Metal Plating Process Explained

Metal plating is a process of coating a layer of metal to an object of different type of metal. This process is done, commonly, for aesthetic purposes or more practical such as for corrosion resistance and protection from wear and tear. Silver plating for instance is done for decorative purposes; zinc metal plating or cadmium metal plating prevents the underlying metal from rusting; nickel plating prevents the plated material from wear and tear.

Conventionally, you can plate almost all types of metal used in various industries such as those steel parts used for aerospace. Metal plating also can be a more specific process such as sheet metal plating, which is specific to thin metals like those that are used as system unit (computer) case or covering.

The most common plating metal for industrial purposes are chrome, nickel, and zinc such as industrial parts, automobile & motorcycle parts or sink faucets. Decorative items on the other hand use tin, brass, gold, or silver.

There are several steps involved in metal plating process but this can be broken down into four (4) stages:


The first stage of the process is the preparation of the material to be plated. This includes cleaning so that the metal is free of contaminants such as oil and grease so that the plating metal can bond properly. The procedure includes suspending the metal part over a bath of boiling chemical solvent. As the hot vapor comes into contact with the metal to be treated (which is colder), it condenses, dripping down into the bath, stripping any contaminants along with it. The other residual elements evaporate, leaving the material clean and dry.


Normally a strong abrasive aluminum oxide powder is used for this purpose. This process allows the surface of the metal appear better as the process roughens up its surface.


Electroplating, the third stage, can be considered as the core of the entire process. It is called as it is because the key to it all is electricity.

Electroplating is done in a tank filled with water along with a handful of chemicals used to help conduct electricity as water alone wont conduct sufficiently. Metal baskets containing plating metal bars or balls are also placed along the side of the tank.

When the needed components are put in place, support frame with the metal to be treated is then connected to the negative terminal of an electric source, while the metal basket to the positive terminal. This dissolves the plating metal inside the basket, lacing the particle with a positive charge. They travel through the water and attach themselves to the negative charge metal (the one that is treated), creating a smooth layer of plating metal (e.g. cadmium). For thin metal plating, the whole process could take several minutes; for the thick metal plating, it could take up to several hours.

Rinsing and immersing to series of compounds

The last part includes rinsing the treated metal with water to remove the chemical residues and then immersing it to a series of compounds to make even more corrosion resistant. However, this makes some changes in its color. Then, a final rinse with hot water is done. The whole process could take about 90 minutes.

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