Commercial Plating Services
We offer Chemfilm (alodine), Anodize Type II and III, Passivate, Zinc, Electroless Nickel, and Paint.
For nearly 50 years, Production Plating has been a leader in commercial plating and anodizing in the Northwest. With unique selective plating and precision masking techniques for critical plated components, we partner with leading Northwest Manufacturers to provide critical and precise finishing requirements.
Plating is a surface covering in which a metal is deposited on a conductive surface. Electroplate is used for corrosion inhibition, to improve solderability, to harden, to improve wear ability, to reduce friction, to improve paint adhesion, to alter conductivity or for radiation shielding.
Metal finishing comprises a broad range of processes that are practiced by most industries which manufacture metal parts. Typically, manufacturers perform the finishing after a metal part has been formed. Finishing can be any operation that alters the surface of a workpiece to achieve a certain property. Common metal finishes include paint, lacquer, ceramic coatings, and other surface treatments. This manual mainly addresses the plating and surface treatment processes.
The metal finishing industry generally categorizes plating operations as electroplating and electroless plating. Surface treatments consist of chemical and electrochemical conversion, case hardening, metallic coating, and chemical coating. The following sections briefly describe the major plating and surface treatment processes in order to provide a context for the more in-depth information in the chapters that follow.
Electroplating is achieved by passing an electric current through a solution containing dissolved metal ions and the metal object to be plated. The metal object serves as the cathode in an electrochemical cell, attracting ions from the solution. Ferrous and non-ferrous metal objects are plated with a variety of metals including aluminum, brass, bronze, cadmium, copper, chromium, gold, iron, lead, nickel, platinum, silver, tin, and zinc. The process is regulated by controlling a variety of parameters including voltage and amperage, temperature, residence times, and purity of bath solutions. Plating baths are almost always aqueous solutions, therefore, only those metals that can be reduced in aqueous solutions of their salts can be electrodeposited. The only major exception to this principle is aluminum, which can be plated from organic electrolytes (EPA 1995a).
Plating operations are typically batch operations in which metal objects are dipped into a series of baths containing various reagents for achieving the required surface characteristics. Operators can either carry the workpieces on racks or in barrels. Operators mount workpieces on racks that carry the part from bath to bath. Barrels rotate in the plating solution and hold smaller parts (Ford 1994).
The sequence of unit operations in an electroplating process is similar in both rack and barrel plating operations. A typical plating sequence involves various phases of cleaning, rinsing, stripping, and plating. Electroless plating uses similar steps but involves the deposition of metal on metallic or non-metallic surfaces without the use of external electrical energy (EPA 1995a).
Electroless plating is the chemical deposition of a metal coating onto an object using chemical reactions rather than electricity. The basic ingredients in an electroless plating solution are a source metal (usually a salt), a reducer, a complexing agent to hold the metal in solution, and various buffers and other chemicals designed to maintain bath stability and increase bath life. Copper and nickel electroless plating commonly are used for printed circuit boards (Freeman 1995).
Immersion plating is a similar process in that it uses a chemical reaction to apply the coating. However, the difference is that the reaction is caused by the metal substrate rather than by mixing two chemicals into the plating bath. This process produces a thin metal deposit by chemical displacement, commonly zinc or silver. Immersion plating baths are usually formulations of metal salts, alkalis, and complexing agents (e.g., lactic, glycolic, or malic acids salts). Electroless plating and immersion plating commonly generate more waste than other plating techniques, but individual facilities vary significantly in efficiency (Freeman 1995).
Chemical and electrical conversion treatments deposit a protective and/or decorative coating on a metal surface. Chemical and electrochemical conversion processes include phosphating, chromating, anodizing, passivation, and metal coloring. Phosphating prepares the surface for further treatment. In some instances, this process precedes painting. Chromating uses hexavalent chromium in a certain pH range to deposit a protective film on metal surfaces. Anodizing is an immersion process in which the workpiece is placed in a solution (usually containing metal salts or acids) where a reaction occurs to form an insoluble metal oxide. The reaction continues and forms a thin, non-porous layer that provides good corrosion resistance. Sometimes this process is used as a pretreatment for painting. Passivating also involves the immersion of the workpiece into an acid solution, usually nitric acid or nitric acid with sodium dichromate. The passivating process is used to prevent corrosion and extend the life of the product. Metal coloring involves chemically treating the workpiece to impart a decorative finish (EPA 1995a).