Chrome Plating, also known as Electroplating, is a manufacturing technique in which one or more thin layers of metal coat a substrate using an electric current. The substrate object, that can conduct electricity, is dipped into a dissolved metal solution that has an electrical current running through it. The plating metal adheres to the item forming a thin outer layer. This process is called Electrodeposition. In this process the part to be plated is the cathode of the circuit and the anode is usually made of the metal to be plated on the part. Both components are immersed in a solution called an electrolyte. A power supply is used to apply a direct current to the anode. Depending on the type of substrate being plated different etching, cleansing and rinsing solutions are employed.
Chrome plating is often viewed as serving a merely decorative purpose, but this process gives desired qualities to objects that they otherwise lack.
By electroplating, inferior metals can be coated with a layer of a better quality metal, making the end product stronger and more durable, thus prolonging the life of the part being plated and
making cheaper metals more luxurious. Iron, aluminum, zinc die-cast and steel are common substrates of chrome plating. Some of the benefits of chrome plating are abrasion and wear resistance,
corrosion protection, as well as improved aesthetic qualities.
Chrome Plating is not a one step process. It involves many different stages and therefore it is a lengthy and labor intensive process.
Initially, after an item has been received, logged in and photographed, it is stripped to the bare metal removing any rust, oils, grease, old paint, and/or old chrome.
At this stage the item is inspected for signs of corrosion, scratches, rust, pitting and other damage that may affect the plating process or the quality of the end product. If the object displays any damage or imperfections we take the necessary steps to repair and remove any foreign materials that may cause any problems at any step in the plating process.
The next step is Polishing the item to be plated. This step will remove any unnatural imperfections and will evenly remove metal from the surface down to the bottom of the deepest scratches providing the substrate with a smooth surface which will give the finished item a mirror-like finish. This is achieved by linishing and polishing by progressive abrasion gradually using from coarsest to finest grits of sandpaper and eventually using buffing wheels along with different rouges and polishing compounds.
Next, a special plating deposit called a "strike" is used to form a very thin plating layer which provides better adherence to the substrate. Nickel is a popular metal used in this striking method because of its ability to bond with copper and aluminum to achieve proper adhesion and wear resistance.
Copper is also used in the chrome plating process to add conductivity and to provide a layer of metal to fill in pitting and other impurities in the substrate metal.
After an object has been copper plated, it goes through the next stage, copper buffing. In this stage the item is again polished and buffed to a high sheen to ensure the chrome plating top coat is as bright and as smooth as possible.
Once the object has been copper buffed, it is thoroughly cleaned and rinsed to prepare it for a bright nickel plating bath. This step is vital for the last step, chrome plating. It offers a high luster, corrosion protection and adds wear resistance.
The last step in the process is chrome plating. This is done by immersing the nickel plated object in a highly concentrated chromic acid solution to apply a thin coat of chromium to the object using an electric current. The chrome layer adds a bluish color (compared with the yellowish color of nickel), and protects the nickel against tarnishing, minimizing scratching, and significantly contributes to corrosion resistance. When plating is not desired on certain areas of the substrate, stop offs are applied to prevent build up by the metal deposition being applied to the parts.
After the object has been chrome plated, it is rinsed for the last time before going through our meticulous quality inspection to ensure an bright even chrome plating.
The overall appearance of a high quality chrome finish is only as good as the prep and polishing process. With that in mind, we strive to continuously improve the way we work, as always, focusing on fine tuning our process to deliver the highest quality finishes to our customers in a timely manner.