Have you ever noticed a shiny, silver glint on objects around the house or in an industrial setting? That has likely come from metal plating—a process through which metallic substances can be polished and protected from corrosion, just like the details on your car’s rims. But how does metal plating work? In this blog post, we will explore the fundamentals of metal plating so that you can better understand what it is, why it is used, and its many applications. We’ll also touch upon some safe practices to ensure that people and their products are cared for through this process. So read on if you want to learn more about this fascinating field.
What is Metal Plating?
Metal plating is the addition of a thin layer of metal to the outside of a material. It is a surface-covering process that involves depositing a metal on a conductive surface. Plating has been done for hundreds of years and is still important in modern technology.
Plating is used to decorate objects, inhibit corrosion, improve solderability, harden, improve wearability, reduce friction, improve paint adhesion, alter conductivity, improve IR reflectivity, shield radiation, and other purposes. Plating is commonly used in jewellery to give it a silver or gold finish.
Because thin-film deposition has plated objects as small as an atom, plating has applications in nanotechnology.
There are numerous plating methods and variations. In one method, a solid surface is covered with a metal sheet, fused with heat and pressure. Electroplating, vapour deposition under vacuum, and sputter deposition are other plating techniques. Recently, plating has frequently referred to the use of liquids. Metallizing is the process of coating non-metallic objects with metal.
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Advantages Metal Plating
Metal plating offers numerous advantages to metal and other material-based products. This is primarily accomplished through electroplating, which requires an electric current, or electroless plating, accomplished through an autocatalytic chemical process. These techniques, along with a few others, result in one or more of the following advantages:
- Improved Corrosion resistance
- Decorative value
- Improved solderability
- Increased toughness
- Friction has been reduced.
- Changing conductivity
- Improved paint adhesion
- Material deposition
- Increased magnetism
Types of Metal Plating
Metal plating comes in a variety of forms, as described below:
- Electroless Nickel Plating
- Plating for Immersion
- Deposition of Physical Vapor
- Coating with Plasma Spray
Metals Used in Plating
Zinc is an inexpensive material with a galvanized coating on many metal substrates. In addition to being electroplated, the element is applied through the Sherardizing process, molten bath dipping, and spraying.
Cadmium plating was once used as a zinc substitute and was frequently plated on various automotive items. Aircraft manufacturers chose it for its sacrificial protection properties and natural lubricity for frequently removed and reinstalled components.
Chromium plating is frequently used for decoration, but it also improves corrosion resistance and hardness, making it useful for industrial applications where wear is an issue. It is known as hard chrome plating in this country and is sometimes used to restore tolerances on worn parts.
Nickel is a popular plating metal owing to its utility in electroless plating. Nickel plating is commonly used to enhance household products’ decoration and wear resistance, such as doorknobs, cutlery, and shower fixtures.
Nickel plates commonly bond with copper and aluminium but work on various metals as chromium underlying platings.
Copper is another popular plating metal for applications requiring high conductivity and low cost. As previously discussed, copper plating is frequently used as a strike coating pretreatment for subsequent metal platings.
It’s also a popular plating metal for electronics like printed circuit boards. Copper is one of the least expensive metals to plate with due to its high plating efficiency and low material cost.
Gold is valued for its oxidation resistance and electrical conductivity. One of the simplest ways to impart these characteristics on metals such as copper and silver is through gold plating, which differs from gilding in that the gold is not a foil. The process is frequently used for jewellery decoration and to improve the conductivity of electronic components such as electrical connectors.
Like gold, silver is used in plating applications that call for decorative appeal and improved electrical conductivity. Silver is a more cost-effective plating solution because it is cheaper than gold and plates copper well.