Chrome plating is a technique of electroplating a thin layer of chromium onto a metal or plastic object. The chromed layer can be decorative, provide corrosion resistance, ease cleaning procedures, or increase surface hardness.
Sometimes a less expensive imitator of chrome may be used for aesthetic purposes.
Metal Chrome Plating: The Ultimate Guide
Therefore, it is important to ensure you get the right type suitable for the specific component.
In this guide, we will look at various elements surrounding metal chrome plating and its essence as an ideal part surface finish.
- Definition Of Chrome Plating
- Types Of Metal Chrome Plating
- Difference Between Metal Chrome Plating, Metal Chrome Electroplating And Metal Chrome Dipping
- How Metal Chrome Plating Is Applied
- Why Metal Chrome Plating Quality Vital
- Why You Should Consider Metal Chrome Plating
- The Best Alternative To Metal Chrome Plating
- Types Of Metals You Can Chrome Plate
- How To Deal With Blistering And Peeling Chrome
- Longevity Of Metal Chrome Plating
- Shortcomings Of Metal Chrome Plating
- Health And Safety Requirements For Metal Chrome Plating
Definition Of Chrome Plating
Chrome plated die cast parts
Metal chrome plating is the process of applying a thin chromium layer onto the surface material of metal through an electroplating procedure.
The essence of metal chrome plating is to enhance the cosmetics of the object or make it more practical and adaptable for a specific application.
Simply put, metal chrome plating is attained by passing an electric current between two electrodes, often immersed in a chromic acid electrolyte bath.
In essence, one of the electrodes becomes the substrate to be plated.
Thus, chromium atoms are deposited in a layer on the electrode to be plated during electricity flow between electrodes.
Types Of Metal Chrome Plating
Fundamentally, metal chrome plating is available in two main methods as follows;
Hard Chrome Plating
In some instances, it is also referred to as engineered chrome plating.
Technically, it is a type of metal chrome plating often applied as a heavy coating to enhance significant oil retention, lubricity, durability, and wear resistance.
Mostly, engineered chrome plating is used on different metal parts such as mold surfaces, piston rings, hydraulic cylinder rods, cylinder rods, etc.
Principally, this method is known as hard chrome plating since it exhibits adequate thickness to measure.
In many instances, this type of chrome plating is applied on steel surfaces.
It is quite shiny and metallic but not necessarily suitable for decorative purposes.
Moreover, you can find engineered chrome plating in several variations, such as those optimized for porosity for oil retention.
Decorative Chrome Plating
In other instances, it is also referred to as nickel-chrome plating.
Essentially, this method involves first electroplating nickel on the component before plating it with chrome.
In some instances, copper is platted in place of nickel.
The essence of this method is to ensure the compound offers smoothness, reflectivity, and corrosion resistance.
Ordinarily, chrome added is thin and often measured in millionths of an inch.
When you look at a typical nickel-chrome plated surface, you’ll easily see the effects of decorative chrome plating.
Essentially, the thin chrome layer incorporates a slightly bluish color preventing it from tarnishing, scratching, and enhancing corrosion resistance.
Difference Between Metal Chrome Plating, Metal Chrome Electroplating And Metal Chrome Dipping
There is no significant difference between all these plating methods.
In all aforementioned techniques, chrome is applied by electroplating and not necessarily melted onto parts by spraying or other methods.
However, it is important to understand that not all reflective surfaces are necessarily chrome plating.
How Metal Chrome Plating Is Applied
Chrome plated aluminum die cast part
Ideally, metal chrome plating is quite an involving technique, which requires a high level of meticulousness to attain desired results.
The process starts with assessing the quality of base material and the desired finish result.
What follows is stripping of the base materials to reveal bare metal surfaces and ensure dirt, rust, old plating, and oil paint are removed.
Polishing of bare metal surface is attained by sanding belts and abrasive wheels, which remove any impurities and scratches for a refined finish.
A subsequent surgical cleaning process is applied by using water, acid, and soap solutions.
The surgical cleaning procedure is vital because it removes any foreign matter that can make plating to reject.
Copper plating is then added to create an extra corrosion resistance layer and fill in all the pits or polishing lines before re-buffing.
Nickel plating is then added to create another layer of protection and to enhance deep lustre appearance of chrome.
The part is placed into a chrome plating vat to warm to solution temperature and allow electroplating process to take place.
Technically, the period it stays in the solution corresponds to the desired platting thickness.
Lastly, the object or parts are cleaned and re-polished once more and inspected to ensure it meets the required finish and quality.
Why Metal Chrome Plating Quality Vital
Ordinarily, quality of metal chrome plating is a fundamental concern to look into to attain desired results.
Using low-quality chrome plating exposes the part to faster rusting and peeling.
Nevertheless, quality chrome plating is important since it enhances the overall durability of the component.
Ordinarily, most chrome-plated metal parts are used in outdoor spaces and subsequently exposed to several mechanical and weather elements.
When you apply high-quality chrome plating, you can be confident it will enable the part to endure such elements for a long time.
Moreover, it enables the part to retain its quality for the longest time possible, increasing its value.
Another reason quality of chrome plating is essential is it reduces or eliminates the need for doing unnecessary restoration works.
A properly done chrome plating on a metal exhibits permanence, and this is vital because it reduces unnecessary costs and inconveniences surrounding restoration.
Why You Should Consider Metal Chrome Plating
Chrome plating process
Technically, the main advantage of metal chrome plating is that it prevents practical wear and corrosion resistance.
Secondly, you can apply it to a wide range of metal surfaces such as copper, brass, and stainless steel among others.
Metal chrome plating also offers excellent adherence, and this is vital since it presents little risk of flaking or de-lamination when part is in use.
You can also chrome plat metals at relatively low temperatures, and this implies it has little or no effect on substrate metal.
Also, metal chrome plating is ideal for somewhat complex and irregular geometries such as bores and holes.
It also enhances the appearance of the part, which is vital as far as aesthetics in different applications are concerned.
In a nutshell, metal chrome plating provides a quality industrial chrome finish and reduces operating costs.
Moreover, a metal with this surface finish minimizes downtime, given it offers improved hardness, wear resistance, and corrosion response on plated parts.
The Best Alternative To Metal Chrome Plating
Ideally, you can find other easier and relatively safer options for metal chrome plating.
If you are using aluminum parts, an ideal option would be to polish them since a properly polished aluminum part can attain a better appearance.
However, if you seek an easier way of attaining more brightness than what you get from chrome plating metals, you can go for new generation chrome-look paint.
Ideally, this is a more improvement than what has been in use in the last years.
In any case, you can apply translucent layers on the top of the shiny metallic layer to provide a blue or red chrome look.
You may also consider metal electroplating using newer proprietary platting processes depending on the metals and related alloys used.
Alternatively, you can go for trivalent metal chrome plating, which is regarded as a safer and eco-friendly approach.
In a nutshell, metal chrome plating has several alternative you may consider for your parts depending on different prevailing factors.
Types Of Metals You Can Chrome Plate
The ideal metals you can chrome plat are designed to resist scratches, rusting, and other imperfections in different applications.
Some of the base metals suitable for this surface finish include brass, bronze, steel, cast iron, copper, and stainless steel.
Essentially, metal chrome plating is applied to a wide range of everyday household items and different automotive parts.
- Exterior and interior automobile parts
- Valves and pumps
- Water taps
- Press tools and molds
- Motorcycle parts
- Door knobs
- Aircraft parts
- Bathroom taps
- Towel rings
How To Deal With Blistering And Peeling Chrome
In many instances, blistering and peeling of chrome in metals is often attributed to a manufacturing defect.
Ordinarily, blistering and peeling of chrome occurs due to poor adhesion of chrome plating substrate to the surface.
Thus, the manufacturer must ensure they use appropriate techniques to enable the substrate to adhere correctly.
It is the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure they take care of such incidents should they arise.
Longevity Of Metal Chrome Plating
Ideally, the durability of chrome plating often varies based on the specific application conditions and demands.
Besides, the particular surrounding the chrome plated object is also exposed to determine its longevity.
Nevertheless, it naturally outlasts the wear life of the actual base material by about 2-10 times.
Shortcomings Of Metal Chrome Plating
One major shortcoming of chrome plating metals is that it is relatively costly depending on the type and quality you are going for.
Also, it tends to be hazardous to the environment thus can affect plants and animals if poorly executed.
Health And Safety Requirements For Metal Chrome Plating
Essentially, some chemicals used in metal chrome plating are classified as carcinogenic.
Thus, there is a need to regulate them since they can be hazardous.
Different regulatory authorities in various countries provide a series of guidance notes to ensure manufacturers understand means of controlling risks from the process.
All manufacturers should ensure they conduct stringent monitoring practices when carrying out metal chrome plating process.
Legally, all companies must treat all hazardous waste material before disposal.
Besides, disposal of any waste material by all companies offering metal chrome plating is strictly controlled.
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