Electroplating, or plating for short, is the process of electrochemically depositing one metal on top of another. The average consumer has heard of gold plated jewelry, or silver plated dining flatware. However many, if not most all artificial objects either has electroplated parts in them for their functionality, or they were constructed with the aid of plated components in other machinery.
What Type of Parts are Good Candidates for Plating?
Electroplating typically consists of several basic components, and usually a few complex ones. First there is the object to be plated. Despite the earlier description of the object being metal, even nonconductive plastic, leather or wooden objects can now be plated. This is managed by firstly preparing the surface of the object with a conductive paint, made just for this purpose. Often a heavy layer of copper is put down, as it is easily plated by most of the other common metals used in this process. Then gold or silver is often used. Whatever the surface texture of the object that will come through the plating process the first layer isn’t too heavy. A result of this type of plating can be seen in the craft of jewelry when a delicate leaf has been partially painted and plated along its vein structure, and then used as an earring or necklace centerpiece. The second part of the plating equation is the chemical bath into which the first object is placed. Then electrodes are required, both on the plating object and elsewhere, to electrically energize the material to be deposited on the object. Sometimes the solid material being deposited is used as the electrode. Sometimes the electrode is a highly inert material and the deposition metal is in solution in the electrolytic bath.
Designing Parts for Plating
The majority of objects that get plated are in electronic components. The ability to make one object with the properties of two different metals is valuable. Open the battery component of a common house hold item, like a television remote control. The spring loaded battery connectors are typically made out of brass or spring steel, but plated with chrome. This is because chrome is corrosion resistant, and steel and brass corrode easily. The batteries confined in the compartment are prone to give off small amounts of corrosive gases. The chrome plated parts are able to withstand this environment and do their job.