Metal plating is a crucial process that adds the final touch to the metal stamped parts. Not only does it provide the metal parts a shiny and bright look, but it also prevents them from wear and tear damage due to corrosion or due to high use of the metal parts.
However, choosing the right metal plating that works perfectly for your requirements and fits your budget is a daunting task. The most common types of metal plating services that industrial metal plating companies offer are chrome plating and nickel plating.
What are metal plating services?
Metal plating services are those where a protective metallic layer is superimposed on the finished metal stamped piece. Various methods of achieving this feat include electroplating, electroless plating, hard chrome plating, immersion plating, and physical vapor plating. The most commonly used metals for metal plating are Gold, Nickel, Silk, Tin, Zinc, Iron, Copper, Black Nickel, Zinc Nickel, Chrome, Rhodium.
Out of these, Nickel and Chrome are the most popular metal choices among manufacturers. But the material depends largely on the working environment and the intended use of the metal part along with the budget considerations.
Electroless Nickel Plating
Electroless nickel plating uses nickel metal to create a shiny coat on a metal part through the electroless metal plating technique. The process uses nickel-phosphorus alloy as a coat to cover the metal part known as substrate. It does not require an electric stimulant and uses an autocatalytic chemical reaction to deposit the nickel-phosphorus alloy coating onto the substrate. The substrate is first cleaned, pre-treated, and activated before undergoing the plating process.
As this process uses a reducing agent like hypophosphite, you can find low (2-5%), medium (6-9%), or high (10-13%) levels of phosphorus on the metal plating. The presence of phosphorus affects metal characteristics. A low phosphorus plating has the least amount of corrosion protection. Whereas, high phosphorus plating provides the highest corrosion protection.
When manufacturers need to produce metal parts that need to be deployed in harsh conditions, nickel plating is preferred. It is also used to coat electronics parts like hard drives and circuit boards. Electroless nickel plated electronic component prevents the processors from corroding over time.
Hard Chrome Plating
Hard chrome plating uses chromium to coat a substrate that is usually the metal stamped object. The substrate is first cleaned and degreased before undergoing the electroplating process. The hard chrome plating method starts with a pre-treatment of the substrate in addition to the degreasing process. It usually depends on the makeup.
Next, the substrate is dipped in an electrochemical bath to create the chrome layer onto its surface. The time for which it is in the bath decides the thickness of the coating. Therefore, time plays a crucial role in this process. Here hard Chrome is preferred over decorative Chrome as the primary goal of electroplating industrial metal stamped parts is to add strength and increase its life, rather than improving its aesthetic.
The hard Chrome plating process leaves a smooth, shiny coating on the surface of the metal part. It makes the metal part more durable and ideal for various industrial and engineering applications. The hard Chrome layered metal stamped parts are widely used in the automotive industry, as the parts, like pistons and shock absorbers, undergo a lot of friction that makes them more prone to wear and tear.
Other applications of hard Chrome are in strengthening the metal parts used in the manufacturing sectors like gears to improve the anti-slick and release capabilities. It also finds uses in restoring old and worn-out parts as well.
Nickel plating versus Chrome- Overall cost
As we understand from the article, Nickel plating uses an alloy and does not require electric force to complete the process. On the other hand, hard chrome plating requires an electric force, and usually, chromium in its unadulterated form is used. It makes chrome plating expensive than Nickel plating.
Therefore, Nickel metal plating services are cheaper than the chrome metal plating process and are preferred due to the cost consideration. The cost of Chrome plating services is higher because nickel is cheaper than chromium. Despite this, most industrial plating companies use chrome plating due to the aesthetics and functional capabilities of the final metal part.