A: Oil and gas is one industry—oil and gas use copper plating technology. Other industries we serve are the medical industry—aviation and aerospace. Also the electrical industry, a lot of different small parts that have different types of plating on them.
Plating, as we’ve previously discussed is a process by which we coat a surface with a layer of metal. This is done for a variety of reasons both functional and cosmetic. Many industries use plating daily and some of the products you use every day require it. Before we get into what industries use plating let’s review what plating is.
There are several methods to accomplish plating and at Guerrero, we use two of the most common—electroplating and electroless plating.
What Is Electroplating?
This method of plating uses an electrochemical process, which means it requires the use of electricity. The object being plated is submersed into an ionic solution comprised of the metal which we’re applying to the surface. When a negative electric charge is applied to the object being plated, positively charged ions are drawn to the object. When the ions make contact with the negatively charged object, it changes them into solid metal. This results in a very thin coating of metal on the object being plated.
What Is Electroless Plating?
This method uses no electricity at all and instead relies on an autocatalytic chemical reduction of metal cations (positive charge metal ion). In plain English, it relies on a chemical reaction that occurs when the object being plated is dipped into the chemical bath. Electroless plating is often used when the object being plated relies on a very even coating. Electroplating suffers from a somewhat uneven coating on some substrates.
Why Is Industrial Plating Done?
There are so many reasons that plating is done with reasons that range from functional to pure cosmetics. There are multiple reasons why a business or industry might need a component to receive some type of plating. Some of these reasons include, but are not limited to:
Some metals are more appealing and valued than others. Naturally, silver and gold are the most sought after but are also more rare and costly. Also creating components out of pure gold might not be feasible in addition to being cost-prohibitive. Gold is also quite soft in any of the most common purities it’s available in.
However, through industrial plating, you can build a component from a less expensive metal, and apply a very thin layer of gold or silver. This is much more cost-effective and gives the appearance of solid gold or silver. This creates a beautiful luster and shimmer that consumers associate with fine metals.
Industrial plating can also protect a surface by creating a thin barrier of a stronger metal more resistant to corrosives. Often, zinc and cadmium plating of a delicate metal, will be performed and use the zinc and cadmium as a reactive shield. Those two metals are more reactive and will begin to corrode first before the base metal beneath is compromised. Nickel and copper on the other hand provide a protective barrier that is non-reactive.
We know that gold and silver are excellent at conducting electricity. However, making electrical components out of solid gold or silver is not feasible. Again, using plating technology, tiny amounts of these prized conductive metals can achieve the same results. Manufacturers build their components out of a cheaper base metal but then apply a thin layer of the conductive metals to the finished product. The component still functions as designed, gets a huge benefit from the conductive metals, and is much cheaper.
Other Functional Uses
While aesthetic, corrosion protection, and conductivity are the most common reasons for plating, there’s others as well. For example, plating can also be used for friction reduction, protection from metal on metal abrasion, radiation protection, and more.
Plating, in a nutshell, is a great way to give a material traits and abilities it does not possess on its own. Plating is also added as a form of material control, not just to add specific properties to a material. In the manufacturing of precision components, plating allows undersize components to be thickened to an exact degree to meet standards.
Common Products That Use Plating Technology
Whether you realize it or not, plating technology is present in all aspects of daily life. In fact, metal is the material that most objects we encounter daily are made of. Therefore, the demand for industrial plating services continues to trend upward. Below are several examples of plating being implemented in everyday items.
Kitchen Tools And Gadgets
The kitchen is where you will find the most examples of plating in the household. You will find that items in the kitchen are often exposed to water, heat, and other elements that could damage metal surfaces. Therefore, it makes sense that a majority of your kitchen tools are plated such as:
- Can Openers
- Flatware & Cutlery
- Utensils (Whisk, Egg Slicer, Mixing Bowls, Ice Cream Scoop)
- Sink Fixtures
- Toaster Ovens
- Cabinet Hardware
As you can see, that list could continue for hundreds of items, as the logic behind it is to prolong endurance and cosmetics. For example, if flatware and cutlery did not have the proper plating, it would oxidize and tarnish very quickly.
Machinery parts used in many household tools make use of plating, electroplating specifically. Tools take a beating every day and are often exposed to the elements. If not for plating, they would not last long due to rust and deterioration. You’ll find iron and steel parts that are plated in tools such as:
- Hose Attachments
- Tree Trimmers
- Hammers & Wrenches
Components that are always exposed to the elements or repetitive handling and impact will always need plating to boost longevity.
Cell phones are probably the most overlooked item where plating is used quite extensively. The reason it’s usually overlooked is that the plated components are hidden. Inside your phone are hundreds of capacitors, cable connections, diodes, and more. These are plated to endure heat and constant use, but also to boost conductivity. With most phones being at least IP55 rated for water resistance, components need to be corrosion resistant. Most cell phone components are plated with silver or gold for extreme conductivity at a reasonable cost.
For the average person, a solid gold necklace or bracelet can get very expensive. With gold posting at nearly $1,800 an ounce, gold plating offers a compromise. You get a cost-effective way to not only get the aesthetics of gold jewelry but also get increased durability and longevity. Most gold-plated jewelry, when done properly, is indistinguishable from pure gold jewelry and is more durable to wear and tear.
You touch money every day—ok in this digital day and age maybe not coins as much, but you get the idea. While the coins from long ago such as the early 1900’s quarters and silver dollars were actually silver—all are plated now. Plating coins helps increase durability, corrosion resistance and also keeps costs minimal. Coins can stay in circulation for much longer with plating which also reduces the load on the U.S. mint.
Automotive parts are critical components that must endure extreme conditions. Heat, moisture, cold, and still need to have longevity. Plating helps give these parts that and more. For example, the wheels on vehicles are often plated with chromium (chrome) which gives both endurance and durability. Without plating automotive parts, corrosion would set in much quicker and parts would have to be replaced too often. It would make cars cost-prohibitive to own or make.
Driving on the road to work you see plating technology doing its job dozens of times if not more. Bridges, guard rails, and other structures would corrode much quicker without nickel coating. Building structural supports would suffer the same fate. If you want to see what bridges that aren’t plated suffer, go look at an old iron bridge. You will see rust, corrosion, and decay overtaking a structure that could’ve had a longer life.
What Can Guerrero Plating Technology Do For You?
No matter what industry you’re in—plating can be a valuable part of your manufacturing process. Whether to prolong components, machinery, or cosmetic enhancements—we are ready to take your products to the next level. Contact us today and let us show you what plating technology can do for you!