Automotive parts, appliance parts, and food service products all have one thing in common: each receives its finish through a process known as electro-plating. In an industry whose basic technique is much the same as early in this century, we have become an innovator and industry leader, able to rise to the top in a field one could term a "phantom" industry. Electro-plating is inherent to many items common to our daily lives, but few people know what is involved in the process or even that the article received such a finish. Electro-plating is how the vast majority of metal products receive their final finish, through the electro-deposition of one metal over another. The basic process consists of chemically cleaning the parts prior to being placed in a plating tank. The electro-plating itself involves a source of power, a plating solution which acts as an electrolyte, an anode which is usually made from the same metal that is being deposited, and the part that is to be electroplated, which serves as the cathode. As a controlled (DC) electrical current is passed from the anode to the cathode, the nickel ions (in a nickel plating tank, for example) are attracted to and adhere to the surface of the cathode, the metal part. Modern automated facilities may require in excess of sixty individual steps from initial cleaning to finished product. Electro-plating serves both as a cosmetic and protective function. Although a thin layer readily serves to beautify the part, additional corrosion resistance can be obtained through the applications of a somewhat thicker finish. Where corrosion resistance is critical, such as with high quality automotive parts, several specialized layers of metal are deposited.
Electroplating is the critical link within the metal finishing industry and
forms an essential service to the manufacturing sector.