Introduction to Electroplating

Electroplating is a finishing process broadly adopted in various industries to coat metal objects with a thin layer of a different metal to achieve the desired property that the original workpiece lacks. The process is called electrodeposition. It is primarily used to modify the surface properties of an object, such as abrasion, wear or corrosion resistance, lubricity, or aesthetic qualities. Additionally, electroplating is sometimes adopted to increase undersized parts' thickness or form objects with electroforming.

A workpiece encounters changes to its chemical, physical, and mechanical properties with electroplating. The use of an electrical current reduces dissolved metal cations from a solution (ions with a net positive charge) so that a thin, coherent metal coating is formed on the workpiece itself, which serves as a negative electrode (anode).

The first modern electroplating plant began production in 1876 and was initially named The Norddeutsche Affinerie in Hamburg. As the science behind the method grew, its adoption steadily rose to large-scale plating objects and specific manufacturing and engineering applications. The arrival of electric generators in the late 19th century gave the plating industry a big boost, making the resulting higher available currents applied to various metal components in high volumes. World Wars I and II and the significant aviation industry growth catalyzed further advancements and refinements in the plating process. American physicist Richard Feynman developed technology that made it possible to electroplate metal onto plastic.

The different processes in electroplating include striking, electrochemical deposition, pulse electroplating (also called pulse electrodeposition), brush electroplating, and electroless deposition. As is the case with other coating techniques, it is critical to pay special attention to the cleanliness conditions because molecular layers of oil can prevent the adhesion of the coating.


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