FAQs | Everything You Need To Know About Electroplating

How does electroplating work?

By passing an electrical current through the component in an electrolyte to a metal anode.

What is zinc nickel plating?

Zinc Nickel plating is a high corrosion resistant finish specified by the automotive industry and increasingly the aerospace market. By co-depositing zinc and nickel in the ratio of 85% zinc and 15% nickel the alloy coating with passivation can achieve in excess of 1000 hours in a salt spray test.

Another very interesting feature of this alloy is that (unlike zinc) it does not generate a galvanic cell when in contact with aluminium. Such a galvanic effect speeds up corrosion and product failure.

It is for this reason that its use is growing in the aerospace industry as a replacement for cadmium plating. Once deposited the alloy is normally passivated with a trivalent chromate either clear or black in colour.

Is zinc the same as nickel?

No they are different metals, zinc is a softer metal used in corrosion resistant coatings and nickel is a harder metal used mainly in decorative applications and as an alloy in the manufacture of stainless steel.

Is nickel plating better than zinc plating?

When you are looking for information about electroplating, nickel plating vs zinc plating is often a subject that crops up. These metals are used for different applications. Nickel plating is used either for decorative purposes (as an undercoat to chrome plating) or as a conductor of electrical current on terminals or connectors.

It is a hard metal with good wear resistance and so is ideal for moving contacts, battery terminals and similar applications but not ideal for corrosion protection on steel parts. The reason for this is that, unlike zinc metal, it is not sacrificial which means that if the nickel coating is damaged then red rust will quickly appear at the damaged area.

Conversely zinc will corrode sacrificially forming zinc oxide which will cover the damaged area protecting the steel substrate

Is electroplating eco-friendly?

Yes, electroplating is eco friendly because it makes components last longer. In addition, it enables designers to use less and cheaper materials to make the component.

What is zinc chromate plating?

Zinc chromate refers to a zinc plated finish which has subsequently been passivated with a chromate solution. The purpose of this is to protect the zinc plating from oxidising which will happen due to the moisture in the atmosphere.

The chromate layer is produced by immersing the freshly zinc plated part in a chromate solution. This then generates a zinc chromate film of about 1 µm. Many various chromates are available offering different levels of corrosion resistance and a range of colours from yellow, clear, black and green.

Today chromates are normally specified to be trivalent for environmental reasons.

Can you electroplate any metal?

As long as the metal can conduct electricity it can be plated. However, some metals like aluminium will need a conductive layer applying first. The most common metals that are electroplates are tin, nickel, zinc, copper, brass, platinum and many more.

Can you paint over zinc coating?

Yes this is very common, zinc plating makes an ideal undercoat.

How does electroplating prevent rusting?

In two ways – it envelopes the steel part normally in zinc.  Secondly if the zinc coating is damaged it will sacrificially corrode in place of the steel.

How long does electroplating last?

This depends on the metal that is deposited, the thickness of the deposit and the environment to which the coated component is exposed.

Are zinc plated screws good?

There are many benefits to zinc plated screws. For instance, zinc provides high levels of strength and corrosion resistance. Therefore, zinc plating steel screws will stop them rusting for a period of time.