One of the biggest challenges that metal finishing companies face is meeting the requirements of manufacturers who demand a bright, reflective appearance for their parts and components. This is especially important in applications where a high level of aesthetic appeal is necessary to make the finished product more attractive to prospective buyers.
Obviously, the choice of material used for electroplating or coating will have a major impact on the level of brightness of the finish. Precious metals such as gold, silver and platinum, as well as certain “traditional” metals such as nickel and chrome are more lustrous than lead or zinc. However, there are also several additional factors that will have a direct effect on the how bright or dull a finish will be.
How to Attain a Bright Finish on Your Metal Parts
- Review the Condition of the Base Metal – Perhaps the most important factor when attempting to achieve a bright, reflective finish is the condition of the underlying base metal. If the surface of the substrate contains scratches, cracks, machining lines, corrosion, porosity or other defects, it will be difficult, if not impossible for the thorough plating or coating that is necessary to attain maximum brightness to occur. Pre-polishing is often required to improve the base metal condition in these situations.
- Check the Amount of Leveling and Brightening – Leveling refers to the ability of the electroplating bath to create thicker deposits in small, recessed areas on the surface of the substrate and thinner deposits on small protrusions. Brightening refers to the bath’s ability to produce minute crystallite deposits that are smaller than the wavelengths of visible light. The amount of leveling and brightening in the bath can be controlled by using chemical additives, which will have a corresponding impact on the amount of brightness and reflectivity.
- Use Post-Plate Buffing – Just as it can improve the appearance of the finish on your automobile, buffing after electroplating can help to achieve a brighter finish on parts. It can also remove any remaining scratches or other minor imperfections that are not deeply embedded in the surface of the part.
Customer-Focused Process Development Is Critical
The metal finishing company you choose should have a solid understanding of the customer’s expectations in terms of what the finished product should look like. The finisher should work closely with the customer to develop a customized process that will achieve the desired result. This may involve developing a prototype prior to full-scale production to ensure that the metal finishing company and the customer are on the same page.
*Please note that Sharretts Plating does not plate with chrome. This content is for educational purposes only.
Sharretts Plating Company has the expertise and experience to develop and implement a customized metal finishing process that will achieve the level of brightness and reflectivity you require for your products.