What is electroplating? Despite the high-tech-sounding name, electroplating has actually been around since the early 18th century, though the process is obviously more sophisticated today. Although it’s a popular process and most people have heard of it, not a lot of people outside the industry really know what it is or how it works, so this article will explain those things. Then when you’re googling “electroplating near me,” you’ll have a better sense of how it can help your business.
How Does Electroplating Work?
The electroplating process is also known as electrodeposition. It uses an electric current to dissolve metal and then deposit a thin layer of it onto the surface of a workpiece called a substrate. This changes the physical properties of the workpiece by creating increased wear resistance, providing protection from corrosion, adding aesthetic appeal, or increasing its thickness (and it may do more than one of those all at once).
There are four main components in the electroplating process:
- Anode– An anode is a positively charged electrode. In electroplating, it is the metal used to form the plating.
- Cathode– This is the part in the circuit that receives the plating. It plays the role of the negatively charged electrode in the circuit, and, as noted earlier, it’s also called the substrate.
- Power Source– The power source applies an electrical current to the anode.
- Solution– An electrolytic solution is where the electrodeposition part of the process takes place. To facilitate the flow of electricity, the electroplating solution contains one or more metal salts.
After the anode and cathode are placed in the solution and connected, the power source applies electricity to the anode. The metal oxidizes due to the current, and metal atoms dissolve as positive ions in the solution. Then the metal ions, with the help of the current, move to the substrate, where they’re deposited as a thin layer of metal.
Some of the most commonly used metals in electroplating are copper, gold, nickel, palladium, silver, tin, and zinc.
Uses and Benefits of Electroplating
One very common application of electroplating is adding gold plating to metal jewelry, but there are many other uses for electroplating. The automotive industry uses it to protect parts against corrosion. In the electronics industry, gold plating is often used for conductivity in semiconductors and connectors. Electroplating can improve the biocompatibility of medical components such as implants. Nickel plating improves corrosion resistance in aerospace industry parts. Many other industries, including oil and gas, firearms, and defense make use of electroplating.
The benefits of electroplating include the following:
- Additional thickness
- Improved appearance and hardness
- Better corrosion, heat resistance, and electrical conductivity
- A protective barrier for the substrate
- Changes in surface properties. For example– reduced friction.
* Note that some benefits are specific to the type of metal used. For example, when reduced friction is a goal, nickel is often the choice of metal.
Finding Electroplating Near You
If your business is in need of electroplating services, Sustainment can help. We don’t perform electroplating ourselves, but our members have access to a powerful search tool that allows them to easily find established, reliable electroplating companies close to them, and the tool helps locate businesses in many other manufacturing industries as well.
As a member of Sustainment, you’ll save time and have peace of mind knowing that we’ll only connect you with electroplating services you can trust for quality and dependability.