Plating Methods

Plating Methods

Plating — a process where one joins a metal covering to a conductive surface — is a centuries-old process that many people most commonly associate with jewelry. Adding gold plating or silver plating to an item to make it appear more precious and attractive is an extremely common use for plating.

However, there are many other uses — including corrosion inhibition, radiation shielding, paint adhesion and many more. There are also a few useful different types of plating methods.

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SPC Metal Plating Methods

SPC employs several different plating techniques for various applications, both electroplating methods and electroless methods. Here are some of the different plating methods we employ, how they work and what materials they are used on, to help you determine which plating method is right for you.

Rack Electroplating Method for Plating Your Parts

Plating individual parts can be time-consuming and expensive. The rack or wiring method uses electricity to group the individual parts that require plating together as a single group. Not all parts are suitable for rack electroplating, but when they are, it can be an efficient and cost-effective solution to your plating needs.

At SPC, we can quickly analyze your project and let you know whether or not it would be a good candidate for rack electroplating.

It's important to note that each part comes into physical contact with the electrical power source, but there is no electrodeposit to the part. We endeavor to make sure your part has the minimum contact possible with the power source, so electricity at the contact points does not affect the functionality or appearance of your parts.

If we are not able to do this effectively with one of our standard rack configurations, we will join your parts through wiring or use a custom rack for your specific job. This may occur if you have a particularly high or low volume of parts, or if your parts have unusual shapes or special electroplating requirements.

Once we have set up a rack for your parts once, we can write a spec to make sure we always provide the same consistent racking configuration for your parts. Once we’ve done it successfully once, you don’t have to worry about future rack electroplating jobs.

Rack plating, although more expensive than barrel plating, will be your preferred choice if your parts are particularly fragile, complex or large enough that rotating them in a barrel will be unwieldy or risk damaging the part. By arranging your parts on coated metal racks and fixing them with wires or screws, then placing them in the electrolytic solution tank, we can evenly plate all the contours of your part without agitating the part.

We may also be able to give you a greater range of finish options with rack-plated parts. Rack-plated parts are often finished in nickel or chrome. Some of the industries that tend to favor rack plating are the military, certain medical applications, sensitive electronics and the automotive industry.

Barrel Electroplating Method for Plating Your Parts

Barrel plating is a method we may use for plating gold, silver, palladium, rhodium, tin, copper or nickel for small parts in large groups without using the rack method. This method is particularly effective when plating small, durable parts like fasteners, as it is much less costly than the rack method.

We place the parts inside a barrel that we fill with the electrolytic plating solutions, then rotate the barrel, giving all the parts inside an exact and consistent finish. Unlike the rack method, which is a bit less flexible, barrel plating can easily accommodate a variety of differently sized and shaped parts and can plate a high volume of parts in a short time.

Barrel plating is effective for a wide variety of part volumes — even lower volumes — and is an extremely efficient method of electroplating. If you have sensitive parts that cannot withstand the tumbling that occurs during barrel plating, you may prefer a different method. If your parts are sturdy, however, barrel plating can be more productive than rack plating.

Electroless Method for Plating Your Parts

If the idea of submersing your parts in water and subjecting them to electricity does not appeal to you or for some reason will not work for your project, SPC also offers autocatalytic, or electroless, plating services. In electroless plating, we join the metal to the surface of your parts using a chemical reaction that induces metal atom reduction. This process does not use electricity and uses non-conductive substrates, so you do not need to have any concerns about electricity making contact with your parts.

However, it is not as productive a method of plating, since the plating bath has a limited lifetime and plating parameters are hard to control.

You may also refer to electroless plating as a "conversion coating process." With conversion coatings such as phosphate, black oxide or chromate, you will find that, while there is some growth to thickness, the process does consume some of the substrate metal.

Determining the right methods for electroplating your parts will be important for the efficiency of your business. You need to find the most cost-effective solution while meeting all of your electroplating needs. SPC can help you determine which method of plating will be right for your project, as well as which type of metal you will want to use for plating your parts if you do not already know.

We can plate a wide variety of precious metals and other metals, including gold, silver, palladium, platinum, tin, copper and zinc, and have serviced industries ranging from medical fields and power generation to optics and more.

Contact SPC for a Free Quote on Electroplating Your Parts Today

To find out more about our different methods of electroplating and electroless plating and to find out which type of plating may be right for you and your industry, or to request a completely free quote on plating services for your project, contact SPC now.


"I would like to thank you for the help you have provided us in developing an electroless nickel plating technique on an unusual substrate. The sample platings you provided show that we should be able to reach our goals. I especially appreciate your willingness to take on an unusual job, with the uncertainties that that entails...We are looking forward to working with you in the future on our plating needs."

– Robert K.