In the finishing or surface engineering sector, a surface can be modified by a wide variety of substances and processes. One combination of substance and process frequently applied to increase the performance of a surface, or substrate, is hard chrome plating.
How is plating carried out?
It’s a chemical electrolytic application in which the chromium attaches to the substrate. For this to happen, the substrate is placed in a bath of chromic acid. This is also known as the electrolyte bath. Two electrodes will also be in the bath. When a current flows through one electrode, it will be carried through the bath to the other electrode via the metal ions of chromium in the bath. During this process, the chromium will be deposited on the substrate to form an attractive and durable coating. For some more details on the history of metal plating, especially in the food industry, see this report from The Guardian.
Hard chrome plating can be applied to a number of metal substrates, including copper, steel and alloys like brass. This type of plating is an attractive choice when the completed product needs to be durable in the presence of corrosive wear and tear from mechanical parts such as motorcycle forks, gear shafts or piston rods.
This type of plating is also very useful in situations where decreased friction is required for producing delicate items such as textiles. In the home, chrome plating can also look good on bathroom accessories and railings. Chrome plating is valued for being very hard wearing, resistant to corrosion and abrasion and suitable where decreased friction is required.
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Of course, some of the substances used in chrome plating, such as chromic acid, can be toxic so this process should always be carried out by an expert who has the appropriate equipment and health and safety measures in place. However, for usefulness and consistent results, hard chrome plating can be counted on to deliver and is a popular choice.