Electroplating, or electrodeposition, is an industrial process used to improve and finish materials made of metal. In this process, a thin metal layer is placed onto an object to alter its physical characteristics. The addition of this layer of metal could lead to an increase in the surface’s natural resilience and capacity to resist corrosion.
Electroplating is extremely useful because it can be applied to different objects and for different purposes. For example, it can be used to thicken or improve the aesthetics of the surface.
In what way does electroplating work?
The electroplating process is carried out after the metal stamping tooling is complete. It uses a current of electricity to dissolve metal and then deposit it onto a surface. Although this may sound complex, it has been used for centuries in various forms. A successful electroplating process requires a few key elements, including the anode, cathode, solution, and power source.
Electroplating begins when the anode is supplied with a current. The anode is the positively charged electrode that forms the metal plating in the circuit. A negatively charged electrode in a circuit is called the cathode, or substrate, and the solution is composed of metal salts, particularly copper sulfate, to facilitate electrical flow. Furthermore, the power source is responsible for applying initial electrical power to the system. Together, these elements allow the electroplating system to produce durable surfaces.
What metals are used in electroplating?
The plating process may involve individual metals or combinations of metals. A few of the metals commonly used for electroplating include:
- Copper: Copper’s conductivity and heat resistance make it an excellent material for heating systems. In addition, it is often used to increase the adhesive strength between layers of materials.
- Zinc: Zinc is a highly corrosion-resistant metal. This property is often enhanced by alloying zinc with other metals.
- Tin: Tin is one of the cheapest metals. It is a matte, bright metal with extremely high solderability, corrosion resistance, and eco-friendliness.
- Nickel: Electroplating nickel provides excellent wear resistance, which may be further enhanced by heat treating. Besides their resistance to elements, strength, and conductivity, it also produces different alloys of significant value.
- Gold: This precious metal is highly corrosion-resistant and tarnish-resistant. In addition, it is highly conductive and aesthetic.
- Silver: Silver is less corrosion resistant than gold but extremely malleable and ductile. This metal is also attractive and highly resistant to contact wear.
- Palladium: Palladium is a bright white metal, often used in place of gold or platinum because it is durable, corrosion-resistant, and has a highly polished appearance.
What are the advantages of electroplating?
You can electroplate your materials for various reasons, including increasing their durability or making them more attractive. In addition, electroplating provides the following benefits.
- Heat resistance: Some metals are more heat resistant than others. Your finished products can be more durable at high temperatures if you electroplate them with these metals. For example, electroplating nickel to any material can enhance its resistance to heat damage. Similarly, your projects will be more durable and heat resistant when using gold and zinc-nickel.
- Protection from damage: The use of electroplating will protect your products from corrosive agents and other conditions. Therefore, electroplating is an excellent solution for products exposed to damaging elements or harsh conditions.
- Enhances aesthetics: When you apply metals (especially precious metals) as a layer, your end product will appear shiny and lustrous. So, you can produce good-looking products without adding a great deal of money to your total cost by electroplating thin layers of luminous metals.
- The conductivity of electricity: Electroplating can be of great assistance in increasing the conductivity of an electrical system. Electroplating with high conductive metals like silver or copper makes it possible to significantly enhance any material’s conductivity. Moreover, it is beneficial in controlling and reducing your production costs.
- Enhanced surface protection: After electroplating, your substrates will have a more robust and hardened surface. You will likely require less future repair work with this additional metal support. Thus, your products will be less susceptible to problems when subjected to stress.
Electroplating with different types of metals can considerably enhance the numerous properties of your end products. For instance, electroplating nickel has proved to be a cost-effective method of improving and strengthening any material. So, whether the purpose is to increase conductivity or enhance the overall appearance of your product, electroplating can significantly contribute to it all.