal that has served mankind well for thousands of years. Some of the more notable qualities of this reddish-brown metal are its ability to conduct electricity and its inherent flexibility.
Electroplating copper can be extremely valuable in applications such as the manufacturing of electronic parts and components, as well as products used in the aerospace and defense industries. Copper is also widely used for plating on plastics and other non-metallic surfaces. Key copper electroplating benefits include excellent corrosion protection, high thickness build and heat treatment stop-off.
Nickel is a lustrous, silvery-white metal that offers many functional and decorative advantages. Types of nickel electroplating include sulfate — which is typically used to brighten the surface of a substrate — and sulfamate, which is used in applications where increased substrate strength and reduced stress are desired.
Key nickel plating benefits include enhanced corrosion protection, greater wear resistance and increased surface thickness. You’ll find nickel plating in specific manufacturing processes such as the production of electronic and computer parts and components, as well as various telecommunications industry applications.
The electroplating of tin, or “tinning,” is often viewed as a cost-effective alternative to plating with more expensive materials such as gold, silver or palladium. Tin’s relatively low cost and abundant supply makes it a popular choice for many different industrial applications, such as the manufacturing of electronic parts and components, hardware products, fasteners, screws, nuts and bolts.
Key tinning benefits include excellent resistance against surface corrosion, high solderability and good contact resistance. One disadvantage of the tin electroplating process is that it led to the formation of sharp microscopic protrusions known as “tin whiskers.”
Like tin electroplating, zinc electroplating is often chosen when cost is a primary concern. One key advantage of plating with zinc is its compatibility with just about any type of metal. Zinc can also produce a wide range of surface colors. In its natural state, zinc will provide a silvery-gray finish, although colors such as blue, yellow and black can be achieved.
Important zinc plating benefits include excellent adhesion and its resistance to hydrogen embrittlement. Because of its superior adhesive capabilities, zinc plating is sometimes used to provide a base coat prior to painting. Zinc plating is frequently used in the manufacturing of washers, bolts, nuts, transmission components, armored personnel carriers and tanks.
Gold, also known by its chemical symbol “Au,” is referred to as a precious metal because of its relative scarcity and exceptionally high value. This also makes Au electroplating more expensive than other types of plating methods. However, gold offers many important plating benefits that can make the higher cost extremely worthwhile. We’re all familiar with the beauty of gold, which makes it a preferred plating option when aesthetics are important. That’s why gold electroplating is commonly used to provide a gleaming finish for fine jewelry.
From a functional standpoint, gold offers superior corrosion protection and wear resistance, excellent electrical conductivity, and reliable protection from intense heat. If cost is not an object, gold is usually the best electroplating choice.
Silver is another precious metal that can be used in a wide range of plating applications. Silver offers the advantage of being somewhat less expensive than gold or platinum, while still offering important benefits. Because of its remarkable ability to conduct electricity and heat, implementing a silver electroplating solution has gained widespread use in the manufacturing of solar panels.
Electroplating silver onto a substrate also increases its resistance to corrosion. Because of its compatibility with other types of metals such as aluminum and tin, silver is sometimes alloyed with these materials. This can also provide a cost-effective alternative to employing silver electroplating alone.
You may be familiar with a precious metal known as platinum. Rhodium is a member of the platinum family that is relatively difficult to find. Thus, rhodium electroplating can be even more expensive than plating with gold. However, rhodium’s glittery, reflective properties make it a popular choice as a finish for white gold jewelry products.
From a functional standpoint, rhodium electroplating offers remarkable protection against corrosion. It smoothes the surface of an object and improves its durability. In addition to jewelry manufacturing, rhodium electroplating is often used in the production of catalytic converters.
Palladium is another precious metal that is sometimes used as a substitute for gold in the plating process because of its lower cost. While relatively soft in composition, palladium is still somewhat harder than gold. As with other precious metals, palladium is frequently used to provide a lustrous finish for fine jewelry.
In some instances, an additional gold coating may be plated atop the palladium layer to strengthen the surface of the substrate. Other important palladium electroplating benefits include superior protection against corrosion and reducing wear resistance. Industries that make use of palladium electroplating include electronics, jewelry, and the manufacturing of medical and dental products.
Another commonly applied plating alloy features the combination of zinc and nickel, with zinc serving as the primary component. The addition of zinc provides increased protection against corrosion. Zinc-nickel coatings have been proven to withstand the formation of white rust for up to 500 hours and red rust up to 1,000 hours during salt spray testing.
This significantly exceeds the capabilities of either zinc or nickel alone. From a cosmetic standpoint a zinc-nickel alloy will provide a stainless steel-type appearance that is often desirable for many types of metal parts. Zinc-nickel also provides excellent surface coverage and excellent uniformity of the plate distribution.
The desire to offer a more cost-effective substitute for gold plating led to the development of a palladium-nickel alloy. The alloying of palladium with nickel reduces the stress on the deposit and makes the palladium less susceptible to cracking.
As with gold plating, palladium plating offers superior corrosion protection, while also providing good solderabilty reduced porosity. A palladium-nickel combination is also able to withstand high temperatures, making it compatible with applications involving extreme heat. The normal ratio of palladium to nickel can range from 70/30 to 80/20.
One disadvantage of plating with palladium is its softness. This can be rectified by creating a palladium-cobalt alloy. An offshoot of the palladium-nickel plating process, this alloy can offer another acceptable substitute to gold because it can provide similar results at a lower cost.
In fact, palladium-cobalt electroplating can result in cost savings of as much as 90 percent when compared to many gold plating processes. Another advantage is that the palladium-cobalt process is easier to control from a quality standpoint. Palladium-cobalt plating is often used in electronics and semiconductor manufacturing, as it offers better control over plating thickness.
Plating on non-metallic substrates such as plastic is generally more challenging than plating onto metal surfaces. While difficult to master, electroplating on plastic offers many important benefits. For instance, applying a copper coating onto a plastic surface can enable the object to conduct electricity. It can also increase the aesthetic appeal — a shiny metallic-looking object is often more attractive than a plain, dull plastic item.
This process is often used on the plastic features of electronic parts and components to increase conductivity. The fashion industry also uses plating on plastic to give certain clothing items a shiny appearance.
As with plastics, plating on titanium is difficult to execute. There are only a few plating companies that currently have the expertise to perform the process effectively. With the increasingly widespread use of this lightweight yet strong metal in industries such as aerospace and medical products manufacturing, finding an effective way to plate metals onto titanium has become a necessity. Adding a nickel coating to a titanium part will make it more resistant to corrosion, while plating platinum onto titanium is often used for aesthetic purposes.
Yet another daunting industrial electroplating challenge is the process of plating onto magnesium. As with titanium, magnesium offers an attractive combination of lightweight and superior strength that makes it amenable to a wide range of industrial and manufacturing applications.
Magnesium’s primary disadvantage is that it’s highly susceptible to corrosion. Plating on magnesium will limit the impact of corrosion and can also improve the appearance of the substrate. However, magnesium is a highly reactive metal, so proper pretreating is required to ensure successful plating results.
Plating can take place without the introduction of an electrical current into the plating bath. Electroless plating is a process where metal ions are deposited onto the surface of the substrate via chemical reaction. This makes it easier to plate irregularly shaped parts and provide a more even, uniform coating.
Electroless plating can also be used to provide conductive base coating prior to electroplating a non-conductive part. Two common electroless plating processes are electroless nickel and electroless chrome plating.
- Electroless nickel plating — Electroless nickel plating solutions can consist of a nickel-phosphorous alloy to increase a substrate’s resistance to corrosion. A nickel-boron alloy is the best choice for limiting the impact of wear and tear over time. As one of the most innovative electroless nickel platers in the industry, SPC has also developed a revolutionary black electroless nickel coating known as SMITH-EN-BLACK™.
- Electroless chrome plating — An electroless chrome plating solution actually consists of an electroless nickel bath that includes a one-percent cobalt component. The cobalt element produces a brighter, chrome-like appearance than provided by electroless nickel alone.
At SPC, our expertise is not limited to offering exceptional electro- and electroless plating services that provide maximum benefit for our customers. With the understanding that choosing the right plating process is not an easy decision, we also provide plating consulting services that can make your selection process easier. We’ll evaluate your current manufacturing processes and provide a reliable recommendation that best meets your company’s needs and budget requirements.
If your company performs plating in-house, we can also provide effective training. With 90 years in the metal finishing business and a staff that offers hundreds of years of combined metal finishing industry experience, you can count on us to quickly get your team up to speed on the latest plating concepts and techniques. Our goal is to be your plating resource, whether plating takes place at our facility or your plant.
To learn more about the industrial use of electroplating and to get help in selecting the right plating process for your business, contact the electroplating experts at SPC today. We’ll be happy to provide additional details regarding plating benefits, as well as provide a no-obligation quote.
You can also learn more about the benefits of each plating service we offer by visiting our individual plating service pages. Sign up to receive our informative e-newsletter, and stay informed on the latest developments in the metal finishing industry!