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Working Principle of Metal Plating


Metal plating allows you to combine the strength, electrical conductivity, wear and corrosion resistance, and appearance of certain metals with different materials that have their own advantages, such as affordable and/or light weight metals or plastics.


1. What is metal plating?


Plating is the process of applying a layer of metal to an object using electrodeposition. The engineer uses controlled electrolysis to transfer the desired metal coating from the anode (the part containing the metal to be used as a plating) to the cathode (the part to be plated).


The anode and cathode are placed in an electrolyte chemical bath and exposed to a continuous charge. Electricity causes negatively charged ions (anions) to move to the anode and positively charged ions (cations) to move to the cathode, covering or plating the desired portion in a uniform metal coating. Electroplating uses a substrate material (usually a lighter or lower cost material) and encapsulates the substrate in a thin metal shell, such as nickel or copper.


2. Metal plating and electroforming


Both electroplating and electroforming are performed using electrodeposition. The difference is that electroforming uses a mold that is removed after the part is formed. Electroforming is used to create solid metal parts, while electroplating is used to cover existing parts in metal (made of different materials).


3. Metal plating material options


One metal can be plated onto an object, or multiple metals can be plated. Many manufacturers choose to layer metals such as copper and nickel to maximize strength and electrical conductivity. Materials commonly used in metal electroplating include: brass, cadmium, chromium, copper, gold, iron, nickel, silver, titanium, and zinc.

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