Chromium Plating Replacement

Article From: Products Finishing,

Posted on: 6/1/1998

New barrel plating process can replace chromium plating at half the cost...

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Barrel Plating line

Barrel Plating line for plating metallic alloy over nickel-plated substrates

Parts finished

Parts finished with Enloy Ni-150 plating process

From the company's beginnings as a small job shop in 1959, to its current position as a leader in the metal plating industry, integrity, quality and service have always been the driving force behind Master Finish Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Today, Master Finish continues to provide high-quality workmanship by investing in the latest plating technologies. The company is commit-ted to providing 100-pct customer satisfaction.

One new technology is a barrel plating process that can replace chromium plating at half the cost, according to Dale Mulder, company president. The new plating technology allows an alloy with a bright chromium-like color to be deposited using barrel plating. Until this technology was available, small steel and brass components that required a bright decorative finish had to be processed on Master Finish's rack plating lines.

Key blanks, small hardware components such as drawer pulls, and small hand tools such as sockets are just a few of the products that are good candidates for this process. According to Mr. Mulder, "This is not just a new twist on existing technology, but actually a significant advance." He says that his company has saved customers nearly 50 pct off the cost of the usual rack plating process.

TABLE I — Enloy Ni-150 Salt Spray Test Results
Steel Panel, 0.2 mil nickel
Hexavalent Chromium EnloyTM Ni-150; no passivate Enloy Ni-150; with passivate Trivalent Chromium
8 hours No Corrosion Blue Tarnish No Corrosion 10 pct Rust
24 hours No Corrosion Blue Tarnish No Corrosion 40 pct Rust
48 hours 2 pct Rust No Corrosion 80 pct Rust
96 hours 50 pct Rust No Corrosion
120 hours 1 pct Rust No Corrosion
550 hours 1 pct Rust

The barrel process is effective for three reasons: 1) Parts can be plated in large quantities, reducing labor costs; 2) Specially designed racks are not required; and 3) Waste treatment is simplified, because chromium is eliminated.

Although most electroplated metals can be deposited using either rack or barrel processes, chromium will not deposit properly without continuous electrical contact with the workpiece. The slurry action of parts rotating in a barrel does not allow the electrical contact that decorative chromium electroplating requires.

TABLE II — Enloy Ni-150 Operating Conditions
Temperature 140F
pH 6.3
Cathode current density 20 asf
Anode current density 10 asf
Voltage 2 to 15 volts
Time 8 min
Surface tension 52dynes/cm

A research team at Enthone-OMI Inc., developed a proprietary nickel alloy plating process that provides the appearance of bright chromium plated deposits. Master Finish Co. plates a nickel strike followed by the Enloy® Ni-150 electroplate onto steel and brass components. Although components with class "A" surface requirements are not good candidates for barrel plating, most other components can be processed with this method.

The process produces a metallic alloy electroplated coating for use over nickel-plated substrates. When used in conjunction with the proprietary passivate, the deposit yields a chromium-like finish with excellent corrosion resistance (Table I). Bath operating conditions are outlined in Table II.

The plating process demands detailed care and meticulous testing. Master Finish uses state-of-the-art plating facilities and highly skilled master technicians. The company adheres to advanced statistical process controls, including compliance with ISO/QS 9000 standards. These rigorous quality standards, along with its in-house laboratory guarantee high-quality finishes.

The company statistically monitors raw materials consistency. Plating bath solutions are also continually monitored. Testing procedures and controls include x-ray fluorescence coating measurement; microscopic metallographic examination; CASS corrosion testing; Kocour plating thickness analysis and step testing; statistical plating bath monitoring; monitoring of raw material consistency and finished product quality.

The company has always strongly believed in responsible waste control. All the company's environmental standards exceed those of local, state and federal regulations.

The waste control system complies with ISO 14001 standards and includes treatment of hazardous solutions, as well as environmentally safe recycling. Residues become raw material for smelting stainless steel. This process keeps all heavy metal by-products out of landfills and streams.

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