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1/1/1997 | 7 MINUTE READ

Niche Market Plater

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ADTEC Electroplating has found its place in the finishing industry providing high-quality specialized plating...


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"Hello. ADTEC Electroplating? I need 600, two-ft-by-two-ft steel parts plated with electroless nickel. Oh, and I need them by next Thursday. Can you do this?"

While this may not be exactly how an order comes in, ADTEC has the ability to accommodate just about any request. And if it does not, it has the flexibility to work with its customers to meet their demands.

"We attribute our growth and success to flexibility," stated Marko Duffy, sales manager for the fifteen-year-old Lawrence, Massachusetts, company. "Customers throw a curve at you and you have to be able to respond. If a job doesn't fit exactly what we do, but the customer is willing to send the work, we will take a swing at it."

ADTEC plates electroless, bright and sulfamate nickel, chromium, bright tin, tin/lead 60/40 and tin/lead 90/10, copper, gold, silver, rhodium and cadmium, in addition to offering several Dow processes for magnesium, blackening and wire mesh plating for use in EMI/RFI shielded windows.

The company is expert at plating on aluminum and has the capability to finish difficult-to-plate pieces of just about any substrate. It rack plates parts with tin, nickel, electroless nickel, tin/lead, silver and chromium.

Its barrel plating capabilities allow it to finish large or small volumes with tin, tin/lead, nickel or silver.

The precious metals plating area features laboratory conditions and is a designated, exclusive plating area. The company is approved for aircraft and military plating. In the precious metals division, gold, rhodium, silver, tin, tin/lead and nickel are plated.

Another niche the company has carved is in wire mesh plating, which involves optical-quality blackening of fine wire mesh for EMI/RFI shielded windows. The finishing area is a Class 100K clean room for plating stainless steel, copper, Monel and monofilament meshes. The shielding components in the products satisfy Mil-Std-285 and NSA-65-6. The company can also provide Mil-Spec finishing of flexible and rigid waveguide filters and assemblies for the microwave industry.

All of these niche capabilities have helped ADTEC grow from a two-person shop to one employing 120. It all started when Steve Sideri bought C&W Chrome Plating in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1981. With his father's help, Steve was able to grow the business. Two brothers, Dave and Eric, also joined the company.

The Sideris bought the present headquarters from a large bakery that formerly occupied the space. The many rooms in the 50,000-sq-ft facility allowed ADTEC to separate its various plating processes and set up specialty areas as needed. However, the building has not been large enough to contain the growing company.

Recently, the Sideris purchased a 29,000-sq-ft facility. At first this facility was designated simply for expansion, but another niche opportunity presented itself. The first line in the new building will be for manual rack plating of magnesium with nickel, gold, silver or tin. The Sideris saw this as an opportunity to expand their customer base and grow the company.

"Magnesium is a difficult metal to work with. It is much more delicate and expensive than aluminum," noted Mr. Duffy. "The chemistry has to be fine-tuned constantly. That is one reason we have three chemists on staff in our laboratory.

"We will not have any hoists. All work will be done manually, because the intricate parts require personal attention," Mr. Duffy continued. When the customer first approached ADTEC, it was concerned about liability. A 20-inch housing could cost as much as $3,000. "You cannot simply apologize if you drop it," said Mr. Duffy. ADTEC was willing to assume a portion of the liability and offered to pay three times its plating charge if the part is damaged.

Magnesium is used extensively in the satellite industry. There are only a few platers in the United States with the capability of plating on magnesium. The cleaning and plating processes are similar to aluminum treatments; however, there are proprietary changes made to the bath chemistry to make it compatible with the delicate metal. The chemists do daily titrations, Hull cell tests and bath analyzing using atomic adsorption.

Parts range from quite small to 18 to 20 inches long. Some parts are complex and sophisticated with many blind and tapped holes that require extensive masking.

The new, open building gave ADTEC the chance to design the line from the ground up. It started with the flooring under the magnesium plating line. First, ADTEC built a pit and lined it with an epoxy paint. Second, a PVC extruded floor was rolled out over the epoxy. This will help keep the area clean, provide secondary containment and keep ADTEC in compliance with local regulations.

Recycling and recovery will also be a big part of the new line. ADTEC did a pilot study of nanofiltration technology prior to implementing it on the magnesium line. Nano-filtration will be used on heated plating baths, such as the copper cyanide. "It is basically a reduction tool to get the dragout to a smaller volume. Then we can add it back to the tank," explained waste treatment coordinator, John Gavin. Dragouts are also heated to the same temperature as the bath for greater evaporation.

"The ion exchange systems do not have a great capacity, so spray rinses are used prior to the immersion rinses," explained Mr. Gavin. "Spray rinses are kept at a minimum, and the water from the spray rinses is pumped through a nano-filtration unit. The two counterflow immersion rinses following the spray rinse are treated using ion exchange. Evaporators are used on all waste streams to reduce volume and all tanks have fume scrubbers for emissions control.

ADTEC's growth directly relates to its ingenuity, flexibility, willingness to work and responsiveness to its customer and employees' needs. The management has vision and a desire to grow. That is why it looks at the odd, yet high-quality niche-type jobs. Jobs that have helped ADTEC carve its niche in the plating industry.

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