With my company’s feet firmly planted in the zinc plating industry, my perspective mostly relates to the protection of steel parts. As we look at what’s coming down the pike in the next few years, we see environmental regulations driving such things as the removal of cobalt from zinc passivates and the eventual removal of trivalent chrome from these coatings.
Much of this will initially be required by the automotive industry, and then spread to the others. With this in mind, we need to anticipate what will happen with automotive to imagine what zinc plating might look like ten years down the road.
As electrical and alternative power take over for gasoline and diesel engines, many of the components which are currently being plated will no longer exist. Additionally, in order to lighten the weight of vehicles, many steel components will be replaced with lighter materials like plastic and carbon composites which do not require plating.
For what plating remains, the corrosion and appearance requirements will continue to increase – these parts will need to look better and last longer. Durability, color and appearance of functional deposits like zinc and zinc alloy will improve to the point where they are ready for assembly right out of the plating line, with no further processing necessary.
Other industries will follow automotive with a good portion of their steel components being replaced with lighter materials. This will cause the plating industry to shrink, but the additional appearance and corrosion requirements for the remaining steel components will demand innovation and will provide for higher profits for those still in the industry.
Brett Larick is President of Columbia Chemical, columbiachemical.com.