Metal is essential for different products and components, but many metals are subject to corrosion. The solution lies in coating the component with a layer of metal that is corrosion-resistant. Good coating metals include nickel, zinc, copper, chromium, and gold.
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In addition to making a product corrosion-resistant, plating helps:
- Strengthen the parent metal
- Enable paint adhesion
- Increase an object’s magnetism and ability to conduct electricity
- Improve an object’s appearance
- Diminish friction
There are two main types of plating:
- Electroplating relies on an electrical current.
- Electroless plating relies on an autocatalytic chemical process to get the metal coat to adhere.
Back in 1805, an Italian chemist named Luigi Brugnatelli figured out how to get gold plating to adhere to silver objects. Though Brugnatelli could be called the official founder of electroplating, his work was largely hidden away after he ran afoul of the French Academy of Sciences. A few decades later, Russian and English scientists figured out how to do what Brugnatelli did. Unlike with Brugnatelli, their work became widely known. By the mid-1940s, scientists had a patent for electroplating, and factories in England were rolling out highly popular silver-plated decorative items such as platters and utensils.
Today, metal plating has many applications:
- Jewelry. Can’t afford solid gold jewelry? You can purchase metal-plated versions instead. Manufacturers can use a cheaper base metal and coat it in pure gold or other precious metals using jewelry plating supplies to deliver a beautiful product at a lower price.
- Electronics. Plating can enhance electrical conductivity. Thus, many of the components that you find in your phone, computer or cellphone are plated in metals such as silver that conduct electricity well.
- Automobiles. Many automobile parts are made of plastic, then coated with metal to allow them to conduct electricity. Engine parts are often coated with gold or zinc-nickel to make them resistant to extreme heat.
- Household items. Product such as silverware can tarnish and scratch, but when they are coated with certain metals, they will maintain their finish and be more durable over time.
- Computers. Electroless nickel plating offers magnetic properties that are important in computer hard drives.
The world would be a different place without metal plating. To do your own metal plating, order a starter kit with all of the supplies, equipment, and instructions that you will need.