How does chrome plating work?

How exactly do you chrome plate an item?

Chrome plating is the process of applying a layer of chromium onto a material, most commonly metal. Although it’s sometimes used for the purpose of decoration, chrome plating can be used for a number of purposes, including the protection of material layers. It’s a fantastic combatant of metal corrosion too.

The process of chrome plating includes five (somewhat basic) stages. First of all, a high amount of attention is paid to the object that is going to receive chrome plating. This could be a number of things, so it isn’t really particular what this might be. A number of chemicals are used in order to completely degrease the metals, ensuring that the surface is completely free of any components that may cause the chrome plating process to fail.

For the next major stage of the chrome plating process, the treated metal with undergo a number of further treatments in order to smooth the surface. Ensuring that the metal surface is as smooth as can be, the chrome plating outcome will result in a much higher degree of integrity over a longer time period. After being completely sure that the surface is smooth, the metal is carefully placed into a vat filled with treatment solution, which allows the metal to be gradually warmed up to the perfect temperature in order to apply optimal chrome plating.

In the final stage of the chrome plating process, the actual plating can begin. A vat is filled with chrome (chromium) components, allowing the compounds to find their way into the metal surface. The amount of time in which the metal remains inside the vat will always depend on the degree of thickness that’s desired for chrome plating.

Chrome plating is a fantastic technology, as it allows metal items to deal with exposure for a number of years. The metal bumpers on the front of vehicles is a fantastic example of chrome plating that holds itself up for decades, only needing general maintenance to keep in top condition.

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What is hard chrome plating?

Did you ever want to know what hard chrome plating was?

Hard chrome plating is an electroplating process in which chromium is deposited from a chromic acid solution.

The thickness of hard chrome plating ranges from 2 – 250 micrometers.
A variety of hard chrome include micro-cracked chromium, micro-porous chromium, porous chromium and crack free chromium.
It is vital that the micro-cracked coatings and porous coatings have a minimum thickness between 80 – 120 micrometers in order confer adequate corrosion resistance.

The formation of micro-porous chromium is achieved by a specialised plating method involving the use of inactive suspended particles.
Porous chrome plating is manufactured by etching electro deposited chromium – these are designed to retain lubricant, for sliding type applications.

Chrome plating is used mostly for resistance against wear and corrosion as opposed to its low friction characteristics.
However, there are environmental concerns associated with disposing the plating solution, which has lead to many users of chrome plating to seek out alternative coating methods.

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The ins and outs of chrome plating

Though we all see chrome in our day to day lives, not many people know about it. So, just what exactly is Chrome and how do you make it? Find out in our latest blog right here!
What exactly is chrome?

Chrome (short for chromium), is a metal that is applied to the surface of an object. A product cannot be made of solid chrome, instead a thin layer is applied in a manner that’s either chrome plating, chrome dipping or chroming. The objects in which chrome can be applied to are endless, yet they’re mostly made up of steel. Other elements that can be used are copper, brass and aluminium.

What’s good to remember is that, just because something holds a shiny finish doesn’t mean it has a chrome finish. Many people would say that aluminium motorbike parts that have been polished to a high level of brightness are “chrome”, yet they’re actually not.

So, how exactly can you tell the two apart? It can be difficult at times to see differences, but when they’re compared up close, chrome has itself a massive advantage over a simple polished metal. Chrome plating is a highly reflective method, holding a bluer and more specular finish than others.

Chrome plating will reflect everything, holding a fantastic finish that cannot be put into words.

What’s the difference between the chrome processes?

Honestly? Nothing!

Chrome is applied to surfaces through a process called ‘electroplating’, which gives an even level of application on all areas of the surface. It isn’t just dripped on either, so electroplating is the only process used in this manner.

It’s also good to know that even though they’re all applied in the same manner, not all chrome processes will offer the same outcome. There are two separate applications of chrome plating: “hard chrome plating” and “decorative chrome plating”.

hard chrome plating
An example of chrome plating

So, what are hard and decorative chrome plating?

Hard Chrome Plating

Not many people would have an experience with hard chrome plating, as it’s a process of chrome plating where the application of the coat is fairly heavy. The coat is applied in this manner for wear resistance, oil retention and various ‘wear’ purposes that may have an effect on the surface. Some examples would be piston rings.

Decorative Chrome Plating

Decorative chrome plating is regularly called nickel-chrome plating, simply because it involves electroplating nickel onto the object prior to plating it with chrome. The nickel plating process provides a layer of nickel which gives the surface smoothness, corrosion resistance, and even reflectivity. The chrome plating applied is exceptionally thin.

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